After reading the headline article in the Times Magazine on Saturday ‘Have You Seen My AbCrack?’ I felt compelled to comment.
Let me make it clear, just in case you’ve not read my story or previous blogs, I do not advocate extreme dieting or obsessive exercise.
A 20-year battle with anorexia and an obsession with exercise that literally brought me to my knees in the street, means I do have some experience to draw on here!
The article got me thinking with Professor Marika Tiggeman’s comments that ‘digital fitness reinforces yet another ideal that women can fail to live up to.’
I decided to see what else was out there and Googled AbCrack to find a cluster of headlines in July 2016.
‘The AbCrack is a dangerous Instagram trend’ (Good Housekeeping)
‘The Ab Crack is the newest body trend to spark social media outrage’. Oddchatter
‘What is the Abcrack’ asked the Telegraph
But is there a dangerous trend on social media? Not according to my research on hashtags!
So What’s My Point?
The headlines that suggest a lot of people are involved with something dangerous to put it succinctly.
If it were a trend going viral then the headlines would be more current. A week may be a long time in politics but four months is a decade online!
Presumably in July we needed a distraction immediately post-Brexit and the debacles at Westminster. Disappearing down an Abcrack might not have seemed such a daft option!
Headlines Aside What Are The Key Points? I’m not going to be adding a lot that’s not already out there but I am going to give you my view.
What Is An AbCrack?
The term AbCrack is used to describe the vertical line that appears to divide the abdominal muscles. The correct term is the Linea Alba (the white line). This line and the accompanying six pack are only seen on very toned bodies.
The muscles have to be very developed through exercise and diet. Diet also plays an important role in making the muscles more visible as many of us carry a layer of body fat over the stomach muscles.
AbCrack – Can Any Woman Have One?
No! But that’s no different from other body parts. We don’t all have long legs for example!
We are all genetically different and this means that some people will be able to gain an AbCrack more easily than others.
Jessica Ennis Hill is a great example. Like many athletes natural ability, motivation and determination play a huge part, But scientists would also say that genetics have played a part.
So I Can Get An AbCrack With Exercise?
The right exercise will help to develop the abdominal muscles.
The trend for weight training, boot camps and interval training will all help to develop strong core muscles but this will not be all that’s needed.
A fitness plan that focuses on getting as lean as possible is really important.
In the Times Article, Celebrity PT Matt Roberts details a very rigid fitness plan you would need to follow for five days/week to get lean enough. Matt’s plan involves cardio, interval and resistance training.
What Else Do I Need To Get An AbCrack?
Obtaining really defined abdominal muscles means following a very strict diet.
It means eating a lot of lean protein (chicken, eggs, white fish), vegetables and slow release carbohydrates. It also means giving up dairy, sugar, refined carbohydrates and alcohol.
Some trainers recommend eating good fats in moderation. Other diets recommend cutting fat entirely to maintain a low body fat percentage.
For the muscle to be really toned the body fat percentage must be really low. This can lead to problems.
What Body Fat Percentage Would I Need?
For the muscles to be really ripped (defined) a woman would need to be 16-19% body fat.
There are lots of statistics quoted and misquoted about body fat percentage.
The guidelines published by the World Health Organisation state that a healthy women’s body fat should be 21%-33%. The wide variation takes into account age, fitness levels and genetics.
Generally fit women are between 21-25%. While 16-19% may not sound much lower than this, the implications for health are wide reaching.
What’s Wrong With A Low Body Fat?
If you have a low body fat percentage this can cause a lot of health problems.
A diet low in fat increases the risk of deficiencies in fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). These vitamins are important for healthy sight, skin and bone density apart from anything else.
A low body fat percentage can also increase the risk of heart disease.
It can also depress the immune system and can affect menstruation with consequences for fertility.
Is There Anything Else I Need To Know?
Yes and this is quite scary.
Muscles look at their best in a dehydrated body. For fitness competitions contestants manipulate their water consumption.
For every day up to a week before the competition contestants drink six or seven litres of water. In the days leading up to the competition water consumption is reduced to the point of only taking sips on the day of the event.
As soon as contestants drink normally again the intense definition is lost, therefore the images are distorted.
What Else Might Happen To My Body?
A strict diet regime to reduce body fat will also reduce the fatty tissue that makes up the breasts. Female body builders very often lose their boobs.
Megan Prescott interviewed in the Times article, advised that this didn’t matter as she could have implants! This attitude does not appear to be uncommon amongst women bodybuilders.
Their ethos is a toned and honed body, which they want to be ‘perfect’ as they define it.
So Should I Forget About An AbCrack?
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be fit and having a toned body.
A lean toned body will give you more confidence. I love the way my body looks now with my deltoid dips and defined back muscles. Add a tan to that and I feel really confident!
But it becomes a problem when it becomes an obsessive habit to try to obtain something that’s largely unattainable and not particularly healthy when taken to an extreme form.
So What Should I Do?
The benefits of healthy eating are well-documented. Personally I believe in following a balanced diet that does not omit major food groups on a long term basis.
While the Times may have used the Byline ‘Goodbye Waif, Hello Weights’ there are major benefits to resistance training. But again I believe in a balanced approach and seeking advice if you’re not sure what is right for you.
Therefore if have an exercise routine that incorporates resistance training and builds a strong core it will offer protection against disease. With the added benefits of knowing you look good will increase confidence.
So if you’re not sure where to start with resistance training I’d always recommend visiting a gym and seek advice from the staff. I would avoid the DIY approach using fitness apps or some online program. You need to know that your technique is right to get the best from the exercises and avoid injury!
If you are wondering what to wear to the gym that will flatter your body shape, why not download my FREE Guide to Workout In Style