The vacuum exercise, also known as the stomach vacuum exercise, is a way to work the transverse abdominal muscles, which are necessary to have a strong core, but are not used when doing other traditional ab exercises like crunches and sit-ups. This exercise is a great way to work these particular muscles, and it also helps to make the lower stomach look flatter. Though there are many different ways to perform the exercise, the basic principle is the same, and that is to draw the belly button back toward the spine, hold it in that position, and release before repeating it. Initially, this will be challenging, but soon it will be possible to hold it for longer and perform more repetitions.
The simplest way to do the vacuum exercise, and the version most often performed by bodybuilders, is to take in a big breath and fill the lungs with air. Then, while breathing out, try drawing the belly button in toward the spine. Eventually, a tight feeling will occur in the lower stomach and on the sides; hold this position for at least ten seconds, and then finish exhaling. This sounds like a very simple exercise, but is actually pretty challenging, and really helps to work the transverse abdominal muscles.
Certain yoga asanas will also work these muscles as well, and one particular pose is very similar to the vacuum exercise. This is known as the Cat-Cow Pose, which is performed on all fours. The spine starts in a flat, neutral position; it is then rounded like a cat, with the belly button pulled toward the spine. Then the spine is relaxed and curved the other way, giving the spine a slight sway-back look. This is a good way to stretch the back as well as to strengthen the core muscles.
Similar exercises can be performed while sitting in a chair as well, such as attempting to regulate the breath and pull the abs toward the spine that way. Some people also do standing pelvic tilts as a type of stomach vacuum exercise; the exercise is fairly similar to the others described, but the hips are rotated slightly on the exhale as well. This is a more difficult exercise, so it is best to wait until the core muscles strengthen a bit before giving it a try. As with any workout plan, it is important to do a variety of different exercises, including stretching, strength training, and aerobics, to really get the most from any workout.