Home » Anatomy » Torso Muscles » Superficial Abdominal Muscles » Rectus Abdominus- Functional Anatomy

Rectus Abdominus- Functional Anatomy

Rectus abdominus is a broad, flat muscle on the anterior abdomen with fibers that connect the pubic bone to the arch of the ribs. It is wider, laterally near the ribs and thicker anterior-to-posterior near the pubic bone. The muscle is divided into sections by 3, sometimes 4, rarely only 1, tendon-like bands across the fibers of the muscle. The top band is usually just under the xiphoid, the bottom one is near the umbilicus and the third is usually between those. This can be quite variable.

These paired muscles are wrapped in an aponeurotic sheath. The linea alba is the strip of connective tissue that joins the xiphoid process to the pubic symphysis along the mid-line of the body. It also binds the medial edges of those sheaths. The lateral edges of these sheaths provide attachments for the obliques and transversus abdominus.

The origin and insertion are argued based on whether one is standing or swinging from their arms. Usually, the origin is considered the pelvis.


  • the crest of the pubic bone


  • the fascia over the costal cartilage of ribs 5, 6, and 7.
  • abdominal section of the pectoralis major, when present


  • flexion of the trunk
  • Compression of abdominal viscera


  • the thoracoabdominal nerves from (T7-T11)
  • subcostal nerve (T12)

Transverse view of the abdominal sheath

The rectus abdominus is encased in the rectus sheath, which connects it to the other rectus abdominus medially via the linea abla, and to the obliques and transverse abdominus laterally.

Functional Considerations

This muscle draws the hips and ribs together which flexes the trunk. During the sit-up, it is active in all phases but most active when the lower thoracic and lumbar spine are flexing between the time that the scapulae come off the ground and the iliac crest comes off the ground.
When the trunk is stabilized by the spinal directors, it compresses the distended abdomen. This assists in activities like defecation or labored breathing. This muscle stabilizes the trunk when moving the head and/or legs. When supine, rectus abdominus engages to lift the head. It engages when the legs are lifted. It is active when carrying a backpack or pulling down and forward with the arms.

Wikipedia Entry for Rectus Abdominus

Support Integrative Works to
stay independent
and produce great content.

You can subscribe to our community on Patreon. You will get links to free content and access to exclusive content not seen on this site. In addition, we will be posting anatomy illustrations, treatment notes, and sections from our manuals not found on this site. Thank you so much for being so supportive.

Featured Post

The Integrative Model

This video is a brief overview of the Integrative Bodywork Model. It explores the difference between integrated and integrated approaches. Additionally., it walks through an example.

We want your feedback! We are in the process of creating a format for individual muscles.

Please drop us a note at
[email protected].

Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia, where he sees clients. He has written materials and instructed classes since the mid-90s. This includes anatomy, trigger points, cranial, and neuromuscular.

Question? Comment? Typo?
[email protected]

*This site is undergoing significant changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make them easier to read. The result will also be more accessible and include more patterns with better self-care. Meanwhile, there may be formatting, content presentation, and readability inconsistencies. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.