Sucking your belly in to get a slim stomach seems too good to be true, but it's a real technique. Embraced by yogis and weight lifters alike, the stomach vacuum, as it's called, is a powerful way to train your core
The stomach vacuum is super convenient because you can really do it anywhere — in the gym, of course, but also sitting at your desk at work or when stuck in traffic. The move does take practice, so use any opportunity you think of it to do it.
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Benefits of the Stomach Vacuum
The stomach vacuum is a great way to increase your core strength. Compared to abdominal bracing exercises (where you contract the abdomen), abdominal hollowing exercises (like the stomach vacuum) are better in activating deep abdominal muscles and your spinal stabilizing muscles, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Hollow body holds, flutter kicks and dead bugs are some examples of stomach vacuum exercises.
Alongside your deep core muscles, the stomach vacuum may also be helpful in strengthening your obliques, according to a November 2001 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Drawing in the abdomen may also help improve your lower back stability, according to an April 2013 study in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation. As you draw the stomach in, you increase pressure in the abdomen, which contracts and strengthens the transverse abdominis, the deepest ab muscle that's responsible for stabilizing the spine, core and hips.
Despite the many core-enhancing benefits of the stomach vacuum, it probably won't be the key to six-pack abs. Although abdominal hollowing is great for strengthening the deeper core muscles (which are essential in other forms of exercise and movement), abdominal bracing is a better tactic for improving the surface-level muscles, per the NASM, which gives you those visible lines on your abs.
To get the best of both worlds, incorporate both abdominal hollowing and bracing exercises in your usual workout routine.
How to Do a Stomach Vacuum
The stomach vacuum — also called abdominal draw in — is a powerful isometric exercise and, although it sounds easy, it requires intense control.
- Lie on your back, legs straight and arms by your sides.
- Exhale all the air out of your lungs and diaphragm.
- Tighten your abs and squeeze, like you're trying to pull them under your rib cage.
- Hold for 20 to 60 seconds, depending on your tolerance.
The stomach vacuum can also be performed from a forward-lying position, all fours, standing or seated. Try all the positions and settle on the one that allows you to execute it the best.
- National Academy of Sports Medicine: "Abdominal Hollowing vs. Bracing"
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning: "Relative Activity of Abdominal Muscles During Commonly Prescribed Strengthening Exercises"
- Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation: "The Effects of Abdominal Draw-In Maneuver and Core Exercise on Abdominal Muscle Thickness and Oswestry Disability Index in Subjects With Chronic Low Back Pain"
- EXRX.net: "Transverse Abdominis"