Rectus abdominis muscle

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Rectus abdominis
Rectus abdominis.png
The human rectus abdominis muscle.
Origin crest of pubis
Insertion Costal cartilage of ribs 5-7, xiphoid process of sternum
Artery inferior epigastric artery
Nerve segmentally by thoraco-abdominal nerves (T7 to T11)
Actions Flexion of the lumbar spine
Antagonist Erector spinae
Latin musculus rectus abdominis
TA A04.5.01.001
FMA 9628
Anatomical terms of muscle

The rectus abdominis muscle, also known as the "abdominals or abs," is a paired muscle running vertically on each side of the anterior wall of the human abdomen, as well as that of some other mammals. There are two parallel muscles, separated by a midline band of connective tissue called the linea alba. It extends from the pubic symphysis, pubic crest and pubic tubercle inferiorly, to the xiphoid process and costal cartilages of ribs V to VII superiorly.[1]

The rectus abdominis muscle is contained in the rectus sheath, which consists of the aponeuroses of the lateral abdominal muscles. Three bands of connective tissue called the tendinous intersections traverse the rectus abdominus, which separates this parallel muscle into eight distinct muscle bellies. In the abdomens of people with low body fat these bellies can be viewed externally and are commonly referred to as a "four, six, or eight pack," depending on how many are visible; although six is the most common.


The rectus abdominis is a long flat muscle, which extends along the whole length of the front of the abdomen, and is separated from its fellow of the opposite side by the linea alba.

The upper portion, attached principally to the cartilage of the fifth rib, usually has some fibers of insertion into the anterior extremity of the rib itself.

Blood supply[edit]

The rectus abdominis has several sources of arterial blood supply. In reconstructive surgery terms, it is a Mathes and Nahai[2] Type III muscle with two dominant pedicles. First, the inferior epigastric artery and vein (or veins) run superiorly on the posterior surface of the rectus abdominis, enter the rectus fascia at the arcuate line, and serve the lower part of the muscle. Second, the superior epigastric artery, a terminal branch of the internal thoracic artery, supplies blood to the upper portion. Finally, numerous small segmental contributions come from the lower six intercostal arteries as well.


The muscles are innervated by thoracoabdominal nerves, which pierce the anterior layer of the rectus sheath.


The sternalis muscle may be a variant form of the pectoralis major or the rectus abdominis. Some fibers are occasionally connected with the costoxiphoid ligaments, and the side of the xiphoid process.


The rectus abdominis is an important postural muscle. It is responsible for flexing the lumbar spine, as when doing a so-called "crunch" sit up. The rib cage is brought up to where the pelvis is when the pelvis is fixed, or the pelvis can be brought towards the rib cage (posterior pelvic tilt) when the rib cage is fixed, such as in a leg-hip raise. The two can also be brought together simultaneously when neither is fixed in space.

The rectus abdominis assists with breathing and plays an important role in respiration when forcefully exhaling, as seen after exercise as well as in conditions where exhalation is difficult such as emphysema. It also helps in keeping the internal organs intact and in creating intra-abdominal pressure, such as when exercising or lifting heavy weights, during forceful defecation or parturition (childbirth).

Clinical significance[edit]

An abdominal muscle strain, also called a pulled abdominal muscle, is an injury to one of the muscles of the abdominal wall. A muscle strain occurs when the muscle is stretched too far. When this occurs the muscle fibers are torn. Most commonly, a strain causes microscopic tears within the muscle, but occasionally, in severe injuries, the muscle can rupture from its attachment.


A feline rectus abdominis muscle, from a common housecat. This specimen has some remaining fascia and also shows the external obliques.

The rectus abdominis is similar in most vertebrates. The most obvious difference between animal and human abdominal musculature is that in animals, there are a different number of tendinous intersections.

Additional images[edit]

See also[edit]

This article uses anatomical terminology; for an overview, see Anatomical terminology.


  1. ^ Gray's Anatomy for students, 2nd edition, Page:176
  2. ^ Mathes, SJ; Nahai, F (1981). "Classification of the vascular anatomy of muscles: Experimental and clinical correlation". Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 67 (2): 177–87. doi:10.1097/00006534-198167020-00007. PMID 7465666. 

External links[edit]