Why People Are 'Vacuuming' Their Stomachs To Lose Weight

If only everything was as easy as 'vacuuming' your stomach.

woman showing stomach Hrecheniuk Oleksii via Canva

Are you lost on how to get the six-pack, iron-clad abs everyone seems to be sporting, or even just want a flat stomach? Well, you're in luck because there's a technique that can help you get there. Yes, really.

It's a technique called stomach vacuuming, and it's an easy way to get the abs you dream of — all by controlling the way you breathe.

What is stomach vacuuming?

Stomach vacuuming, also called the "abdominal vacuum," is a fitness technique intended to engage the transverse abdominis muscle, a deep layer of muscle in the abdomen. The very effective ab muscle exercise has been around since the 1970s and by using the isometric exercise, you can reduce your midsection in as little as three weeks.


There is one caveat, though: you must already be on a pre-established clean eating regime, drinking lots of water, and have a low to moderate body fat percentage.

If you're just starting to practice healthy habits and fitness, and are focusing more on weight loss than shaping your body, stomach vacuuming can be something you aspire to: a future goal.

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If you do stomach vacuuming correctly, not only will you cinch your midsection, but you'll stabilize your spine, which can reduce lower back pain and improve your posture. Plus, it helps to maintain and grow your core strength.

However, doing stomach vacuuming exercises without practicing good eating habits and a daily fitness routine is unlikely to result in significant weight loss.

How does stomach vacuuming work?

Stomach vacuuming involves drawing in the abdominal muscles by contracting the diaphragm and pulling the stomach inward while exhaling, giving the appearance of a "vacuumed" or sucked-in stomach.

The abdominal region is made up of internal and external muscles. The external muscles are known as the rectus abdominis and the external obliques. You can thank the rectus abdominis for six-pack abs, but it's the transverse abdominis (TVA) that's the Spanx of your abdominal muscles.


The TVA pulls in the abdominal wall, and when it's strengthened you're basically tightening it to the extent that you have a smaller, flatter, and more defined stomach.

Stomach vacuuming focuses on the TVA via an isometric contraction (tensing the muscle without moving it). Since this technique is also known as the abdominal drawing-in maneuver and focuses on breathing mechanics, it's a big part of yoga and Pilates.

In simple terms, you suck in your stomach and hold the position for a duration of time before you exhale all the air.

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How To Do The Stomach Vacuum Exercise

Standing Method

The most basic way to do stomach vacuuming is by standing up straight and placing your hands on your hips, then exhaling all the air out of your lungs — all of it.


Expand your chest and bring your stomach in as much as possible, and hold. Hold that position for 15 seconds at first, then work up to holding the squeeze for up to 60 seconds, taking small breaths as necessary. Repeat three to five times.

Bed Method

Another way to practice stomach vacuuming is to do it first thing in the morning, while you're still in bed.

Lay on your back with your hips and knees flexed so your feet are flat on the floor or bed. Then, follow the same process done while standing, exhaling as much as possible, and pulling your belly button or navel in close to your spine.

Kneeling Method

When you get to the point where you're able to hold the vacuum for 60 seconds each set, you can do the kneeling method, also known as the "quadruped stomach version" (on your hands and knees).


Sit straight up in a chair that doesn't have a back or armrest, and/or do the exercise while sitting on one of those large rubber balls.

Once you get really good at stomach vacuuming, you can do it throughout the day several times a week. Stuck in traffic? Do the stomach vacuum. Boring meeting at work? Stomach vacuum. Bored at home? Stomach vacuum. You could even do it while binge-watching your favorite show and feel good about your choices.

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Christine Schoenwald is a writer and performer. She's had articles in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Bustle, Medium, and Woman's Day. Visit her website or her Instagram.