Want to shave inches off your tummy without doing a single crunch? Sounds like click bait, but I'm not kidding... this really works. The secret trick is stomach vacuums.
Here's the low down on how to get a smaller waist:
The stomach vacuum technique has been around for centuries. Yogis in India call it 'nauli kriya'. You've probably seen belly dancers do it and even bodybuilders practice it to shrink their waistlines.
While we might think that the humble crunch is as good as any exercise to help us get a smaller waist, the stomach vacuum technique trumps it hands down.
I used the stomach vacuum during my competitive bodybuilding days to literally shave inches off my waistline in preparation for major shows and I still incorporate it into my weekly ab workouts too.
The benefits of a stomach vacuum aren't just for aesthetic reasons. Practicing this technique will:
- strengthen the core
- fix diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal wall after childbirth)
- improve posture
- alleviate low back pain
- aid digestion
The stomach vacuum technique is so effective at shrinking the waist because it works the often neglected transverse abdonimis (TA) muscle, which is your inner core. Most people only focus on the superficial ab muscles, the rectus abdominis (think 6-pack abs) and the external obliques (side waist), by doing crunches, leg raises and side bends.
If you want a tight midsection, you've got to target the TA with the stomach vacuum exercise.
The TA lies underneath these superficial muscles and acts as natural weight belt. It's main function is to help with deep breathing during your heavier lifts, as well as, stabilise the lower spine and pelvis area which will also correct poor posture and alleviate back pain.
An added benefit is that it'll make you stronger in your power movements like squats and deadlifts (hello booty gains!).
Doing the stomach vacuum exercise regularly will no doubt help to tighten your midsection and can shave up to 2-3 inches of your waistline (can you sense a big fat 'BUT' coming?) no pun intended
But doing the stomach vacuum exercise DOES NOT burn belly fat!
In fact, exercise has very little to do fat loss. Yes, you heard right. A tight midsection comes down to low body fat levels. Which means that if you want to get a smaller waist, you have to clean up your diet, fix your sleep and manage your stress levels. Watch this video on how to lose stubborn belly fat.
There's a big difference between perfecting a strong stomach vacuum and simply, 'sucking in' your belly or 'tensing' your superficial abs.
Most stomach vacuum articles and fitness experts get it wrong!
The stomach vacuum takes a lot of practice and it can be very tricky to master but don't lose hope! Like anything, you only get good at something if you practice it consistently over a long period of time. You may feel very frustrated at first and feel like you aren't doing it right, but just keep going and it will eventually click for you.
The stomach vacuum feels very different to just 'sucking in' your belly. A lot of us ladies subconsciously suck our bellies in to appear slimmer when posing for the camera, wearing tight-fitting dresses or when we're on the beach in our bikinis. It's the action of pulling the belly button in towards the spine. Normally, we intuitively inhale during this action and our chest also expands.
This is NOT a stomach vacuum! Although, if you are a beginner and you have a very weak core, simply practicing sucking in your belly is a good place to start before you are able to progress and master the stomach vacuum. You may also benefit from working on your general core strength before moving onto the stomach vacuum exercise.
The stomach vacuum is NOT 'tensing' your abs like the burn you feel when you do crunches. Tensing your abs is just contracting your superficial core muscles (rectus abdominis). Which is also like 'bracing' your core - that instinctive reaction you'd have if someone was to punch you in the stomach. Normally we intuitively exhale during these actions and our chest also depresses.
Or similarly, bracing your core is like bearing down when you're constipated on the toilet (sorry for the visuals!). Again, none of these are how you perform a stomach vacuum.
So, how should it feel, when you do this exercise correctly? Read below for step-by-step instructions...
- In position on all fours, take a few deep breaths to calm the nervous system.
- Relax your belly and slowly exhale all the air fully out of your lungs.
- Close off your airways and suck your abdomen and diaphragm up into your rib cage.
- Imagine you're trying to take an inhale but don't actually inhale because your airways should still be closed off.
- Hold for 5-20 seconds and then relax the belly and taking an inhale.
- Perform 3-5 sets, resting for 45-60 seconds between sets.
The very definition of a _vacuum _should give you a big clue as to how it should feel when you do it correctly.
It feels like, well... a vacuum.
Because this technique is performed after an exhale (meaning you expel all the air out of your lungs), you should feel a tight 'suction-like' feeling by drawing your inner abdomen and diaphragm up into your rib cage.
You may even feel a slight suction in the base of your throat.
Start by holding the vacuum for 5-20 seconds and then progress to longer holds of up to a minute, as you become stronger with the technique. Practicing this technique 3-5 times a day is more than enough to start seeing results within a few weeks, but feel free to do it more often, if it feels good.
Once you become a pro at this exercise, you don't have to hold your breath for the whole minute! You should be able to still perform a strong vacuum whilst taking short and shallow breaths... but again, this takes practice, so be patient.
There's no reason why you can't practice this daily and the best thing about this exercise is that you can do it anywhere, anytime!
But if you feel any pain during this exercise, please stop and visit your health care practitioner to make sure there are no underlying issues.
- Lower your body fat levels by cleaning up your diet & removing stress first.
- Beginners should work on general core strength before trying a vacuum.
- Avoid sucking in your belly or tensing your abs.
- Exhale all air out of the lungs first and then pull the diaphragm up.
- Hold for 5-20 seconds, 3-5 sets daily.
- Always practice on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
Practicing the stomach vacuum technique regularly can give make a huge difference to your waistline but if you want to make the most of your results, you should follow a tailored approach to your training and nutrition. Join the Strong Curves 12 Week Program to kick start your results.