Understanding Your Abdominal Muscle Anatomy for Six Pack Abs

Understanding your abdominal muscle anatomy is critical if you want to really dial in your six pack abs.

Your midsection is criss-crossed and comprised of essentially three muscles: Your rectus abdominis, the internal and external obliques, and the transvers abdominis. If you want to know how to target each of these muscles for the ultimate set of abs, continue reading...

What Is the Abdominal Muscle Anatomy?

In order to build a ripped set of abs, let's look at each of the three muscles mentioned above. We'll start with the most well-known muscle (the one that is most often thought about when people think of amazing six pack abs), the rectus abdominis.

Rectus Abdominis

When you picture six pack abs, you are most likely thinking about the rectus abdominis.

Abdominal Muscle Anatomy: Rectus Abdominis

There are two sections of muscle that run vertically from your pelvis to your chest. They are separated in the middle by something called the linea alba (linea alba literally means “white line.”) More often than not, this muscle appears with three pairs of ridges separated down the center by the aforementioned linea alba. Thus the term, “six pack abs.”

There are variations of the six pack abs. There are some people who have “eight pack abs” with four pairs of symmetrical ridges. Still others have a six pack, but the ridges are offset slightly.

As far as the configuration goes, symmetrical or not, six pack abs or eight pack abs, they all perform the same function...

Your rectus abdomins moves your ribs toward your pelvis or your pelvis toward your ribs, depending on where your pivot point is. For example, when doing crunches, your ribs move toward your pelvis and when you do leg raises, your pelvis moves towards your ribs.

It's this subtle change in pivot point that allows you target the upper portion of your abs (exercises that move your ribs toward your pelvis) or you lower abs (pelvis towards your ribs) even though the rectus abdominis is technically one muscle.

Excellent exercises that really work the upper rectus abdominis include:

  1. Abdominal Crunches
  2. Butterfly Crunches
  3. Curl-Ups
  4. Cable Crunches
  5. More...

To focus on the lower rectus abdominis, focus on these moves:

  1. Hanging Leg Raises
  2. Reverse Crunch
  3. Pelvic Tilt
  4. Knee Up
  5. More...


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Obliques (External and Internal)

Abdominal Muscle Anatomy: Obliques

Your obliques are actually two muscles - the internal and external obliques. They cross your sides with your external obliques running diagonally from your rib cage downward toward your rectus abdominis while your internal obliques run in the opposite direction running from your hips to your rectus abdominis.

As the name implies, the external obliques lie on top of your internal obliques. As a result, only the external obliques are visible when your abs are in peak condition.

Basically, your obliques allow you to twist your body and bend at your sides (and straighten back up). That is, when bending at your side to your right, the obliques on your right side flex. To straighten back up, the obliques on your left side contract.

Exercises that work your obliques are

  1. Oblique (or Side) Crunch
  2. Cross Crunch
  3. Seated Twists
  4. Side Planks
  5. More...

Transverse Abdominis

Abdominal Muscle Anatomy: Transverse Abdominis

The last component of your abdominal muscle anatomy is the transverse abdominis. Your transvers abdominis is located just underneath your obliques.

As the name suggests, this muscle runs horizontally across your midsection. (This means that you have muscles that run vertically, diagonally up, diagonally down, and horizontally across your midsection).

One of the most overlooked muscles in the abdominal muscle anatomy is the transverse abdominis. That's because it is never seen when you take your shirt off. However, focusing on this muscle can really change the way you look. That's because it performs likeĀ a girdle for your waist by pulling your rectus absominis inward toward your spine. To understand what I mean, just stand up and suck in your stomach. Your stomach is "sucked in" primarily by your transverse abdominis.

It's main purpose it to keep your internal organs where they should be and give you core stability.

To really target your transverse abdominis for that waistline slimming effect, you should focus on two groups of exercises - planks and vacuums. These exercises aren’t your traditional “sexy” abs exercises, but they are extremely effective.

  1. Plank on Elbows
  2. Plank on Hands (aka Push-Up Plank)
  3. Standing Vacuum
  4. Kneeling Vacuum
  5. More...

Quick Abdominal Muscle Anatomy Workout Plan

To create an ab workout plan that targets each of these three core muscle groups, simply choose one exercise from those listed above, or try this six pack abs workout below:

Quick Six Pack Abs Workout Plan
Exercise Sets Reps
Hanging Leg Raise 3 20 - 25
Cable Crunch 3 20 - 25
Cross Crunch 3 20 - 25 (each side)
Kneeling Vacuum 3 10 - 12

Try to keep your rest to only 1 or 1.5 minutes between sets, and no more than 2 minutes between exercises.

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Next Steps

By understanding your total abdominal muscle anatomy, you can more effectively sculpt and amazing set of six pack abs.

What are the next steps?

  1. Do the workout plan above to hit every part of your abdominal muscle anatomy.
  2. Click the "Like" button.

  3. Tweet About It

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