Obsessed With Core Definition? Why the ‘Ab Crack’ Isn’t a Good Fitness Goal
Are you striving to achieve an ab crack? At this point, we’re no stranger to oddly specific visual body “goals.” The thigh gap is probably the best known and most persistent one, but it was quickly followed by the Kardashian-inspired “thighbrow.”
It’s not just thighs that are the focus of these goals, though. You could argue the much-sought-after six-pack abs was the first body goal trend. Despite doing ab workouts at home, you may be getting no closer to that rippling set of muscles — and that’s why the ab crack seems like the more attainable alternative.
But is this physical characteristic you see all over fitstagrammers’ profiles actually doable? And is it a good fitness goal? Here’s what you need to know.
What Is an Ab Crack?
“An ‘ab crack’ is a line down the middle of the abdomen giving the appearance of separation between the two sides of the abdominal muscles,” explains Jim White, RD, ACSM EX-P, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios in Virginia.
If you’re often on Instagram, it’s the vertical line running down the middle of the abdomen you’ve seen in people’s pictures. It’s more pronounced on some people at the top of the abs, while on others, the “ab crack” runs straight down most of the stomach to the belly button.
Physically, this line results from a fibrous line of tissue, called the linea alba, that runs down the middle of your abdomen. The different ab muscles anchor to this tissue. People naturally have linea alba of different widths. If you’re lean enough, the skin dips into this divot.
How Do You Get an Ab Crack?
Simply put, genetics. We know that’s not the answer you want to hear. Because the ab crack is dependent on the underlying physical structure of your abdomen, there’s no ab crack exercise or diet that can make one appear if your linea alba isn’t deep or wide enough to form this divot.
If you have the underlying structure for an ab crack, losing fat should bring it out. Unfortunately, that’s where you run into another hurdle. We cannot spot-reduce fat, no matter how much we wish that were possible. If your abdomen happens to be where you hold fat and where it comes off last, it might be a long time before your ab crack is visible.
Getting leaner isn’t even the answer for everyone, though. “Being lean doesn’t guarantee an ab crack or visible abs in general,” warns White. “Our genetic makeup is ultimately the deciding factor for a physique like this.”
Dieting for an ab crack
If you want to try to get an ab crack because you’ve noticed hints of it before and know you can genetically achieve one, diet will hold the most sway. Just as you can get a six-pack purely from dieting, so too can people predisposed to an ab crack bring one out by purposefully losing fat.
The best “ab crack diet” is the one that creates a caloric deficit for you that you can maintain. If you’re lowering your calories to achieve this, go slowly. Cutting too many calories too quickly can cause two problems:
- Not having enough calories to cut from if you plateau
- Losing metabolically active muscle mass
Is It OK to Have an Ab Crack?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with someone having an ab crack line — unless they’ve had to resort to unhealthy means to achieve it.
Even if you have an ab crack and haven’t had to work for it, it might not be healthy in the long run. The ab crack isn’t sustainable for some people because “it often is in tandem with a very low body fat percentage,” explains White.
Keep track of non-aesthetic markers of health such as energy and hunger levels, psychological state, and a regular menstrual cycle to make sure your health isn’t taking a hit in the name of abs.
Can Everyone Get an Ab Crack?
No, not everyone can get an ab crack. This is just one of those areas in which our genetics decide our fate. Some people can do ab workouts religiously and never develop an ab crack, while others can have an ab crack without working out.
Ab Exercises You Can Do to Help Define Your Abs
There is no shortage of challenging ab exercises out there, but first things first: Core workouts have plenty of benefits, but they may not make your abs visible if you’re not lean enough or your genetics don’t support it.
So, tackle these exercises as you work toward visible abs, but don’t lose sight of all the other benefits like less back pain and more effortless everyday movement. “Not everyone can attain a six-pack or an ab crack if their DNA doesn’t allow for it, so focusing on strengthening the core and maintaining a healthy weight is the best approach,” White underscores.
1. Plank exercises
Plank exercises have the advantage of being easy to do anywhere without equipment. They also strengthen your ability to stabilize your core and back, which translates to less back pain during your day-to-day life.
2. Weighted ab exercises
Adding weights to core workouts can help you build thicker ab muscles. Larger muscles may be able to push on your skin more, making them more visible. Try your hand at new exercises like cable machine crunches or add weight to classics you know and love like crunches, leg raises, and planks.
3. Twisting ab exercises
If your body isn’t built to create an ab crack, maybe you’re able to get the sides of your core developed and well-defined. That’s where twisting ab exercises such as Russian twists, mountain climbers, and bicycle twists/crunches come in. These exercises work your obliques along the sides of your core.
4. Bonus: Cardio
“Cardiovascular exercises such as running can help reduce overall body fat percentage,” says White. That’s essential for helping your abs show as much as possible. But cardio isn’t just about fat loss. These exercises also strengthen core muscles, including the back muscles and obliques, improve core stability, and can potentially lead to more defined abs, White adds.