What the Heck Is Stomach Vacuuming?

What girl isn't eager to try the newest ab-flattening fad? I went on a pursuit to find out more about this tummy-tightening trend and put it to the test.

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I recently heard someone talk about “stomach vacuuming” to help flatten the tummy. The first thing to pop up in my crazy brain was someone getting liposuction, but I was pretty sure they weren’t talking about plastic surgery.

Even though I’ve been in the fitness industry for over twenty years, I had never heard of stomach vacuuming before. As far as I knew, stomach vacuuming was nothing more than attaching a vacuum hose to your belly. I have a very short torso and have always struggled with having somewhat of a pooch, so I was immediately intrigued. Besides, what girl isn’t eager to check out a new ab-flattening trend? The investigation began.

How It Works

To my surprise, I did not have to pull out my credit card and order some awkward stomach vacuum device. Not only did stomach vacuuming not include an actual vacuum, there was no shortage of information on the topic. The stomach vacuum was an actual exercise, and the Internet was riddled with websites and instructional videos on how to perform the mysterious stomach vacuum.

When I watched one of the how-to videos online, it found it incredibly difficult not to giggle. I was expecting so much more than someone just breathing out all their air and sucking in their abs. However, that was pretty much the extent of the exercise.

The stomach vacuum exercise requires you inhale as much air as possible and then exhale as much as possible, while sucking your stomach in as much as possible. After you blow out all your air, you hold this position for at least 20 seconds (while, get this, attempting to breathe normally) and repeat for several sets.

The concept behind the stomach vacuum exercise is it targets the deeper abdominal muscles, called the transverse abdominals. These muscles act like a girdle to the waist, which are responsible for holding your stomach in tight.

While the whole stomach vacuuming terminology was new to me, I’ve done this exercise for years. Even though I never realized it was actually a true exercise, it was something I did throughout the day (like while driving my car). I would contract my stomach muscles and hold them tight while sitting at a red light to help train my stomach muscles to stay flat.

After doing more research, I discovered the stomach vacuum exercise had been around for a very long time. Maybe it recently reached fad status after making a few appearances in some popular magazines, like Shape and Men’s Fitness. Who knows what makes something rise to the top of the fad chart, but at least this fad has some validity to it.

Pros and Cons

Could the stomach vacuum be the answer to your poochy problems? No doubt, this exercise does work the transverse abdominals. You can feel the muscles working as you do it. And, if you are not used to working the transverse abdominals, you may even be sore afterwards. However, I wouldn’t count on it fixing all your tummy troubles.

The process of sucking in stomach and flexing your abdominal muscles for a few seconds is called an isometric contraction. During an isometric exercise, the muscles do not noticeably change in length and actually require little to no movement at all. Isometric training (like a wall sit or plank exercise) definitely has its place and can increase strength, but only to a certain point. Your body will adapt to the training and you’ll eventually need something more to continue making improvements.

In addition, stomach vacuuming won’t fix belly fat. Most people who have bulging bellies are fighting two different battles – a battle with weak abdominal muscles along with poor posture and another battle with food. You can do all the stomach vacuuming you want, but don’t expect visible results if you continue to be a food vacuum. If you don’t change your eating habits you will not only keep the fat around your belly, it will be harder to hold your stomach in with a stuffed gut.

Lastly, stomach vacuuming is not the best exercise for everyone. Like all isometric exercises, stomach vacuuming can be dangerous for some people because it increases blood pressure more than other traditional exercises.

The Bottom Line: Fit or Flop?

Working your transverse abdominals is essential to having nice abs, but so is reducing body fat. Used alone, stomach vacuuming would flop. However, combine this exercise with a lean diet, cardio and resistance program, and you will likely find stomach vacuuming to be a good Fit!

Needless to say, I’ll be adding stomach vacuuming back in my daily commute to work again.

Fit Tip: Top 10 Tummy Tightening Exercises

Stomach vacuuming isn’t the only exercise to work your transverse abdominals. Here is a list of my favorite top 10 tummy tightening exercises.

1. Plank 

2. Side Plank

3. Ab Roller

4. Diagonal Knee Plank (Slow Cross Body Mountain Climbers)

5. Swiss Ball Pike

6. Swiss Ball Jackknife

7. Swiss Ball Roll-Out

8. Plank Up Up Down Down

9. Side Plank Pulses

10. T-Plank


Try this plank workout demonstrated by my husband, Steve Pfiester.

5 Push Ups

5 2-Point Stance (5 on each side, 10 total)

5 Side Plank with Abduction (Leg Lift) LEFT

5 Crab Leg Lifts on each side (10 total)

5 Side Plank with Abduction (Leg Lift) RIGHT

45 Second Plank Hold

Repeat 3-4 times with little to no rest in between.

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