Many people associate the stomach vacuum exercise with the golden era of bodybuilding. Bodybuilders like Frank Zane and Arnold Schwarzenegger brought the stomach vacuum into popularity and defined it as an exercise associated with having a narrow waist, strong core, and good proportions.
The stomach vacuum exercise is done by exhaling entirely so that there’s no air left in your lungs then sucking your stomach in as far as it goes using the inner abdominis muscles. When doing stomach vacuums, you should try and “curl” your abs under your ribcage and bring your belly button in as as close to the spine as possible.
The benefits to doing stomach vacuums are strengthening of the inner abdominis muscles, a narrower waist, a reduction in back pain, and improved posture.
Strengthened Transverse Abdominis Muscle
The transverse abdominis muscle is the deepest of the abdominis muscles. This muscle attaches to the rib cage and is rarely activated by normal weight training.
By doing stomach vacuums, you will strengthen your overall core and improve the muscle thickness of your abdominal muscles. This is because stomach vacuums stimulate the transverse abdominis muscle, internal obliques, and external obliques in a way that no other exercise is capable of doing.
This study found that after 4 weeks of stomach vacuums, the thickness of the abdominis muscles significantly increased. Another study done on collegiate dance team members who did the stomach vacuum exercise for 9 weeks was able to conclude that stomach vacuums improve overall balance, strength, and muscle performance.
To gain more core strength and improve the thickness of the abdominis muscles, stomach vacuums need to be done on a frequent basis consistently. Results in terms of muscle mass and core strength take a few weeks to become apparent so it is important to develop a routine so that you’re doing the exercise every day.
More Narrow Waist
The stomach vacuum exercise has also been used to narrow the waist. A more narrow waist is advantageous for multiple reasons. By having a more narrow waist, the rest of your physique will look much better and you will look overall more muscular and proportional.
Doing stomach vacuums narrows the waist because it strengthens the transverse abdominis muscle. The transverse abdominis muscle can act as a “natural weight belt” and when strengthened is able to tighten up your waist and essentially “grip” your stomach better.
The narrow waist benefit is the primary reason that the stomach vacuum exercise is done by bodybuilders. While there are not any published studies which have confirmed that stomach vacuums shrink the waist, there is a plethora of anecdotal evidence and even rough scientific explanations based on the transverse abdominis muscle that stomach vacuums are able to take inches off your overall waist size. The reason for this is that by tightening the transverse muscle, your diaphragm will be held together more tightly and your body will develop more of a V shape.
Lessened Lower Back Pain
A third benefit to doing stomach vacuums is that they are able to relieve lower back pain. Lower back pain is a common plague amount weightlifters and it can be caused by weak inner abdominal muscles.
By strengthening the inner abdominal muscles, the thorax and lower back are more supported which improves posture and can alleviate pain in people with those problems.
Lower back pain can be caused by a weakness in the same muscles that the stomach vacuum exercise strengthens so by working those muscles, chronic lower back pain can be substantially lessened.
Another benefit to doing stomach vacuums is that they have been shown through research to strengthen the core this improving posture.
This study found that after doing stomach vacuums for 2 weeks, participants in the study improved their core stabilization and postural stability. Having a strong core is very important for overall stabilization during activity as well as posture.
Poor posture is a common problem since many people work at desks and spend large portion of their time sitting down. Poor posture can lead to back and neck pain and eventually spinal issues.
Since the stomach vacuum exercise can improve posture, you will be able to avoid these problems associated with poor posture and will stand straighter with less potential for neck pain, back pain, and spinal issues.
What Is the Best Way To Do the Stomach Vacuum Exercise?
The stomach vacuum exercise can be done multiple ways. It can be done while sitting down, while laying on your back, while leaning on another object such as a desk or chair, or while standing.
The benefits to doing it lying down are that since some people may get lightheaded from holding their breath, lying down ensures that you do not pass out and fall into something and hurt yourself. Lying down may also make it easier for some people to pull their stomach in since the floor can brace their back and allow them to feel the movement better.
While lying down may be optimal for some people, there has been research done on which method is best for isolating the internal oblique muscles. The conclusion, based on this study, was that the standing position is the most effective method of doing stomach vacuums for isolating the inner core muscles.
So, when starting it may be better for some to do the stomach vacuum exercise lying down to ensure you are doing the movement correctly and can control your breathing, but after getting comfortable with the exercise, for the best results do stomach vacuums while standing.
Overall, the stomach vacuum exercise has multiple benefits including a positive impact on core strength, better posture, less back pain, and a more proportional physique. Since stomach vacuums require no equipment to be done and do not take long to perform, this movement is a fairly low risk, high reward exercise to add to your routine.
For the best results, do stomach exercises while standing. One way to do them could be to do 5 repetitions every morning. Each repetition should last as long as you can hold your breath. Doing stomach vacuums in the morning is easier because they will be done on an empty stomach so there is less interference with food being processed getting in the way.