This exercise has been around for years and was used by the old school bodybuilders such as Arnie with Vince Gironda really appreciating its effectivenes, as he used it extensively in all his ab region work.
The exercise helps those with a distending gut [loose belly hangover from an underdeveloped transversus abdominus] and creates a sexy nice curve in the midsection which we dont see nowadays and especially in bodybuilding, unlike in the early days as this method was widely used but today its forgotten and thats why many just think about getting the 'six pack' and forget they can still work the stomach and create more!
I'm by no means an expert with this exercise but I've been useing it awhile and it works a real treat at what its supposed to do and like all ab training, makesure you have low levels of fat around your abs in the region of 12-15% is acceptable but lower is better as you can see the muscle much more better and hence with other exercises [Not this one] create a six pack!
Firstly a few bits n pieces on the ab region.
The inner and outer Abdominals are composed of internal and external muscles. The external muscles are known as the rectus abdominus and the external obliques.
^ These muscles are worked when we do most other abdominal work such as crunches and twists but what is forgotten about is the REAL INNER abs - the transversus abdominus and lumbar multifidus.
These muscles lie beneath the rectus abdominus, and external obliques.
The transversus abdominus and lumbar multifidus support posture\control deep breathing during power movements and are responsible for back support and hence because they are not trained much they are often weak in many individuals ... lets change that!
When you make these muscles stronger you can limit and relieve back pain, improve posture, create a tighter midsection, and add explosive power to your training.
What are the other benefits?
The stomach vacuum is an isometric contraction of the transversus abdominus. As previously stated, a stronger transversus abdominus can create a stronger valsalva maneuver (the powerful exhale necessary to contract a muscle during an intense workload).
The stomach vacuum is one of the best exercises you can perform to shrink your waistline in a very short amount of time. Many people can knock an inch or two off their midsection in a little as three to four weeks with this technique, provided the prerequisites are met. Also, building this area of the abdominal muscle will help you gain more control over your abs, and assist you better in explosive lifts. Stomach vacuums take practice, but they are extremely effective.To perform the vacuum is simple.
Stand upright and place your hands on a desk with knees slightly bent with the back humped slightly. Place your chin on your chest and than deeply inhale and exhale sharply.
As you exhale, expand your chest and bring your stomach in as far as possible, and hold it in. Do Not Hold Your Breath! To be blunt, simply suck in your gut. Visualize trying to touch your navel to your backbone.
See the diagram below for a better clue
How many reps? One contraction of "X" seconds is one repetition. For example, if you suck your stomach in for 10 seconds, that's one repetition. If you do that two more times, that's 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Vince Gironda advised that these be performed 10 sets of 10 reps [10 x 10] twice a day every other day. DO NOT DO THEM EVERY DAY otherwise you will start to overtrain and you wont gain anything positive!
All abdominal work should be done like anyother body part and not in so many reps like we 'think' should be done such as 50-100 reps ... that WILL NOT build abs .. it will smooth out the tissue due to hormone loss from overtraining and you will merely be doing endurance exercise and not targetting the muscles extensively. Keep it Intense, brief and infrequent like anyother body part and you WILL gain.
Here is a routine from Karen Sessions on useing these vacuums and she happens to be a certified personal fitness instructor and specialist in performance nutrition.
Training days for the stomach vacuum are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, or every other day. While the abs can be trained more than other muscle groups, they still need their rest. Therefore, doing them daily won't be as effective as you may think it would be.
Week #1 20 Seconds 3 Sets
Week #2 30 Seconds 3 Sets
Week #3 40 Seconds 3 sets
The idea is to keep progressing in seconds (reps) or sets. You can set your own start point and progression phase. Eventually try to work up 4 sets of a full minute.
As an added bonus, you can use the stomach vacuum when doing your regular abdominal work. Focus on pulling in on the transversus abdominus as you do your abdominal work. Simply do this by pulling in your stomach as far as possible and flex your groin muscles, as if you are trying to stop the flow of urine.
I would recommend that 5 x 5 be done on every second day for aslong as you can hold the stomach in for and keep going until you cant do anymore from the pain in the muscle i.e. that burn feeling and in 6-8 weeks of regular usage you will notice a more curvy shape to your stomach and that it isnt as distorted as it once was albeit you have low body fat.
This exercise DOES NOT help the creation of the six pack ... the muscles worked here are the transversus abdominus.
Special thanks to Karen Sessions for her routine and also Vince Gironda with his illustration from the course '6 week abdominal course' by Vince Gironda and sold by NSP Research Nutrition who are linked http://www.nspresearchnutrition.com/