How do abdominal muscles work?

Written by chris sherwood
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How do abdominal muscles work?

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What are the abdominal muscles?

The abdominal muscles, commonly referred to as abs, include four types of muscles located between the ribs and the pelvis. These muscles include the transverse abdominal, the internal obliques, the external obliques and the rectus abdominis. These muscles play an important part in your body's health, and have become a health status symbol with a focus on obtaining the "six-pack" abs look.

How they work

Your abdominal muscles are attached to skeletal structures. Within your abdominals are thousands of fibres. These fibres are filled with very small proteins called actin and myosin. When an electrical impulse is sent from the brain, it travels through a series of nerves until the impulse reaches your abdominal fibres. This charge causes the actins and myosins to rub across each other causing the muscle to shorten. This shortening causes the abdominal muscles to contract.


One main function of the abdominal muscles is posture. The deepest muscle group, the transverse abdominus, is the one most associated with posture. The transverse abdominus extends around the torso, providing stability to the back and spine.

Core Movement

The next set of muscles, the internal obliques and external obliques, flank each side of the torso. These muscles also effect posture, but are more involved with the flexing and rotation of the spine. The contraction of these muscles allows you to turn at your waist, as well as bend over or do a sit-up.


All of the abdominal muscles, including the rectus abdominus, help with the process of breathing. As the lungs take in air, the abdominal muscles help push the air back out of the lungs through the nose and mouth.

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