Look Like Frank Zane With These 5 Brutal Vacuum Exercises

These 5 Vacuum Exercises From Frank Zane Will Help Shape a Classic Physique

The look of the guys that competed during Golden Era of bodybuilding is something that many people continuously strive to achieve. The appearances of those Mr. Olympias, such as pro Bodybuilder, Frank Zane, or Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Franco Columbu are something that many people will aim to replicate. The massively wide lats, broad chest and shoulders, all tied together by the tiny waist, it is a look that you do not see much today in the men’s bodybuilding scene. However, nowadays we have the Classic Physique division, which is designed to replicate the look of Golden Era bodybuilders, and one big part of a classic physique is an abdominal vacuum. In this post, we will detail the five Frank Zane vacuum exercises for a Classic Physique shape. 

The transverse muscle (TVA) is a band like muscle that runs along the sides of your midsection.  It’s there to stabilize your spine and core, and is technically nature’s weightlifting belt if you will. Without a stable spine, one aided by proper contraction of the TVA, the nervous system fails to recruit the muscles in the extremities efficiently, and functional movements cannot be properly performed. The TVA and lumbar multifidus support posture and control deep breathing during power movements therefore affecting a persons cardio as well as symmetry.

Now, let’s discuss the TVA and the abdominal vacuum.

What is a Vacuum?

No, not the cleaning tool, but the vacuum is a bodybuilding trick that gives the illusion of a smaller waist, which makes everything else look bigger, such as legs, shoulders, and lats. Basically, you blow out all of the air while simultaneously suck in your stomach, so it almost looks like your midsection has become a cavern. Not only that, but it also demonstrates core control, and with modern bodybuilders having a lot of abdominal distention, core control definitely scores some points on stage. However, the vacuum did not originate in bodybuilding.

The stomach vacuum exercise was actually developed to help people practice contracting and strengthening the TVA. When this muscle is stronger and you have a better mind-muscle connection with it, you will be better able to use it to your advantage, and as mentioned above, the TVA helps to protect and support your spine during exercise and everyday movements. For example, during squats and deadlifts you tend to brace your core fairly heavily, which the TVA is crucial to do.

Cool. Now that you know what the TVA and the abdominal vacuum are, how can you train them? Well, we thought that you’d never ask.

Here are some key points in learning how to vacuum your stomach and strengthen that TVA.


First up is the standing abdominal vacuum training.

  1. Stand upright and place your hands on a desk (or elevated flat surface, hip height is ideal)
  2. Knees slightly bent with back humped slightly (placing weight on desk)
  3. Place your chin on your chest.
  4. Deeply inhale and exhale sharply.
  5. As you exhale, expand your chest and bring your stomach in as far as possible. Hold  the pose but Do Not Hold Your Breath!

On Your Back

Next, the “on your back” abdominal vacuum training.

  1. Lie on your back. For example while in a tanning bed or other firm surface.
  2. Reach your arms over your head and keep your legs flat and straight.
  3. Begin by exhaling your air.
  4. Lift your chest and arch your back.
  5. Draw in your stomach for a few seconds at a time.
  6. Continue to try and hold your stomach in for longer and longer periods of time.

Kneeling Abdominal Vacuum Training

  1. Begin on all fours with your shoulders vertical over your elbows and wrists, hips over your knees, and your neck in a neutral position.
  2. Exhale, then  pull your navel in as close to your spine as possible.

Weighted Dumbbell Pullovers

Hold up, why are we saying to do pullovers for the vacuums? Well, back in the days of the Golden Era, bodybuilders would do this movement to hit their chest and lats, but also expand the rip cage. A bigger rib cage leads to a better vacuum.

  1. Lie on upper back perpendicular to bench.
  2. Flex hips slightly.
  3. Grasp one dumbbell from behind or from side with both hands under inner plate of dumbbell.
  4. Position dumbbell over chest with elbows slightly bent.
  5. (Keeping elbows slightly bent throughout movement) lower dumbbell over and beyond head until upper arms are in-line with torso.
  6. Pull dumbbell up and over chest. Repeat.

Rope Cable Crunches

One of the most prominent ab exercises of the Golden Era was the cable crunch, as it is something that is simple and does not require a lot of equipment, but is certainly effective in developing the core. You also get a great abdominal stretch with cable crunches.

  1. Attach a rope to a cable system and raise it to as high as it can go.
  2. Find a weight that you think is suitable enough to get quality reps out of.
  3. Grip the rope with both hands.
  4. Kneel down with the rope still in your hands.
  5. With your hands holding the rope, crunch down and bring your elbows to your knees.
  6. Extend back up and repeat that motion.

As far as where the rope and your hands should be, maybe aim to have your hands holding the rope next to your head or above your head, as long as you are getting a good contraction in the midsection it is perfect.

Stomach Vacuum Wrap Up

The abdominal vacuum is a movement that can not only help your physique aesthetically, but also functionally, so it is a good idea to really practice some exercises to strengthen your vacuum. Now that we’ve given you the building blocks to perfecting your abdominal vacuum, is there anything we left out?

Do you have exercises that you use to keep your symmetry on point? Let us know in the comment section below. Feel Free to respond with a picture message if you see any massive changes due to these exercises.

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Dylan Wolf
I work mainly in content writing, focusing my free time on bodybuilding and strength sports. I was introduced to fitness in high school and after watching Generation Iron movies. I love to train. I have competed multiple times, even winning a junior title in classic physique. I have a bachelor's in criminal justice and business obtained through Alvernia University. When I am not focused on work or training, I enjoy watching films or reading about anything and everything.