Rectus Abdominis: Definition and What it is

Medically and clinically reviewed by Jonathan Lee, MD and Maureen Lu, PT, DPT

Rectus Abdominis Definition and Meaning

The rectus abdominis is a long pair of muscles that extend vertically along the front of the abdomen, from the ribs down to the front of the pelvis. These muscles, often referred to as the "six-pack" due to their segmented structure, play a crucial role in various body movements.

Anatomy of the Rectus Abdominis

Situated between the ribs and pubic bone, the rectus abdominis is divided into several bands of muscle fibers that contribute to core stability and flexibility.

The Function of the Rectus Abdominis

The primary function of the rectus abdominis is to flex the lumbar spine, bringing the ribcage closer to the pelvis. This pair of muscles play a vital role in maintaining posture and stability in the abdominal region and are actively involved in various movements, such as bending and twisting the torso.

Common Rectus Abdominis Conditions

The rectus abdominis muscles are prone to various conditions, including:

  • Strains, which can occur during athletic activities due to sudden, intense movements or repetitive overuse. 

  • Diastasis recti is characterized by the separation of the rectus abdominis muscles along the midline. It’s particularly common among postpartum women. 

  • Hernias occur along the abdominal wall when there’s a weakness in these muscles. This can lead to fat or intestines bulging out which can cause pain.  

Rectus Abdominis Pain: A Hinge Health Perspective

The rectus abdominis muscles are very resilient and designed to recover from the kinds of core issues that naturally can happen in the course of everyday activities, during exercise, or as you get older. The strength and elasticity of the rectus abdominis muscles can decrease with age, leading to core weakness and lower back pain

If you’re reluctant to move because you think you’ll cause more damage or injury to your abdominal area, know this: Movement is often the fastest way to healing. As our Hinge Health care team says, movement is medicine. Movement helps rehab muscles, as well as the tendons and ligaments that support them, by increasing blood flow and gradually improving the core’s strength and flexibility.

How Physical Therapy Can Help With Rectus Abdominis Conditions

Physical therapy is beneficial for many conditions and injuries involving the rectus abdominis muscles. Treatment options often include customized strengthening and stretching programs to improve core strength and enhance mobility. If you have a hernia, a PT can help adjust your program to support a hernia as you work to strengthen your core muscles. For conditions like diastasis recti, specific therapeutic strategies can be employed to gradually bring the muscle bands back together. You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. 

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. 

Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.


  1. Fei, H., Liu, Y., Li, M. et al. (2021). The relationship of severity in diastasis recti abdominis and pelvic floor dysfunction: a retrospective cohort study. BMC Women's Health, 21, 68. doi:10.1186/s12905-021-01194-8

  2. Core Anatomy: Muscles of the Core. (2013, October 11). American Council on Exercise. 

  3. Bowman, E. A Review of Core Stability Training in Rehab: Facts, Fallacies and Future Directions. Physio Network. 

  4. Livingston, E. H. (2016). What Is an Abdominal Wall Hernia? JAMA, 316(15), 1610. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.15755

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