Can This ‘Stomach Vacuum’ Exercise Really Build Your Core Muscles?

No, you don’t need to pump out hundreds of crunches and sit-ups to build stronger abdominal muscles. But is the “stomach vacuum” exercise that’s breaking the internet really the miracle core strengthener advocates claim it is? 

The exercise, which went viral on the video-sharing platform TikTok, has had more than 85.8 million views. Jenny Brennecke, DPT, a physical therapist and fitness coach, created a step-by-step tutorial on the viral workout hack, also known as hollowing. She says it’s an isometric exercise that can help with abdominal strength and low-back pain if done regularly, she claims in the video. She goes on to say it can reduce low-back injury risk, assist with postural control and stability within the spine and pelvis, and control and strengthen the abdominal muscles “on command.”

Is this stronger-abs hack worth adding to your routine, and is it safe? Here’s what you need to know.

What Is the Stomach Vacuum?

In her viral TikTok video, Brennecke breaks down the exercise, explaining that it works your transversus abdominis, the deep band of abdominal muscle that wraps around the torso between the ribs and pelvis. “[The transversus abdominis] kind of acts as a corset to wrap around your body, and when strengthened can make your waist appear a little slimmer,” she says.

In her demonstration, Brennecke gives the following instructions for doing the exercise:

  1. Do this exercise on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
  2. Start by bending over. Eventually you will be able to do the stomach vacuum upright. 
  3. Exhale all the air in your lungs while pulling your belly button toward your spine. “Imagine yourself walking into a cold lake or pool and this is the water touching your stomach.”
  4. Hold this position for about 10 to 15 seconds (eventually adding more time as you perfect the exercise) then release.
  5. Repeat five times, three to four times a week.

She adds that the technique is used in physical therapy, and “is safe, effective, and has a lot of research to support it.”


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