Rectus Abdominis Muscle

The rectus abdominis muscles, commonly referred to as the “abs,” are a pair of long, flat muscles that extend vertically along the entire length of the abdomen adjacent to the umbilicus. Each muscle consists of a string of four fleshy muscular bodies connected by narrow bands of tendon, which give it a lumpy appearance when well defined and tensed. This lumpy appearance results in the rectus abdominis muscles being referred to as the “six-pack.”

The name rectus abdominis comes from the Latin words for “straight” and “abdominal,” indicating that its fibers run in a straight vertical line through the abdominal region of the body....

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    Full Rectus Abdominis Muscle Description

    [Continued from above] . . . The rectus abdominis has its origins along the superior edge of the pubis bone and the pubic symphysis in the pelvis. Its insertions are at the inferior edges of the costal cartilages of the fifth through seventh ribs and at the xiphoid process of the sternum. A covering of connective tissue known as the rectus sheath surrounds the rectus abdominis muscles and provides attachment points for the internal and external oblique muscles that flank them on both sides. Between the rectus abdominis muscles is a thick mass of white fibrous connective tissue called the linea alba that unites the abdominal muscles of the left and right sides.

    The rectus abdominis muscle performs the important task of flexing the torso and spine in the abdominal region. It does this by pulling the ribcage closer to the pelvis. The rectus abdominis can also tense to contract the abdomen without moving the torso, as in sucking in one’s gut. Contraction of the abdomen results in increased pressure within the abdominopelvic cavity and is useful to push substances out of the body during exhalation, defecation, and urination.

    Prepared by Tim Taylor, Anatomy and Physiology Instructor