fitness

From 'ab cracks' to six packs: 6 myths about visible abs you need to stop believing.

As with a lot of health and wellbeing stuff, there are tons of sneaky little fibs constantly floating around, finding their way into the minds of cute folk like us.

From juice cleanses and detoxes to the 'healthy food' myths, there's an awful lotta misinformation out there. And gosh, it's confusing... and really effing dangerous.

Trying to work out the health and fitness industry.

Take one of the newest (and most disturbing) fitness trends that has been lingering around for quite some time: the 'ab crack' fad.

Watch: Emily Ratajkowski on why she's a different person on social media. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia
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Popularised by celebrities like Emily Ratajkowski, the 'ab crack' is basically a vertical indentation in the middle of the abdomen (the linea alba, for those who want to get specific).

Just like visible six packs, it's just become another one of the unattainable physical traits we see on Instagram that supposedly indicates health and fitness... even though it's something that is completely genetically predisposed.

Like, hands up how many of you believe you have to have visible abs to be fit? And that anyone can get them through hard work? That you just need to eat a bit better, or exercise that little bit harder?

You guys! 

While it's important to reiterate the fact that we shouldn’t body shame celebrities like Ratajkowski, the fact is that following these kinda social media trends and believing toned, visible abs are 'body goals', is super problematic.

That's why we've brought in an expert. We spoke to Angharad (Harri) Saynor, master trainer at Infinite Cycle and asked her to help us debunk the silliest myths around visible abs.

1. You're only *really* fit if you have visible abs.

Visible abs are often seen as the pinnacle of fitness - if you have a six-pack, you must be fit, right? Wrong.

"NOT TRUE! This is one of the biggest myths! There can be so many risks of getting your body fat percentage too low," said Saynor.

"Health comes in all shapes and sizes and you should be judging health on physical actions; if you can get up a flight of stairs without gasping, ride a 45 minute spin class, or lift weights, these are your indicators, not abs."

In other words, having visible abs does NOT mean you are physically fitter.

"I know many super fit athletes who run rings around me, lift way heavier than me and contort themselves in to all sorts of yoga poses and they don't all have visible abs (most of them don't)."

2. People with visible abs are obviously healthier than people who don't have visible abs.

A six­-pack is often an indication that a person has very low body fat percentage - and while we may see this as 'fit' and 'healthy' (thanks, social media), this can often be a really dangerous thing to strive for.

"Again, 'healthy' isn't a body type, or size," explains Saynor. "Anything lower than 20 per cent is not great for women's health and is classed as a very low percentage for females."

Just to put things into perspective, Saynor said most women would have to be at below 20 per cent body fat to be able to see their top abs. However, to see a full six-pack, you'd need to go even lower.

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"You would have to go as low as 14 per cent to see a full six-pack for women with genetically thicker stomach muscles, and as low as nine per cent for normal stomach muscles to have visible abs."

Seems... dangerous.

According to Saynor, dropping to an incredibly low body fat can cause some serious havoc with your health.

"You can potentially stop getting your period, which would absolutely cause difficulty in getting pregnant without assistance. Plus, general fatigue and organ functionality can also suffer."

"It's actually nature's way of telling us we are not creating the perfect condition to procreate. Visible abs do not equal health."

3. Abs are not genetic, it all comes down to hard work.

As we touched on before, this is... not correct. Visible abs all come down to genetics and body fat percentage, friend. It's really nothing to do with how many hours you're putting in at the gym.

For example, some people genetically won't hold much fat in the abdominal area even at higher body-fat percentages, or they might be able to maintain quite a low body fat percentage without doing rigorous training and calorie counting. 

What's more, people are born with different abdominal muscle thickness, meaning some people will have more pronounced abs than others.

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So, yeah. No amount of crunches and ab workouts can change your genetic make-up.

4. You have to do sit-ups to reduce stomach fat and get abs.

Let's read this line together: You cannot spot reduce fat on your body. 

Not a thing, friend.

While this myth has been debunked time and time again, chances are you'll still see workouts on Instagram targeting 'trouble areas', instead of a comprehensive training approach.

"No exercise in the world can make a certain part of your body fat disappear - our bodies are incredibly intelligent, but not that intelligent!" said Saynor.

"Yes, core exercises can strengthen your abs, but you will not reduce specific parts of your body by doing certain exercises."

5. Social media is full of fit people.

Social media can be a lot. Like, A LOT. And more often than not it just seems to be flooded with people who look physically ripped and toned, which can be intimidating AF.

As we all know by now, though, not all of the images you're seeing on social media are real. But just in case you had your headphones in or something, we'll say it again. 

"Don't compare yourself to social media. I feel like everyone is saying this nowadays, but it's so true. The women you see on magazine covers? They've spent weeks training for the one cover shot, and they are potentially in their worst health at the time," said Saynor.

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"Those Instagram models you see with a washboard stomach everyday eating pizza? Good lighting, good genetics, photoshop or a combination of all three."

"The less we concern ourselves with visible abs, and focus on physical strength, endurance and a healthy diet, the fitter, faster and stronger you'll become."

6. Training abs every day is key to a stronger core.

Rather than looking to all these body trends we see on social media, Saynor said the key to being truly health is to go back to basics: simply eat well and exercise regularly. And stop with the endless crunches, boo. Pls.

Image: Giphy

"Focus on stability work. There is no point in doing 100 ab crunches if you're not bracing and your back isn't straight. You won't work your abs, and you'll probably get a sore back." 

"My best advice is to go speak to a PT or someone in group exercise and get them to show you how to engage your abs correctly, and work up from there."

What are your thoughts on the myths above? Share what you think in the comment section below.

Feature image: Instagram; @jlo; @emrata.