Forget Crunches, This is How You Get a Thinner Waist

By Adrianna McDonald

A small, thin waistline is every girl’s dream. We are all born with different genetics and some are blessed more than others. What most women don’t realize is that traditional crunches and common abdominal exercises can widen your waist instead of slimming it.

But there is a way to get a stronger core and a slimmer waistline. Although slightly controversial in the fitness community, stomach vacuuming or hollowing and abdominal bracing techniques can help you achieve your perfect midsection. 

So, what exactly is “stomach vacuuming” and how do you do it? No, it does not involve going to the hospital to get your insides cleaned up! Popularized by physique, fitness & bikini competitors, this technique focuses on strengthening/tightening your core muscles through simple breathing exercises 🙂

There are 6 abdominal muscles and I’m not talking about the famous 6-pack here.

The stomach vacuum exercise targets the deep muscle Transversus abdominis (TVA), which is situated underneath your “six pack”- rectus abdominis.  

Both muscles are part of the “corset” that keeps your waist tight. When the TVA is strengthened the inner corset gets tighter.

The stomach vacuum is a gentle breathing exercise which involves isometric contraction targeting the TVA. The benefit goes further than a slim waistline – it will also stabilize the spine, preventing lower back pain and improving your posture.

It’s best to perform this exercise upon awaking while your stomach is still empty and your mid section is flatter. Doing this first thing in the morning will help you make it a habit.

It also can be done few times a day anywhere. So let’s see how it’s done…

There are 5 levels of progression:


This is the easiest version. Here is what to do:

  • Lay down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat.
  • Exhale all the  air from your lungs (and stomach).
  • Now pull your navel (belly button) as close to your spine as possible.
  • Start with 10-15 seconds on each repetition, aiming for 3 and building up to 5 reps. You can also work it up to 60 seconds over time.


This is bit more difficult than the supine version as gravity comes into play.

  • Get on your hands and knees with shoulders in line with your wrists, hips over the knees and neck in line with your spine.
  • Start with exhaling and pulling the navel in the same way as in the supine version.
  • Begin with 30 seconds per rep and work up to 60 seconds. Again aim for 3-5 reps.



With this version other spinal stabilizing muscles come into play.

  • Take a seat, keeping your back straight.
  • Exhale and pull in the navel.
  • Start with 3-5 reps of 60 seconds.
  • As you progress move on to unstable surfaces like a swiss ball.


This version is your everyday concern. Pay attention to pulling your navel in , every time you sit down, throughout the entire day.

Difference is that  you’re holding your belly in (slightly contracting the TVA muscle) indefinitely, and breathing throughout the movement (with your chest, not your stomach). Be conscious not to allow the abdominal muscle to relax when seated or standing. Practicing it this way will become a second nature for you.

5. TVA & Rectus Abdominis co-contraction exercise: pull down crunch

This is to add in the intensity and functional carryover of vacuum exercises. To do this exercise you need to contract both the TVA and Rectus muscles at the same time. You will first exhale and tighten the navel (the vacuum exercise) and then you will do a crunch-like maneuver.

  • Set yourself in cable pull down position with a bar or rope high over your head.
  • Inhale and suck in tummy in and push your abs against your spine.
  • Exhale as you crunch down.

This version is perfect for those with a distended abdominal wall.

In a simpler version, you can just contract TVA by drawing in the navel and then crunch while exhaling.

The Bracing Technique

Finally, and arguably the best version of all of these is the bracing technique:

Think about what you would do if you were to prepare yourself for someone to punch you in the gut. You would immediately tense and stiffen your core to brace for the impact. This is exactly what abdominal bracing is, a term first coined by Dr. Stuart McGill of Canada, a leading expert in spine mechanics. –

Basically, with abdominal bracing you activate all of your core muscles from all sides & layers (deep, superficial, etc.) along with other connecting muscles in your back. Now, that should really make you sweat!

This technique is slightly harder and may not be applicable during posing on stage, however by making all of your core muscles stronger it will help improve your balance and flexibility.

All that said, make sure your diet is on point as without it no exercise will help.


Q&A: What is the best diet for abs?

This week we’ll be answering some questions from my Instagram followers (thanks guys!).

Question from @themulhaq and @suzyshedid: For flat belly, what will be diet plan? I’m talking about abs, which is the hardest part and there is always confusion about the diet plan, what to eat and not … There is a lot of people talking about abs training, but not much about nutrition.

Answer from Kim Barnard, Level 3 PT

There isn’t one best diet for achieving abs per se. Abdominals exist on everyone but they are hidden under a stubborn layer of fat around your midsection.

By decreasing your overall body fat percentage and increasing your lean body mass these will start to appear. To do this you need to ensure that your body is operating at a calorie deficiency through proper training and eating.

It is important to note that other aspects can affect achieving those flat, defined abdominals like genetics, bloating, food allergies, inflammation, etc.

Bloating for the majority of people is caused by food allergies or the inability to break down food in your intestines which causes imbalances in gut bacteria. In your gut there are trillions of good and bad bacteria that compete. Sometimes when the bad outweigh the good this can lead to an imbalance which leads to bloating or excessive gas.

Taking a probiotic promotes good bacteria levels throughout the body and helps to balance non-friendly, pathogenic, gut bacteria such as Candida fungus or E. coli.

Here are some guidelines to help shift the fat and get abs.

  1. Achieve optimal gut health by taking a good quality probiotic.
  2. Make a note of foods that cause bloating and avoid these. For a large proportion of the population dairy and gluten are the biggest culprits.
  3. Eat a balanced diet ensuring you are having the correct amounts of macros (protein, fat and carbohydrates).
  4. Ensure you are getting plenty of fiber which will lower glucose levels and cholesterol while improving digestive health.
  5. Avoid sugar or processed foods.
  6. Ensure you are getting plenty of sleep, high stress levels impact your ability to lose fat.
  7. Ensure through proper training and diet you are achieving a calorie deficiency.

Hope that helps!


Progress Wednesdays – A Little Update on My Handstands Journey


The day I got inspired

Earlier this year, after attending a Acro-Yoga class, I set myself the goal of learning how to do a handstand. It took me a while to get started… but eventually I did (with a bit of support of course!).

So I started with kicking off a box against the wall, then moved on to launching ( 🙂 ) from the ground against the wall and most recently trying my hand at headstands (plus a variation).

Headstand Variation

I haven’t been practicing as much lately, however I feel like I am getting closer to coming off the wall (well… with headstands at least!).

Check out my progress videos below.

The beginning:

Getting off the box!:

Learning how to come up slowly + first try at headstands:

Coming closer to achieving my goal:

So as you can see it took me a couple of months to get from a complete beginner (and being totally afraid of getting myself upside down) to a somewhat intermediate level. Yep, nothing comes easy, but hard work and persistence pays off!

What are your fitness goals for this year? How are you progressing along? Share your experience in the comments below 🙂


Motivation Tuesday: Abs Are Made in The Kitchen


So you have heard the famous saying that abs are made in the kitchen. And that is true – 70 to 80% of your health and fitness goals is achieved through nutrition, leaving a measely 20-30% for fitness. Yet one cannot work without the other. You can lose weight through dieting but you can’t change or tone  your body shape without exercise and vice versa.

Spending 1-2 hours working out in the gym is  easy. What we do (and especially eat!) during the remaining 22 hours is the hard part.

And that is why I mostly post about food and nutrition rather than fitness and exercise. But I do have to get those 20 -30% in, so here’s a quick and simple workout from one of my Pinterest boards: Find more like this at #bodybuilding #fitness #bodybuilder

Keep up the good work!