Stomach vacuum exercises have been around for years with their popularity spiking and dropping in relation to trends. In the yoga and weight lifting communities, stomach vacuum benefits in fitness are well trusted, so much so that those people keep up with these exercises as much and as often as they can. If you struggle with belly fat and have heard of this specific technique you might be doubtful or a little curious about the health benefits of stomach vacuum exercises. In today’s article we are going to look further into this practice in a bid to not only understand it better but to answer the most important question which is, ‘does stomach vacuum burn belly fat?’.
What Is Stomach Vacuuming?
Before learning about the potential benefits of stomach vacuum on core strength or belly fat, we should understand what it is, its history and how to do it well.
According to bodybuilding.com, stomach vacuum exercises have been around for years. In fact they gained popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s where they were used by bodybuilding legends like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Corinna ‘Cory’ Everson to give them their enviable physiques.
So what is it? Also known as ‘abdominal-hollowing’ or as the ‘abdominal drawing-in maneuver” the stomach vacuum is an isometric exercise that requires you to contract your transversus abdominis muscle. For anyone unfamiliar with these scientific terminologies:
- Isometric exercises are workouts that require the contraction of one or a group of muscles. During this exercise, the muscle in question does not change in length and the joint affected does not move in any way to change angle or position.
- The transversus abdominis is a muscle found deep under the rectus abdominis — also known as the “six pack” abs. This muscle extends between the ribs and the pelvis, wrapping around the trunk from front to back. Because the fibers of this muscle run horizontally within the body, it looks a little like a belt. Imagine it as some kind of natural corset or waist trainer deep inside your body.
How To Do A Stomach Vacuum
Quick fact: Did you know stomach vacuuming is closely related to the plank? Here is how to do a stomach vacuum
- Begin by standing with your legs about shoulder width apart – Please note that while a stomach vacuum can be done in any position (while seated or even lying down), as a beginner, you are better suited to trying it while in an upright position
- With your hands down at your sides, breath in as deeply as you can
- Exhale all the air out of your lungs
- Expand your chest, and bring your stomach/abs in as much as possible, and hold. Think of it as trying to tuck your abs/stomach under your ribcage.
Better yet, imagine pulling your belly button back towards your backbone. This is the movement that helps contract the transversus abdominis muscles mentioned above.
- Try holding this position for as long as you can – often 20 to 60 seconds depending on your tolerance.
- Release the hold and breath. This counts as one rep. Repeat as much as desired
Ps. The longer your train, the longer you will be able to hold this position. Better yet, you will be able to do the exercise even while seated, lying down or even kneeling which further enables you to do this simple workout at any given time no matter where you are.
Read More: Hormonal Belly Men: Causes And How To Fix It
What Are Some Stomach Vacuum Exercise Benefits?
So you have decided that including this workout to your daily schedule sounds like a good idea. What are some stomach vacuum results to expect after a few weeks of exercising consistently? Here is what might happen
Your Core Will Become Stronger
This is probably the biggest one of the benefits of stomach vacuum exercises.
Contrary to what many believe, the core is not just the outwardly visible abs. It goes much further than this and is described as a ‘strong column that links the upper body and lower body together'(3). The major muscles in this area include your abdominal muscles – namely the internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, and (of course) your abs, the rectus abdominis -, as well as the multifidus, , erector spinae, diaphragm, and the pelvic floor muscles.
In this case, this workout strengthens the transverse abdominis which comes with a lot of advantages. Some include
- The treatment and prevention of back pain – Several studies done on the abdominal drawing-in maneuver have found that this activity can help not only prevent low back pain, but it also helps reduce the pain experienced by patients and may even treat the problem in the long run (7, 6, 2, 4).
- Supports strength training – If you have been exercising for a while, and especially if you love lifting weights then you know the importance of bracing your core. Having a strong core means a lower likelihood of hurting yourself (especially your back) as you snatch and lift your weights. It is also very important for common exercises such as deadlifts and squats (1).
- Improved balance and stability – A strong core stabilizes your body, allowing you to easily move in any direction despite the terrain.
- Improves posture
- May reduce waist size – Another one of the popular yoga stomach vacuum benefits is the ability to make your waist look smaller. In fact, this belief is so popular that some sources claim that this exercise can help reduce your waist size by 2 to 3 inches in just 3 weeks.
But how does this work? Two sources – healthline and bodybuilding.com suggest that because this muscle is essentially an internal belt/corset strengthening, it helps it wrap more tightly around you thus creating a cinching effect – same as a corset.
While this is a very popular theory in the fitness community, we would advise that you take it with a grain of salt. So far, there is no research that supports this specific theory and it only exists as an anecdote in the bodybuilding and physique industry.
It Will Strengthen The Obliques (5)
As another part of the core, these are the muscles that run along the sides of your core/stomach. They are essential for rotational movements, bending from side to side, and for spine protection. If you struggle with love handles, oblique exercises are great to do to help reduce their appearance. These workouts are also great for aesthetics as they will give you those very enviable ‘V’ cut abs seen on all fitness influencers.
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Does Stomach Vacuum Burn Belly Fat?
No, it doesn’t. As seen above, this exercise mostly works to strengthen the muscles that make up your core – especially the transverse abdominis and nothing more. It will not help you either melt belly fat, build muscle, or lose pounds.
Some important things to know about belly fat and how to get rid of it are
- Your diet determines your waist size – In the same way that you cannot outrun a bad diet, neither can you stomach vacuum it away. If you take a closer look at the people claiming that this stomach vacuum results in a smaller waist size, you are likely to note that most of them are quite fit, if not shredded.
If you are overweight or obese, you need to switch up your diet and not rely on stomach vacuum benefits to one day give you a flat tummy and abs. A proper diet for a smaller waist is one that limits added sugar, simple refined grains and alcoholic drinks. It emphasizes portion control as well as a healthy intake of fiber, healthy fats, lean protein, complex carbohydrates, lots of fruits and vegetables as well as water.
- Spot reduction does not work – Popular core exercises like crunches, sit-ups, and trunk twists are all fantastic but they do not work by themselves. For you to actually burn belly fat, you need to do more cardio and other strength training workouts, alongside these specific belly workouts.
Some great cardio workouts include swimming, cycling, kickboxing and walking. Examples of strength training workouts that also engage the core (and result in weight loss include) are squats, planks, deadlifts, pushups, box jumps, mountain climbers, and burpees among many others.
- Get on a calorie deficit – This goes hand in hand with portion control. As long as it is healthy, the diet doesn’t matter. The most important thing when it comes to losing belly fat is to always make sure that you eat less food than your body needs
Note that this does not mean that you have to starve yourself. Find a reputable calorie tracking app, for a day or two, eat as you normally would and after this, take out 500 to 1000 calories from the initial number. A deficit larger than this will lead to horrible side effects such as a slower metabolic rate, constant fatigue, nutritional deficiencies, reduced fertility (women can lose their periods), weak bones, feeling cold all the time, and a weaker immunity.
Read More: Belly Dancing Weight Loss: Myth Or Fact?
How Many Stomach Vacuums Should You Do In A Day?
Seeing how this exercise does not require any special equipment or even space around you, you can do it as many times as you’d like throughout the day. However, we suggest not obsessing over it but rather treating it like any other workout out there by doing the following
- Start out by doing it two to three times a day – preferably on days when you exercise so it becomes part of your routine.
- Divide up your stomach vacuums into sets and reps. As a beginner try doing about 5 sets of 20 second vacuums. If 5 is too much, drop the number to 3. Over time not only will you be able to increase the number of sets, you will also find it easier to hold the position for long, even up to 60 seconds
- Make the challenge harder to increase intensity – Once you are able to do the vacuums standing up, switch positions. Try doing it while lying down on your bed or on an exercise mat in the gym. Or choose to try the same while sitting down. Incorporate some yoga and try the same in either cat or cow position.
The Bottom Line
While stomach vacuum benefits do not encompass reducing belly fat, aiding in weight loss, or even giving you ‘six-pack’ abs, this workout is great to help build those deep core muscles. As seen above, a strong core is essential not only for gym workouts but also for day to day life activities, posture and stability.
If you have recently started working out, add this workout to your routine to help build up those core muscles. If you struggle with chronic back pain, speak to your doctor and see if this is an exercise that could be great for you. If your job involves a lot of lifting, try out this workout. The stomach vacuum results might just surprise you and improve your quality of life.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Abdominal bracing during lifting alters trunk muscle activity and body kinematics (2017, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Abdominal Drawing in Maneuver: Effect on Gait Parameters and Pain Reduction in Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain (2016, researchgate.net)
- Abdominal muscles (n.d., betterhealth.vic.gov.au)
- Effect of the Abdominal Draw-In Maneuver and Bracing on Abdominal Muscle Thickness and the Associated Subjective Difficulty in Healthy Individuals (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Relative activity of abdominal muscles during commonly prescribed strengthening exercises (2001, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Critical Role of Development of the Transversus Abdominis in the Prevention and Treatment of Low Back Pain (2019, journals.sagepub.com)
- 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 (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)