What Are Stomach Vacuum Exercises?

With step-by-step instructions for engaging the core and strengthening your abdomen and lower back.

Medically reviewed by Amy Kwan, PT

If you’ve spent any time on fitness TikTok lately, you might be wondering, “what are stomach vacuums?” Although the stomach vacuum has been trending because of some viral videos, it’s actually a long-standing and well-established abdominal exercise. During the vacuum ab exercise, you engage your transverse abdominis, the deepest muscles in your core, by pulling your belly button to your spine. This can increase your core strength, help protect your back, and may even give you the appearance of a more cinched waist.

Continue reading to learn more about the stomach vacuum workout and why you may want to integrate it into your fitness routine.



Stomach Vacuum and Diaphragmatic Breathing

Both the stomach vacuum exercise and diaphragmatic breathing challenge you to engage your breaths and core differently. However, diaphragmatic breathing—which expands the belly outward—is focused on your lungs and diaphragm. The stomach vacuum exercise—which pulls the belly in—engages your transverse abdominis, part of the six muscles that make up your abs. If you’re doing the stomach vacuum correctly, it’s about more than just exhaling or sucking in—your stomach moves because you’re contracting your muscles.



<p>Tgordievskaya / Getty Images</p>

Tgordievskaya / Getty Images

How to Do Stomach Vacuum Exercises

Anecdotally, the most helpful cue many people use when learning the stomach vacuums exercise is to pull your belly button to your spine. You can also think about how your body reacts when you enter a cold lake or swimming pool—most people contract their transverse abdominis without even thinking about it in response to frigid water.

Here is how people say to perform the stomach vacuum ab exercise in four positions, from easiest to most difficult:

Lying Stomach Vacuum

The easiest way to get started with the ab vacuum exercise is by lying on your back. This is also known as the supine position. Here’s what to do:

  1. Lay on your back, with your knees up in the air and feet planted on the ground.

  2. Round your back slightly, so your lower back is in contact with the ground.

  3. Exhale, contracting your abdominals and feeling your belly button pull toward your back.

  4. Hold for 5-15 seconds. Make sure to breathe normally during the exercise. If you have trouble breathing you may just be “sucking in,” rather than properly engaging your core.

  5. Release. Repeat the exercise 4-5 times.



Lower Back Pain

If you have lower back pain, you may have to slightly modify these exercises to avoid rounding your back or crunching forward. Discuss with a healthcare provider how to do these exercises if you have back issues.



Hands and Knees

The next progression of the exercise is to do an ab vacuum while on your hands and knees. Here’s how.

  1. Get in a tabletop position with your hands and knees on the floor.

  2. Round your back slightly.

  3. Exhale, pulling your belly button toward the ceiling.

  4. Hold the position for 5-15 seconds, breathing normally.

  5. Release. Repeat 4-5 times.

Kneeling Ab Vacuum

The final variation is to do the exercise kneeling or standing.

  1. Kneel, with your bottom rocked back and touching your heels.

  2. Exhale, pulling your belly button toward your back.

  3. Hold for 5-15 seconds.

  4. Release. Repeat 4-5 times.

Standing Ab Vacuum

The most challenging way to do the ab vacuum is while standing.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.

  2. Exhale, pulling your belly button toward the wall behind you.

  3. Hold for 5-15 seconds.

  4. Release. Repeat 4-5 times.

Benefits of Stomach Vacuum Workout

The stomach vacuum engages your transverse abdominis. This muscle runs from your ribs to your pelvis, wrapping from front to back. It supports your core in the same way that wearing a supportive belt can.

Having a strong transverse abdominis can have these benefits:

  • More stable core: This helps improve posture, balance, and functional movements.

  • Stronger lower back: The transverse abdominis supports the lower back and could potentially protect you from lower back pain.

  • Increased ability to produce pressure within the abdomen: This is useful for bodily functions from coughing to pooping.

  • Extra lumbar support: The transverse abdominis can keep your spine healthy.

Before Starting Stomach Vacuum Exercises

Before starting stomach vacuum exercises, learn how to recognize your transverse abdominis. When you do the ab exercise, the muscle should contract away from your fingers. It wraps around the area from the ribs down to the pelvis, much like a large belt.

Many exercise programs, including yoga, pilates, and bodybuilding, use the stomach vacuum exercise, sometimes called a hollow body hold. If you’re nervous about getting started, consider taking a class with a fitness professional who can guide you through the move.

After Starting Stomach Vacuum Exercises

When you get started with the stomach vacuum exercise, you may feel some pain or tightness in your core. That’s normal, since your muscles aren’t used to being engaged in this way. However, stop if you have any pain, including in your lower back, or changes to your mobility.

Recovery Time

One of the benefits of the stomach vacuum exercise is that you can do it anywhere, at any time. However, if you’re experiencing muscle soreness, you may want to do the exercise every other day to begin. This will give your muscles time to recover between sets.

Should Anyone Not Do Stomach Vacuum Exercises?

The stomach vacuum exercise is generally safe. As with any other exercise program, it’s always good to talk with a healthcare provider or fitness professional before beginning a new exercise.

Summary

The stomach vacuum is an exercise that’s had a lot of attention on social media lately. However, this way of engaging the transverse abdominis is nothing new. Fitness professionals have long used the exercise, sometimes called a hollow body hold, to increase core strength and stability, while protecting the lower back and spine. Incorporating the stomach vacuum into your days can help keep you strong and healthy.

Read the original article on Verywell Health.