The Stomach Vacuum – a lost art form. And why we all should be doing it too!
The dude in the picture is the legendary Frank Zane executing his signature pose – the vacuum. The control he has over his midsection is phenomenal. See how he sucks his stomach right in to get that freaky hollowed ribcage look, which emphasises the musculature of his physique.
Compare this to the distended pregnant-man look of many of today’s bodybuilders!
The muscle Frank Zane is contracting hard to execute the vacuum, is the Transversus Abdominus (TA). This is an often-neglected inner abdominal muscle. Most people will train the external abs muscles, without paying attention to the inner muscles.
So, what can you do to tighten your midsection like this – and why should you want to?
To answer the second question first, you want to stomach vacuum because, besides looking cool, with regular training it can “shrink” your midsection. Of course, it can’t change the width of your pelvis, nor can it reduce your body fat (you need to work on your diet for that!). But from a side-on view, regular training of the TA can give you a “flatter” and “tighter” stomach. Also, training your TA can relieve back pain, and it can also make you stronger in your “big lifts” like squats and deadlifts.
To train your TA, the simplest thing you can do is to simply:
– exhale all the air out your lungs
– expand your chest
– and suck your stomach in as much as possible
– and hold!
Imagine trying to get your belly button to touch your back! Hold the contraction for as long as you can – 5 seconds? 20 seconds? a minute? – whatever, just squeeze for as long as you can. Then repeat!
You can do this exercise lying down on your back, or up on all fours, or while seated, or while standing. Plus, you can do it anywhere – so you may as well make the most of the time sat in traffic or sat at work!
I like to incorporate TA training into abs training, where you hold a vacuum after every crunch or leg raise that you do.
So, using crunches as an example:
– you perform a regular crunch where you exhale and contract your abs at the top of the movement
– you then lower back down in a controlled movement
– once you are lying flat you exhale hard again while pulling in your gut and vacuuming
– and hold!
You will probably only be able to hold for 5 seconds or so. You then perform another crunch again and repeat this for each rep of each set of abs you do!
Give it a go!