3 Best Linea Alba Exercises (with Pictures!): Strengthen the Core

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
October 22, 2022

Quite a number of muscles are present in the core area of the human body, prompting many exercisers to target these muscles individually in the hopes of improving their core strength and appearance - with one among these targets being the linea alba.

However, many individuals are surprised to find that the straight line that bisects their six-pack is in fact not a muscle at all, and is instead a tendon, helping to keep the core in place and contracting to its fullest extent.

Despite the fact that the linea alba is not actually a muscle at all, many exercisers (and sufferers of diastasis recti, or damage to the linea alba) still wish to place some level of training stimulus upon it for the purposes of rehabilitation and bodybuilding.

What is the Linea Alba?

As was previously stated, the linea alba is a tendon that bisects the rectus abdominis muscles, creating the appearance of a deep line drawn vertically across the stomach and waist. 

linea alba

In ordinary anatomical models, this is often depicted as a white slice of tissue extending from the base of the sternum to the middle of the pelvis. 

It serves the purpose of absorbing internal and external pressure of the abdomen while simultaneously acting as an anchoring point for muscles that protect and move the thorax of the body, allowing for such biomechanics as the rotation of the pelvis, abduction and adduction of the waist and nearly omni-directional movement of the torso itself.

While connective tissues like the linea alba do not undergo hypertrophy or growth in the same manner as skeletal muscles do, placing structured resistance exercise on it can result in improved abdominal strength and flexibility.

Exercises to Target the Linea Alba

1. Bicycle Crunches

A classic seen in many core training sessions, bicycle crunches produce both isometric and dynamic contraction of the various core muscle groups while also placing resistance on the linea alba through the motion of the pelvis.

Due to the high tempo of bicycle crunches and the moderate level of intensity involved in their performance, they are most suitable for individuals who do not have an injured linea alba and are instead seeking out improved function and appearance of said linea alba.

Who Should Use This Exercise?

Bicycle crunches are an appropriate linea alba training tool for individuals seeking weight loss through exercise, dynamic core musculature training stimulus or athletes seeking an excellent overall abdominals exercise with significant sports carry-over potential.

How to Perform

Bicycle crunches involve the exerciser lying on the floor and placing their hands behind their head for support.

Then, tightening their core, they will straighten one leg and bring the opposite leg towards the chest, simultaneously pulling the shoulder on the opposite side of the moving leg towards it. If performed correctly, this will cause the elbow of the opposing arm to touch the knee, or come within range of touching it.

Then, they will simply repeat the action with the remaining side of the body, thereby completing a repetition of bicycle crunches.

2. Glute Bridges

Glute bridges are a compound bodyweight exercise that train both the posterior chain and the core musculature in a low-impact and easily accessible manner. 

glute bridge

As a consequence of the torso’s position during the exercise, glute bridges are also quite effective at reinforcing the linea alba as well.

Glute bridges are most often included into low-impact aerobic drills or rehabilitation programs due to their low risk of injury and low mobility requirements.

Who Should Use This Exercise?

Glute bridges are appropriate for weekend gymgoers or individuals with a history of poor mobility in their pelvis and core area. 

Glute bridges will allow them to place training stimulus on the linea alba and surrounding muscles without worry of cramping or otherwise sustaining an acute injury.

How to Perform

Lying on their back with the feet flat on the floor, the exerciser will extend their pelvis forward, taking care to keep the knees and upper torso in contact with the ground as they do so. 

If performed correctly, a squeeze should be felt in the buttocks and abdominal muscles, indicating that these areas are being contracted successfully.

Then, stopping once the pelvis and knees form an angled plane, the exerciser will then allow their lower body to slowly return to the ground, squeezing the core and gluteus muscles the entire way down.

This completes a single repetition of glute bridges.

3. Side Planks

Side planks are primarily an isometric exercise that train the muscles (and linea alba) by forcing them to maintain a steady position despite the presence of resistance. 

side plank

This, in turn, builds impressive strength and muscular endurance, and is arguably safer to perform than more dynamic exercises due to a lack of movement.

As a linea alba exercise, side planks are meant to place sufficient training stimulus along the tendon and its surrounding muscles while also having the benefit of far less pressure than traditional planks would otherwise induce.

Who Should Use This Exercise?

Side planks are most suitable for individuals seeking out rehabilitative exercises for their core, or those that wish to tone their abdominal muscles in a manner that does not require excessive mobility or movement.

In addition to these cases, side planks are also among one of the best exercises for those that wish to train their obliques muscles alongside their linea alba.

How to Perform

To perform a side plank, the exerciser simply lies on the ground with their side turned towards the floor, their chest facing outwards. The hips should also be lifted from the ground as well, with only the side of one foot being in contact with the floor.

Bracing on their forearm and feet, the exerciser will then engage their core, holding for a pre-specified length of time. Once this length of time has elapsed, the set is complete.

A Note on Diastasis Recti Sufferers

The most common reason an individual may wish to exercise their linea alba is because of a condition known as diastasis recti, of which will often result in abdominal separation as the linea alba tendon loses its shape from internal pressure.

diastatis recti pregnant

This is generally a result of serious injury or pregnancy, and otherwise requires special treatment be managed so as to avoid making the situation worse.

While the previously covered linea alba exercises are selected specifically because they aid in diastasis recti management, it is still best to first consult a physician prior to performing any sort of exercises with this condition.

Benefits of Linea Alba Exercises

Tighter Abs

Considering that the linea alba holds the abdominal muscles together and provides much of the definition at lower levels of body fat, it is no surprise that rehabilitating and reinforcing it can result in your abs taking on a more toned appearance.

For the best results, combine linea alba exercises with a light caloric deficit, of which will have the effect of  making your abs more visible in the process.

Greater Durability and Flexibility of the Core

The linea alba both reinforces the core and ensures that it will hold together under pressure, meaning that any reinforcement of this particular tendon will easily result in your core being able to bear greater force and pressure over the long term.

Furthermore, a stronger anchoring point for your core musculature means that they will be capable of acting at their full range of motion, creating a more flexible and mobile core with which to move.

Stronger Core Muscles

As the linea alba is actually a tendon and not a muscle, any exercises that are meant to target said linea alba will also subsequently train the muscles of the core as well - meaning that they, too, will develop right alongside the linea alba throughout your core isolation exercises.

Parting Words

And there you have it, a few of the most effective exercises for targeting the linea alba.

Though such a goal is rather niche in its purpose, we fully recommend that lifters seeking out that finishing touch in their abdominal definition try working this particular tendon out. So long as they aren’t injured or suffering from the aforementioned condition, they have nothing to lose.

References

1. Jessen ML, Öberg S, Rosenberg J. Treatment Options for Abdominal Rectus Diastasis. Front Surg. 2019 Nov 19;6:65. doi: 10.3389/fsurg.2019.00065. PMID: 31803753; PMCID: PMC6877697.

2. Beatriz Arranz Martín, PT, PhD, Beatriz Navarro Brazález, PT, PhD, Beatriz Sánchez-Sánchez, PT, PhD, Linda McLean, PT, PhD, Carmen Carazo Díaz, PhD, María Torres-Lacomba, PT, PhD, The Impact of Hypopressive Abdominal Exercise on Linea Alba Morphology in Women Who Are Post partum: A Short-Term Cross-Sectional Study, Physical Therapy, Volume 102, Issue 8, August 2022, pzac086, https://doi.org/10.1093/ptj/pzac086

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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