A stomach vacuum is not a household chore.
It is a type of abdominal contraction that has been used for decades in physical therapy and the world of body building.
You will want to make sure you are doing it correctly.
The article talks about stomach vacuum exercise, how to do it, muscles worked, and potential benefits and drawbacks.
The stomach vacuum exercise is an isometric contraction of the transversus abdominis, which is your deepest abdominal muscle. This exercise is also known as stomach vacuuming, stomach hollowing, and the abdominal drawing in maneuver (ADIM).
The transversus abdominis sits horizontally (transverse) around your abdomen, almost like a corset. Its main roles include protecting the spine, supporting internal organs and viscera, and helping with expulsive forces (e.g., expiration, urination, defecation) (
Since the transversus abdominis sits deep in the core, it can be hard for some people to contract it, or even feel an awareness of it.
The stomach vacuum exercise was developed to help people strengthen their transversus abdominis. If you know how to use this muscle, you will be able to protect and support your spine during exercise and everyday movements.
The stomach vacuum exercise targets the transversus abdominis, which is your deepest abdominal muscle.
There are many ways to do the stomach vacuum exercise.
Option 1: Laying down (supine)
This is the most studied version of the stomach vacuum exercise. You will need to lay down.
- Lay on the floor with your spine neutral, knees bent, and feet flat.
- Take two fingers and place them on the hip bones. Next, move them by an inch inward and by an inch down. This can be useful for feeling your contract.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale out of your mouth with your lips pursed, imagining you are slowly releasing air out of a tire. Draw in your lower abdominals as you exhale. You should feel the contraction of your tummy on your fingers. Imagine your belly button being pulled towards the back of your spine as a cue. Contract your abdominal muscles while doing this.
- “As you hold your belly in, breathe normally. You shouldn’t be holding your breath, that’s a sign you’re not contracting your transversus abdominis and are sucking in. Try to hold this position for a while. Repeated 2–3 times.”
Option 2: Standing up
The stomach vacuum is one of the most popular ways to do it.
- Stand straight with your hands on your hips.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose and slowly exhale out of your mouth with your lips pursed. As you exhale, slowly draw in your lower abs by contracting your abdominal muscles.
- As you hold the position, breathe normally. Repeated 2–3 times.
Some people find it helpful to place their palm on their lower abdominals as a cue to draw their abdominals inward.
Option 3: Kneeling (quadruped)
This is a kneeling stomach vacuum. It is a bit harder since you are working against gravity.
- Start on all fours with your knees under your shoulders and wrists under your hips. Make sure your back is in a neutral position.
- Push your stomach in and out to get used to this position.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Draw in your lower abdominals with your exhale, like your belly button being pulled towards your spine. You could imagine your belly being pulled towards the ceiling in this position.
- Hold this position for 20–30 seconds and breathe normally. Repeated 2–3 times.
Option 4: Prone position (face down)
The prone version of the stomach vacuum is the one that is face down.
- Lay on your stomach on the floor with your legs straight and arms extended.
- Take a deep breath and exhale through your mouth, as you contract and draw in your lower abdominals. This is more difficult than other versions.
- Hold this position for 20–30 seconds while breathing. Repeated 2–3 times.
Option 5: Sitting
The sitting stomach vacuum is difficult due to the positioning of your body and other stabilizing muscles.
- You sit in a chair with your back straight, feet flat on the floor, and palms resting on your thighs.
- Take a deep breath in and slowly exhale through your mouth as you contract your lower abdominals and pull your belly button towards your spine.
- Hold this position for 20–30 seconds and try to breathe normally. Repeated 2–3 times.
There are many ways to vacuum your stomach, from laying on your back or standing up.
Stomach vacuuming mostly targets the transversus abdominis but also stimulates other muscles such as the obliques, pelvic floor muscles, and multifidus.
- It may reduce back pain. Having a strong core, including the transversus abdominis, is linked with lower risk of back pain.
- May lower risk of back injury. Learning to properly contract your core can help reduce injury when lifting heavy objects.
- It may help your waist look smaller. Since it wraps around your waist, having a strong transversus abdominis can result in a “cinching” effect, creating a smaller appearing waist. Though, it won’t get rid of stomach fat.
- It helps you practice contracting your transversus abdominis. Some people struggle to contract their deep abdominal muscles during other core exercises. Practicing the stomach vacuum regularly can help you better familiarize yourself with these muscles and better contract them.
Stomach vacuums can help strengthen the transversus abdominis, which may help to reduce back pain, and make your waist appear smaller.
The deep transversus abdominis muscle can be activated by the stomach vacuum exercise. There are some drawbacks to this.
It is much easier to vacuum the stomach than it is to suck it in. The move is useless if you just sucked in your stomach.
Many people believe that the stomach vacuum will help them get rid of their abdominal fat. A strong transversus abdominis can help create a cinched waist, but it cannot eliminate stomach fat, which requires a calories deficit through diet and exercise.
It also cannot give you a “six-pack”. To achieve this, you’ll need to exercise the most superficial abdominal muscle known as the rectus abdominis and have a low body fat percentage, which may or may not be healthy for you.
The stomach vacuum exercise can be useful if it is performed correctly. It should only be used with a well-rounded exercise routine.
“There are few drawbacks to stomach vacuums. It won’t give you six-pack abs or reduce belly fat.”
Before you start stomach vacuuming, consider these helpful tips (
- Don’t suck in. Stomach vacuuming involves contracting the transversus abdominis by slowly drawing the abdominal muscles inward while maintaining your breath pattern. Quickly sucking in your stomach will not work, and is not functional for movement.
- Avoid hunching over. Leaning forward or tilting your pelvis leads to greater contraction of your rectus abdominis rather than transversus abdominis.
- Remember to breathe. If you’re contracting your transversus abdominis properly, you should be able to breathe as you hold this position.
- Use your hands. Placing your hands or finger tips on your lower abs (around an inch in and down from your hip bones) can help you tell if you’re contracting your transversus abdominis.
- Remember your other muscles. Stomach vacuuming can be a great move for strengthening your pelvic floor muscles. As you draw your stomach in, pay attention to these muscles too.
When performing stomach vacuums, breathe and contract your lower abdominals.
Stomach vacuums are a popular exercise that targets the deepest abdominal muscles.
It is an effective exercise that can help strengthen the transversus abdominis, which is difficult to do for many people.
When performing stomach vacuums, make sure you pull your lower abdominal muscles inward. A useful cue is to hold your belly button.
“Though effective, stomach vacuums don’t work miracles and won’t help you get a six-pack. Adding this exercise into your already-healthy lifestyle will help strengthen your core and learn to move in a more functional way that will protect and support your spine.”