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WTF is Stomach Vacuuming, and Can it Fight Belly Fat?

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Every so often, a fitness trend gets more attention than the latest Kim K. selfie. Usually it’s because the tip, trick, or diet offers the lofty promise of whipping you into shape with relatively minimal effort. The latest move creating major buzz is stomach vacuuming, an exercise that’s supposed to help flatten your abs and make you look slimmer.

In a nutshell, this trendy move entails deeply inhaling and exhaling forcefully as you suck your belly button in toward your spine as hard as possible. Fans of the exercise say knocking out just a few reps per session can flatten your stomach and cinch in your waist. Here’s Kristen Wojciechowski—a dancer and personal trainer—demonstrating how to do it:

So Will It Give You A Super Flat Stomach?
Does this magical, crazy looking exercise actually do something? Experts are divided. Some trainers, like Mark Crabtree, C.S.C.S, think it’s just a less-effective version of classic core-toning moves. In other words, if your goal is to score a visibly sculpted midsection, this move should not be your go-to, he says. “On its own, it isn’t enough stimulus to burn calories, shed fat, or build muscle,” says Crabtree.

Others believe there’s a reason behind stomach vacuuming’s popularity—because it works. “Stomach vacuuming can absolutely tone your stomach because it targets your transverse abdominis, a muscle deep inside your abdominal wall that can be hard to engage with typical core exercises,” says Brigitte Zeitlin, R.D., a dietitian at B-Nutritious. Although Zeitlin thinks stomach vacuuming can be beneficial, she still doesn’t think it’s the key to a flat belly. “If you’re doing it to get rid of your pooch, you have to combine it with a healthy diet and other types of physical activity,” she says.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Use Breathing Techniques to Get a Better Workout

What About Its Effect on Posture?
The claim that stomach vacuuming activates muscles that are important for holding you upright are 100 percent true. Those super deep abs muscles consist mostly of slow-twitch fibers, which can be engaged for a long period of time, says Crabtree. That makes it a key player in things like posture and stability, he says. The thing is, doing one specific exercise, like this one, isn’t really necessary to improve your posture. Most of the time, your body automatically contracts these muscles to keep your spine protected, says Crabtree. Plus, if you already use moves like planks—which activate way more muscles—on the regular, doing an isolation is kind of a waste of time, he says.

So is It Worth Doing?
While it might not blast tons of fat or give you instant ballerina posture, stomach vacuuming can help you learn the right way to breathe during a workout, says Crabtree. “Most people tend to take shallow breaths, so they don’t take full advantage of their breathing potential,” he says. And working on that air capacity while you exercise can lead to better performance at the gym—which means you’ll score a smoking-hot bod, he says. Just think of any extra toning action as a bonus.

RELATED: The Dangers of ‘Waist Training’

How to Actually Get Flat Abs
Whether you’re ready to tackle this trend or not, just remember that you can’t stomach vacuum-away a bad diet, says Zeitlin. The first step of getting drool-worthy abs is loading your diet with foods that aid in digestion to get rid of excess bloat, she says. Reach for spinach and other dark leafy greens (which are high in fiber), Greek yogurt (which gives you a dose of gut-healthy probiotics), and plenty of satiating whole grains. With an all-star diet and some quality abs workouts, you’ll be on track for your best stomach ever.

All gifs courtesy of giphy.com

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