What is "stomach-vacuuming" and can it really give you a flat tummy?

Can this weird ab exercise really help you get a flat stomach? We break down a little science on stomach vacuums

Woman performing a stomach vacuum while doing yoga
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Can sucking in your stomach really give you abs? Generally, the answer you'd expect to hear would be "no". And from a realistic perspective, you'd be right: sucking in your stomach, or doing "stomach vacuums", won't be able to trim your waistline or net you a six-pack. But it can help develop some deep internal ab muscles, helping your posture, lower-back pain and core strength.

You wouldn't expect to see stomach vacuums on our list of the best workouts for abs (well worth perusing, by the way), but they're still useful. Yoga practitioners and bodybuilders have been using them for many years, as they exercise the transversus abdominis, a wall of muscles near your spine. Weak tranversus can result in poor posture, and chronic lower back pain.

Exercise

(Image credit: Christopher Campbell/Unsplash)

One study, published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, found "the muscle thickness of Tra/EO showed significant improvement in terms of abdominal drawing-in maneuver". This additional thickness helped people who suffer with lower back pain and poor posture, reducing the impact of these problems. . 

YouTuber Hampton from HybridCalisthenics has put together a handy how-to on stomach vacuums, which you can watch below;

How to do stomach vacuums:

Will stomach vacuums get me a flat tummy/ripped abs?

Generally, the answer is no. Hampton mentions it's got some flat-stomach benefits in stopping the tranversus abdominis from becoming slack, and with better posture comes a less protruding belly. However, it won't help you burn fat, or train your rectus abdominis – the visible part of your abs. 

To burn fat, you'll have to burn a lot of calories through exercise, and consume less calories when you eat. Our best exercises for weight loss is a great place to start, while dieting methods such as intermittent fasting or the ketogenic diet can help you reduce excess calories from your daily routine. It's best to find a sustainable way of eating you can stick with, however – yo-yo dieting is considered unhealthy. 

To tone your rectus abdominis, you can use an ab roller, which works this muscle group in addition to your obliques. Our list of the best ab rollers is a good place to start. 

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. 

Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.