As a personal trainer, I often encounter people who want to firm up their midsection. One of the exercises I teach them is the vacuum exercise. No, this isn’t a magical way that sucks all the fat out of your tummy, it’s an exercise that targets the deep-lying core muscles, such as the transverse abdominis. This muscle wraps around your midsection likes a corset, and working it can effectively help firm and tighten your midsection. Strengthening your core muscle won’t just result in a better looking midsection, it can also improve your posture, reduce back pain, promote balance and stability and ease daily activities. The stomach vacuum can be done anywhere and doesn’t require fancy equipment. Whether you’re lying in bed, in line at the grocery store or sitting behind a computer, this deceptively easy-looking exercise can work its magic as long as it’s done correctly.
Stand upright with your feet about shoulder-width apart, your shoulders pulled back, your face forward and your arms along your sides. This is your beginning stance. Ideally, stand in front of a mirror while wearing a tight top or no top at all so you can clearly see what you’re doing.
Inhale deeply allowing your abdomen to expand. Then exhale and slowly release all the air from your lungs. Simultaneously, pull in your abdomen and flatten your tummy as much as you can. Really pull in your tummy. Imagine trying to zip up a pair of jeans that’s one size too small.
Breathe as normal, but maintain the tension in your tummy, keeping it tightly pulled in, as if trying to bring your belly button to your spine. Hold the isometric contraction as long as you can. Initially, this might be no longer than 10 seconds. As you develop your form and your core gets stronger, work your way up to 60 seconds.
Release the tension in your abdomen and come back to your beginning stance. Repeat this three times throughout the day, gradually extending the duration that you hold the contraction in your tummy.
Increase the difficulty of the exercise after mastering proper form and being able to hold the isometric contraction for at least 30 seconds. Come down on all fours, placing your knees on the floor directly under your hips and your hands below your shoulders. Suck in your tummy from this position. Because you have to combat more gravity, the exercise becomes slightly more intense.
To make the stomach vacuum easier, do it while lying face up in bed.
Harvard Medical School: The Real-World Benefits of Strengthening Your Core