What if you could train your core by laying on the floor? This month’s new move—vacuum holds—aims to strengthen your transverse abdominis, combat lower back pain, and improve posture. “Vacuum holds” earn their name from the belly suctioning action needed to engage your transverse abdominis. Grab a group of coworkers and try this out before or after your lunch break. Read on to find a set of abdominal exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home (or workplace or hotel) tonight!
Your transverse abdominis runs horizontally between your ribs and pelvis and is one of the deepest core muscles in your body, acting as a stabilizer for the entire lower back and lumbar spine. In fact, some fitness professionals consider this to be one of the most important core muscles in the body! When activated, it creates a “corset” around your internal organs and lumbar spine, providing stability during movements that involve your legs and arms.
A weak transverse abdominis is a common cause of lower back pain, resulting in pelvic rotation and inward spinal curvature. Strengthening your transverse abdominis can make daily activities easier and other core strengthening exercises more effective.
Lay on a soft surface with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Carpeting, a towel, or a yoga mat is ideal for this exercise. With your feet about hip-width apart, focus on squeezing your abdominal muscles and pushing your lower back into the ground. Your belly button should draw-in toward your spine. You’ll know you’re doing it right when you feel like you’re bracing yourself for a punch to the stomach.
Hold the vacuum position for 15-30 seconds at a time. We recommend pairing vacuum holds with other core-strengthening exercises for better results. For example, after performing a hold, immediately flip over and do a forearm plank for another 30 seconds. Repeat this cycle three more times after a brief rest. It’s harder than it sounds! For more information on how to perform a proper forearm plank, click here.
Once you’ve completed your circuit, don’t forget to stretch. Do a cobra pose by lying on your stomach and placing your hands palm down on the ground beneath your shoulders. Begin to lift your chest off the ground by straightening your arms. Gaze upwards while keeping your abdominals engaged.
If you perform other core strengthening exercises, like bicycle crunches, you may know that keeping your lower back flat on the ground is crucial for preventing injury. Vacuum holds are one great way to practice holding this position.
Truly strengthening your core to prevent pain and improve posture will take more than vacuum holds alone, and that’s why we’ve paired this exercise with forearm planks. To switch things up, swap-in other core-engaging movements like hip lifts, push-ups, lunges, or squats. Go get vacuuming!