Stomach Vacuum Exercise – Shrink Your Waist

stomach vacuum

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Today athletes in search of inspiration are increasingly turning to the golden era of bodybuilding, and not to the latest competition Mr. Olympia. People like the classic V-torso of the champions of the past more than the hypertrophied waist of the modern “professionals.” See why stomach vacuum exercise can bring us back to the 70s in this blog post!

History of The Stomach Vacuum Exercise

Back in the 70s (of the last century), bodybuilders were thinking not only about growing individual muscle groups but also about how the figure as a whole looks like. This should be the goal of bodybuilding – both competitive and wellness – to create a harmonious and balanced musculature of the whole body.

Arnold, Frank Zane, Lee Haney, and many others were not just born with a graceful waist but purposefully worked on this part of the body – as hard as on the biceps or chest.

The Essence of the Stomach Vacuum Exercise

Before we pounce on exercises to reduce the waist, let’s pump up the brain a little with anatomy.

When Zane took his famous “vacuum” pose, he diligently strained something that modern pitching has completely forgotten – the transverse abdominal muscle (Latin Musculus transversus abdominis, in short, TVA).

Frank Zane
Source: T-Nation

It is the deepest abdominal muscle located under the rectus and oblique abdominal muscles. It is unique in that it does not attach to the bones and does not pull them together when contracting, like most other muscles. It just runs across the body (for which it got its name) like a weightlifting belt. And, by the way, it serves as our natural belt when lifting weights. When the TVA contracts, it increases intra-abdominal pressure, stabilizing the spine.

However, we need this muscle not only for records in weightlifting – it is also the very corset that holds the internal organs in place. Broadly speaking, TVA can be called an anti-bulge muscle, which is why it is so important to train it.

Slimness & Painlessness

A perfect waist isn’t the only reason to devote time to strengthening your TVA. A number of studies have revealed that in most people suffering from lower back pain, the transverse muscle simply “sleeps,” that is, it does not contract when necessary.

But there is good news: in the same studies (The Lion Health’s note – unfortunately, the author forgot to attach a list of these studies to his article), it was found that with the correct exercises, TVA awakens, and back pain subsides or even completely disappears.

How to Train the Transverse Abdominal Muscle?

Following a reasonable principle from simple to complex, we will begin to suck in our stomach while lying down, when we do not need to control the position of the body in space, and the kind-hearted gravity itself helps.

Lying Stomach Vacuum Exercise

  1. Lie on your back with your legs bent (feet on the floor).
  2. Now exhale as fully as possible. The diaphragm will rise higher (towards the head), the abdomen will be pulled in, the transverse muscle will contract.
  3. Try to mentally pull the navel as close to the spine as possible.
  4. Hold this position for only about 15 seconds at first; add gradually, aiming at 60.

By the way, when performing the stomach vacuum, it is not at all necessary to hold your breath: you can take small breaths in and out, continuing to keep your stomach drawn in.

Start with three sets of 15 seconds and work your way up to 5×60.

It is best to practice as soon as you wake up, while you are not yet full of healthy proteins and vegetables.

Quadruped Vacuum or Stomach Vacuum Exercise On All Fours

Having worked out the vacuum in the supine position, proceed to the next stage – on all fours. Now you have to fight gravity as well.

  1. Get on all fours: shoulders above elbows and wrists, pelvis above knees, neck in a neutral position.
  2. The execution is the same: exhale and pull the navel towards the spine.

Since you already know how to keep your stomach pulled in, start with three sets of 30 seconds and also work up to 5×60.

Seated Vacuum

Now connect the spine stabilizers while doing the seated exercise.

Seated Vacuum
Source: T-Nation

Sit on a bench or chair (not leaning back) and suck in your stomach as you exhale, starting at a comfortable length of sets. Gradually work your way up to several sets of 60 seconds each. To add a payload, sit on an unstable surface like an exercise ball or grandma’s feather bed.

Functional Stomach Vacuum Exercise

Continuing to work out the previous version separately, start practicing the “functional vacuum” throughout the day. Just suck in your belly wherever you can, such as battling stress in your office chair or standing in line at a coffee shop.

The main difference is that now you need to keep the transverse muscle tense for as long as possible – naturally, while continuing to breathe.

Sooner or later, you will reach complete automatism when you do not need to remember the TVA contraction.

Joint work of the rectus and transverse abdominal muscles

To increase the intensity and “functionality” of your stomach vacuum workouts, add exercises in which the rectus and transverse abdominis muscles work together. In this case, you first draw in your stomach (the transverse is strained), and then you perform any movement such as twisting (a straight line works).

The pulldown crunch is ideal, for example:

But you can also do with vacuum twisting at home: just do not forget to first draw in your stomach and when lifting the body (contraction of the rectus muscle), try to exhale additionally.

Stomach Vacuum Exercise for Competitive Athletes

If you intend to compete in bodybuilding contests, then add a vacuum when practicing posing.

Keep in mind that the judges begin to evaluate you from the moment you appear on stage, as well as all the time while you are spinning there between other participants. Therefore, take care of your attractiveness before you take the crown pose. The only way to showcase your perfect waist throughout the competition is to practice vacuum regularly.

The same applies to beach competitors. Your goal is to practice to such an extent that the transverse muscle is always in good shape, and not only when you suddenly remember about it.

Note from The Lion Health

The stomach vacuum can improve not only the appearance but also the work of internal organs, massaging them and improving blood circulation. However, there are still no references to studies, only anecdotal evidence.

Also, drawing in the abdomen in different positions helps to build the position of the “canister,” which already has a positive effect on the psyche, reducing anxiety.


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