The following is a simple exercise that will strengthen your transverse abdominis muscle, the deepest innermost layer of all abdominal muscles located underneath your rectus abdominis (the six-pack stomach muscle). If you perform this exercise daily, you will notice a slimmer and firmer waistline, better posture, decreased lower back pain, improved core strength and increased body confidence.
The Lying Draw-In Maneuver (“Tummy Vacuums”)
- 2 foam rollers, 2 large towels or 2 small balls (soccer ball size)
- 2 hockey pucks or 1 toy block
- Athletic tape (optional)
- Fitness or yoga mat
- Lie on your back with your head supported with a foam-roller or towel. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor.
- Place a foam-roller, small ball (soccer ball size, can be squishy), or a thick rolled towel between your knees.
- Place an object such as 2 hockey pucks taped together (or a toy block) on your stomach in line with the hip bones. (Any household object can be used. Just make sure it is light in weight and has enough height that will allow you to watch it move as you perform the exercise.)
- Without holding your breath, squeeze the roller or towel between your knees and attempt to draw the pucks down into the abdomen without initiating a crunching action. The point of this exercise is to fire the transverse abdominis without firing the rectus abdominis muscle. As you pull your abdomen down and in, try to flatten your back onto the floor.
Some visualizations to help you draw in the abdomen
- Attempt to pull the bellybutton through to the spine.
- Visualize trying to squeeze through a tight space between two objects at waist height.
- Imagine trying to zip up the world’s tightest pair of pants.
- As you pull your stomach in, you should notice the pucks or block sinking. If they rise as you do this maneuver, you should stop, reset and try again until they sink.
Reps and sets
- During this exercise, breath normally, but hold this “vacuum” position. Letting go counts as one repetition.
- You can start with 5 repetitions, each held for 5 seconds.
- Relax and let the pucks or blocks rise for 2 to three seconds between repetitions.
- Perform 3 sets.
Once you master the first level, advance to the next level: Perform three sets of 8 contractions held for 5 – 10 seconds each.
Do not rush through this transverse abdominal exercise. A slow and controlled movement is all that is necessary for the exercise to work. The slower you perform this exercise, the better your form and effectiveness will be.
- Do not rush through this transverse abdominal exercise. A slow and controlled movement is all that is necessary for the exercise to work. The slower you perform this exercise, the better your form and effectiveness will be.
- As you pull your stomach in, you should notice the hockey pucks or block sinking. If they rise as you do this maneuver, you should stop, reset, and try again until they sink. You want to see the pucks/blocks sinking down as you pull in your abs.
- This exercise may also be performed while in a “table-top position” with your hands and feet on the floor while focusing on keeping your back flat.
It may take 3 to 6 weeks of consistent training for you to fully understand the concept of this exercise, master it and see results. If you have a background in yoga, pilates, or martial arts, you will find these exercises simpler than those who have been taught to only work the rectus abdominis muscles through crunches and other abdominal exercise.
Good luck and enjoy!
© Jennifer Regan and Bamboo Core Fitness, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Regan and Bamboo Core Fitness with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.