Just as you thought you were doing well with your daily green juice, kale habit and Crossfit regime, along comes a new trend to challenge our physique goals and up the ante a little more! It may sound a little odd to the uninitiated, but trainers across America in the particular are hearing lots of requests from clients who want to create a prominent ‘ab crack’.
If you’re still none the wiser, be glad of your ignorance for a little while longer, because if this trend sticks, it’ll have us working harder than ever on our physiques! Essentially, this year’s ab crack is last year’s thigh gap – and it requires you to have a prominent dividing line running down the centre line of your stomach. Yes, you heard that right, your six pack. or even four pack. is no longer quite enough if you want to be truly on trend!
To see ab cracks in all their honed glory, carry out an Instagram search and check out celebrity fitness figure models. You’ll see that the look is being sported by honed men and women alike, and it looks set to become highly aspirational. But is it achievable?
Trainers warn that you need to be realistic about genetics when aspiring to these kinds of looks. Remember thigh gap? Women who went for this craze were warned that those thicker legged muscular sisters were very unlikely to ever achieve legs so skinny and thin that they would fail to meet in the middle (and indeed, why would they want to try.) Ab crack is a little different as it suggests the pinnacle of physical figure training. If you are genetically disposed to pack on that much muscle around your abs, you’ll also need to be disposed to shredding fat around the same area for the definition to shine through
Don’t be disheartened though – it is possible to develop fantastic definition in this area with a focused training programme and the right nutrition – as the two go hand in hand. Whether you end up with a gentle crease or a razor sharp edge, you can achieve superb results that will turn heads with commitment and dedication.
Firstly – know this
You will need to put in a lot of work to get this look. The proper term for the so-called ab crack is the linea alba. Trying to achieve it is a superficial ideal in its own right – but a possible side effect from strength and figure training. The linea albea sits in the middle of your stomach and is separated by a fibrous structure that sits between the two abdominis muscles. To have any hope of achieving a crease, you need to do two primary things: sort your diet and hone your fitness regime. We’ll look at fitness first.
Your Ab Crack Workout
Your ab muscles exist primarily to give your core strength and to support your spine and keep it stable, allowing your trunk to extend and move and absorbing force. There are a number of specific strength building exercises you can focus on to build your six pack and ab crack, but at the same time you will need to nuke some high-intensity (HIT) training to blitz away body fat and reveal your muscles as they grow. A discipline such as Crossfit is very useful for this, as is Tabata training or commercial programmes such as Insanity. Failing that, basics such as hill sprinting with interim recoveries is a fantastic way to really increase your metabolism and force your body to engage with the hormonal and systemic changes that will encourage it to lose fat. Avoid steady state cardio at low intensity such as jogging, as it can encourage your body to hold on to fat stores. Short, sharp and often is your mantra. Try to do HIT training 5 times a week. Just 20 minutes a session is sufficient. Alongside this, you need to strength train – hard – on most days of the week, but allowing rest time for your muscles to heal. Work different areas on different sessions and focus on strengthening your whole body, including spine, when progressing this particular ab project!
Build on this with your strength training:
The Vacuum: This exercise is based on a Pilates move and can be done anywhere. Firstly, breathe out all the air you can from your lungs, suck it in, and then hold your stomach and breath for ten seconds. Your stomach should have the sensation of touching your spine. The exercise is hard but it can – and should – be done regularly throughout the day.
Weighted leg raises – use a pull up bar or your local playground and practice leg raises. If you can lift your legs in front of you without bending them, then add weights. Do these in sets of five to twelve, until your abs are burning!
Crunches and ab raises – get serious about your crunches and reverse curls, but do them slowly and with complete focus on your ab muscles. Supplement these with the plank, and up the ante by lifting one leg off the floor whilst planking, or pulling it up towards your waist to work the both.
Weightlifting – grab a barbell, find an instructor and embrace powerlifting and / or Olympic weightlifting. Lifts such as the overhead squat, snatch, deadlift, squat, push press and clean and jerk all work your abdominals to a tremendous degree, alongside the rest of your body. And this is key – you won’t end up with an ab crack if you have wobbly legs and undefined arms – you need to work your entire body, including your back and spine for stability and posture. Much of your finished result will depend on how you hold yourself up.
Martial Arts and Boxing
There is a reason that boxers and MMA fighters have amazing physiques – the intense nature of these sports mean that strength and cardio gains are made concurrently. Boxing training or circuits is a good way to get all of the benefits of this addictive style of bodybuilding – everything from skipping through to press-ups, sparring and technique work will be working your abs as well as your legs, back, arms and shoulders.
Your Ab Crack Diet
Abs of steel require a diet of extreme dedication. You’ll need to eat in a way that strips fat, maximises muscle growth and absolutely zeroes all kinds of bloating. Without this you could end up extremely strong and with insane definition – hid under a wobbly layer of stomach fat. Be mindful here that if you are apple shaped and hold fat around your stomach, you will have to work harder than your pear-shaped or triangle-shaped peers.
Foods to cut out or limit
Firstly, cut added sugar out of your diet. It bloats you, stresses your hormones and encourages your body to hold on to water and fat. Cut out all white sugar and sugar alternatives including honey or anything ending in ‘ose’ such as sucrose, fructose, dextrose and so forth. Be wary of foods which can cause bloating, particularly lentils, beans and pulses. Dairy is one to watch too. When it is raw, organic and full fat it is full of beneficial vitamins, minerals and protein, but some people are lactose sensitive and find that it causes them to bloat. Be careful with fruit too – it is full of vitamins, but also tends to be high in sugar. Try berries, grapefruit and apples, which are lower in sugar and packed with beneficial naturally occurring compounds. It goes without saying that you also must avoid alcohol when eating in this way, as it is packed with sugar and always causes bloating – especially beer! If you must have a drink, make it a single shot of a clear spirit, mixed with a low calorie tonic water, and leave it at the one.
Foods to enjoy
Focus on a high protein diet that helps your body to repair your muscles after training. That means eating lean meat, fish, eggs and lots of vegetables, particularly dark green leafy vegetables. Coconut milk and oil contain Medium Chain Fatty Acids which can assist with fat burning, and avocado is a wonder food that provides essential fats and that all important feeling of satiety. Don’t be afraid of fat as it supports your hormones and will help you to achieve your broader body composition goals.
Protein shakes are a good option for refuel food after training, and you can buy protein snacks and other supplements too. Consider supplements such as creatine and BCAAs to support your training – especially if you are springing and weightlifting – but avoid things with excess caffeine, which can support thermogenic calorie burning processes, but which ultimately affect the endocrine system and can cause stress.
Eat little and often – a lot of figure competitors will eat six small meals a day rather than a large three, to keep blood sugar levels under control and to maximise nutrient absorption. This is well worth trying. Remember not to go nuts with protein -a matchbox size piece of cheese or a portion of meat the size of your palm is ideal. Always combine it with lots of vegetables.
Remember too, some people with ab cracks will simply be taking ‘dubious’ supplements and steroid products. Don’t go down this path if you want to maintain your health alongside building a fantastic physique. These types of products are largely unregulated and do unknown things to your body. Mess up your endocrine system for example and you will be looking at far more serious problems than a lack of six pack. Focus on building your ab crack in a natural way, mimicking the diet and training that our ripped stone age ancestors were apparently rocking – the Paleo or Primal diet and training regime is a good topic to Google to find like minded people and a community of fitness enthusiasts!
Stress itself is an important third area to tackle in your pyramid of ab crack attainment! Stress releases cortisol which often leads to storage of abdominal fat. Get plenty of sleep and make a conscious effort to stay calm and well, and you will find that this makes a big difference to your midriff.
Remember that once your abs start to become defined, a good posture will really help to show them off. Keep your abs sucked in, stand up straight and maintain a strong, straight spine.