Let's face it: getting a stronger, leaner core only comes from putting the time in at the gym and eating right. But what if you could put in the effort and it wasn't any harder than sucking in your gut? Got your attention? We thought so! It's time to try out the stomach vacuum.
First things first: what is a stomach vacuum? Simply put, it's the act of pulling in your abdominal muscles in very much the same way as you do when you suck in your tummy to zip up your favourite jeans. But before you think all you have to do is suck in your gut, think again. This isn't just about breathing in and allowing your tummy to come inward. Rather, this is about contracting your abdominal muscles to actively bring your belly toward your spine.
Your best bet for results is to pull your abs inward and brace them as though you're about to be punched. But you can also keep your abs drawn in while doing a crunch, working all the layers of your abs simultaneously with the deep abs (transversus) pulling the abdomen in and then superficial muscles (rectus) contracting to perform the crunch.
According to certified personal trainer Brian Pankau, "The vacuum is an isometric exercise that isolates the muscles that lie underneath the external abs and obliques, which are often neglected. Increasing the intensity placed on these underlying muscles could assist a person with flattening their stomach and defining their abs and obliques better. Another benefit is increasing maximum output during power lifts."
If you want science to help you get in the gym and get the job done, then look no further than the research published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning and the Archives of Physical Medical Rehabilitation. Both outline how the abs are harnessed by such a manoeuvre. They also make note of the fact that this sort of exercise helps strengthen your back and alleviates lower back pain. Sounds like a win-win to us.