Rectus Abdominis Muscle: Definition, Location & Function

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

One of the most coveted body parts is a six-pack set of ''abs,'' a muscle that scientists call rectus abdominis. This lesson will teach all kinds of interesting facts about the rectus abdominis muscle, including its definition, location, and function.

Rectus Abdominis

Have you ever wished you had a six-pack? Not the kind of six-pack that you drink, but rather a six-pack set of abs? If so, you are not alone. There are millions of people all over the world that have done a countless number of sit-ups and crunches in hopes of developing the coveted six-pack stomach, made up of a muscle whose scientific name is rectus abdominis.

The muscle that makes up a six-pack stomach is officially named rectus abdominis.

Rectus Abdominis: Definition

The rectus abdominis is made up of a pair of parallel muscles that extend up the entire length of the stomach. In Latin, rectus means straight and abdominis means abdominal. Therefore, rectus abdominis simply means straight abdominal, a term which references the structure of this paired muscle.

The rectus abdominis muscle is intersected by bands of fibrous connective tissues called tendinous intersections. These tendinous intersections divide the rectus abdominis into different sections, which ultimately form the six-pack appearance of the stomach.

Rectus Abdominis: Location

As has already been mentioned, the rectus abdominis muscle is located in the stomach/abdominal area of the body. Specifically, this paired group of muscles originates from the pubic crest and the symphysis pubis (also called the pubic symphisis). The pubic crest is located at the front, middle part of the pubic bone, and the symphysis pubis is the cartilage that joins the right and left sides of the front pelvic bone.

The rectus abdominis muscle originates from the pubic crest and the symphysis pubis.
pubic symphysis

From the pubic crest and symphysis pubis, the rectus abdominis extends upward and attaches to the bottom parts of the fifth through seventh ribs on each side of the rib cage, as well as the xiphoid process. The xiphoid process is a small extension off the bottom part of the sternum or breast plate.

The rectus abdominis muscle attaches to the fifth through seventh ribs and the xiphoid process.

Rectus Abdominis: Function

The rectus abdominis not only looks good, but it also serves a real purpose. This muscle flexes the spinal column and trunk, which means it allows a person to bend forward.

To understand the function of the rectus abdominis, one simply needs to think about the exercises that people do in order to work these muscles in hopes of getting that coveted six-pack. There are several exercises that can work the ab muscles, but the most common exercise is the crunch or sit-up. Crunches and sit-ups are performed by lying down and bending the spinal column, or trunk, forward, which is the exact function of the rectus abdominis.

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