Tummy Vacuum Exercise To Relieve Back Pain

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Tummy Vacuum Exercise To Relieve Back Pain

The lumbar spine, or lower back, is a remarkably well-engineered structure. These interconnecting bones, joints, nerves, ligaments, and muscles all work together to provide support, strength, and flexibility. However, this complex structure also leaves the lower back susceptible to injury and pain. The

Tummy Vacuum Exercise Helps to Relieve Back Pain

In 2004, at the age of 29 years old, I suffered from chronic lower back pain resulting from a herniated L5/S1 disc. I believe the cause was from all the crunches I did throughout my youth that caused my lower back to be weak and susceptible to injury. Icing my back throughout the day became my normal routine. I walked like I was 100 years old, slow and hunched over. When I had to sneeze, I scrambled to find the sturdiest object to hold onto for support. It was terrible!

I did everything I knew could possibly help me recover or at the very least minimize the pain. I sought out the best care from chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncturists, and pain management doctors to help me avoid surgery and reduce my chronic pain. But to my disappointment, the results from all those treatments were not successful.

Back surgery was my last and only option to get back to feeling like myself. In 2004 back surgery was still a very risky procedure, unlike today where it’s fairly common. I found the best back surgeon in New Jersey, so I could be close to my family in case something happened. After my initial visit to see Dr. Jay More I scheduled my surgery 2 weeks out so I could prepare my mind and body for the recovery.

My Recovery From Back Surgery

The surgery was successful, and I was on the road to recovery. After only 1 day of lying in bed, I got up and began a focused physical therapy regime that I created and knew would help me recover fully. The first and most important exercise was Tummy Vacuums.

Tummy Vacuums are also known as the lying draw-in maneuver, the tummy vacuum is a simple move that will strengthen your transverse abdominis muscle (TVA). The transverse abdominis is the deepest, innermost layer of all abdominal muscles located underneath your rectus abdominals (the “six-pack” stomach muscle).

If you perform tummy vacuums daily, you will notice:

  • A slimmer and firmer waistline
  • Better posture
  • Decreased back pain
  • Improved core strength
  • Increased body confidence

The goal with the tummy vacuum exercise is to improve the mind and muscle connection to your stomach muscles. With consistent practice, the neuromuscular connection between your brain and your core will get stronger. Your brain will get to the point where it instinctively sends messages through neural pathways down to your stomach, telling the core muscles to be engaged. This connection will help the TVA do its job of protecting the spine and organs and it will help you get a flatter stomach. Pretty sweet, right?!


Tummy Vacuum Exercise (www.stevejordan.com)

  1. Lie on the floor on your back.
  2. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. You should be in the same position in the photo.
  3. Place a foam roller, small ball, or a rolled towel between your knees.
  4. Place a small object such as a book on your stomach. Just make sure it is light in weight and has enough height that will allow you to watch it move as you perform the tummy vacuum exercise.
  5. Without holding your breath, squeeze the foam roller ball or towel between your knees and attempt to draw the book down into the abdomen without initiating a crunching action. This means you should pull the belly-button down toward the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles as if you are trying to fit into a really tight pair of pants or as if you are bracing yourself before someone punches your belly. The point of this exercise is to fire the transverse abdominis without firing therectus abdominal muscles.
  6. As you pull down and tighten your abdomen, aim to flatten your back onto the floor.
  7. While performing the tummy vacuum, observe the book on your belly. You want the book to lower down/sink toward the floor, and not rise up toward the ceiling. If they are moving up toward the ceiling, you are not fully recruiting the transverse abdominis muscles. Youdo not want to be doing a pelvic tilt during this exercise. The movement should be directed by your abdominal muscles only.
  8. While breathing normally, hold this tummy vacuum position for 5 seconds.
  9. Relax and let the objects on your tummy rise for 4 seconds.
  10. Repeat steps 1-7 for the suggested amount of reps and sets below.


  1. During the tummy vacuum exercise, never hold your breath. Breathe normally but hold the “vacuum” position while doing so. It may help to count out loud. When you are counting, you are breathing.
  2. Letting go of the tummy vacuum counts as one repetition.
  3. You can start with10 repetitions of tummy vacuums, each held for 5 seconds.
  4. Relax and let the book rise for 4 seconds between repetitions.
  5. Perform 10x throughout your day.

Yours in health & fitness.

Steve Jordan

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