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.


Flexible Dieting or If It Fits Your Macros

This week we hear from trigger point master trainer and level 3 certified PT Alan Bichara about flexible dieting and interval training.

“Being professionally certified for the past 5 years and personally practicing different methods of fitness for the last 10years, I have simplified my craft to be very effective and efficient. My job as a coach does not end at the gym, I will be constantly striving to help people become a better version of themselves.”

I’m pretty sure if you read online articles about fitness and health or follow specific fitness personalities on social media you have run across the terms “flexible dieting” aka “IIFYM”, but what does IIFYM mean?

Wouldn’t it be great to have a small treat in the middle of your day or week and not feel guilty about it? Well IIFYM will help you make your “strict” diet be more interesting, and it will still help you achieve your goal, be it losing body weight, losing fat or gaining lean mass.

IIFYM means If It Fits Your Macros, it’s basically a nutrition system that requires you to break down and track your diet into 3 categories, your macros, which are Protein, Fat, and Carbs.

What are MACROS?

Macros or macronutrients are your Proteins, Fats, and Carbs. Every day we eat a specific amount of calories, and your calories are made up of your macros. Each macro is measured in grams (g) which is converted by our body into calories (kcal).

1 gram of protein = 4 calories

1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories

1 gram of fat = 9 calories

How are they calculated?

In this article I will help you to track your macros, but first we need to know how much calories you need to consume.

We need to know your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure).

To compute for your BMR just press here.

Now that you have your BMR, we need to know your TDEE. To find your TDEE, we need your BMR and use the equation below.

Sedentary = BMR x 1.2 (little to No activity)

Lightly Active = BMR x 1.375 (1-3 days/week of activity or exercise)

Moderate Active = BMR x 1.55 (3-5 days/week of activity or exercise)

Very Active = BMR x 1.725 (5-6 days/week high intensity workout or activity)

Extremely Active = BMR x 1.9 (Daily high intensity workout and activity)

Take note with deciding what formula to use, don’t just consider your workout but your work as well – are you a labourer/carpenter or someone who walks a lot for work or someone who sits down all day?

Now that we know our TDEE, we make our goal, do we want to lose weight or gain lean mass?

Lose Weight: TDEE – 500kcals/day

Gain weight: TDEE + 200kcals/day

So finally we have your calories on point, we now have to break it down, to know our “budget” and how we can spend it.

We will break down your TDEE into your macros.

Protein = 1g protein per 1 pound of body weight or bodyweight in kgs x 2.2

Fat = 30% of TDEE divided by 9

Carbs = {TDEE – (protein intake + fat intake)} divided by 4

What does this mean?

As you can see in this equation, the only thing constant is your protein which is adjusted with your ideal bodyweight. Fat and carbs depend on how much calories you consume, so we only decrease or increase carbs/fat according to your goal.

I’m pretty sure a lot of people hate maths and this might seem like too much computation so I really recommend, and personally use, myfitnesspal.

But once you get the hang of it, it can be very beneficial to achieve your goals.

A practical example 

Now let’s get you started, having a weighing scale is optional. Most things you buy that come in packages come with nutritional facts and you can see your macros directly.

Let me show you an example of a 40-year old, 55kg female, 165cm tall, moderate activity, and works out 3 x/wk.

BMR = 1220kcals x 1.55 (moderate activity) = 1891kcals

Goal (lose weight) = 1891(TDEE) – 500kcals = 1391 daily calories needed


Protein = 55kgs x 2.2 = 121grams of protein x 4 = 484kcals

Fat = 1391x.30 = 417kcals/9 = 46g

Carbs = 1391 – [484(protein requirement) + 417(fat requirement)] =490kcals/4= 123g

Knowing your macros will help you make up your meal plan, it doesn’t have to be the same boring food every day, although it helps to make the counting easier.

Remember it will take a while before you get used to adjusting and knowing how your body reacts, the best thing to do is stay consistent and never stress about it.