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Lateral abdominal muscles

Recommended video: Muscles of the ventral trunk [25:20]
Attachments, innervation and functions of the muscles of the ventral trunk.

The lateral abdominal muscles are part of the tension system of the abdominal wall musculature. Together with the ventral abdominal muscles they form the musculature of the anterior body wall.

  1. Anatomy
  2. Function
  3. Clinical notes
  4. Sources
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The lateral abdominal muscles comprise the following three muscles:

Abdominal external oblique muscle
Abdominal internal oblique muscle
  • Abdominal internal oblique muscle: originates from the thoracolumbar fascia, the iliac crest and the Iliopectineal arch and inserts cranially at the lower costal cartilages and ventrally at the linea alba. In men, caudal fibers extend to the spermatic cord merging to form the cremaster muscle. The internal oblique is innervated by both the lower intercostal nerves as well as branches of the lumbar plexus (iliohypogastric nerve and ilioinguinal nerve).
Transversus abdominis muscle
  • Transversus abdominis muscle: runs from the inner surface of the lower costal cartilages, the thoracolumbar fascia and iliac crest horizontally to the linea alba. Caudal fibers are involved in the formation of the cremaster muscle. The innervation is analogous to that of the internal oblique.

The aponeuroses of the lateral abdominal muscles build the rectus sheath, a tendinous envelope for the rectus abdominis muscle.

Rectus sheath

It is divided into an anterior and posterior layer which interdigate in the median line (linea alba). Above the arcuate line (about 4-5 cm caudal of the umbilicus) the anterior layer consists of the aponeuroses of the internal and external oblique and the posterior layer is made up the aponeuroses of the internal oblique and transverse abdominis. Below the arcuate line the anterior layer of the rectus sheath is build by the aponeuroses of all three lateral abdominal muscles whereas the posterior layer is only covered by the transverse fascia and the peritoneum.


The abdominal muscles are responsible for the tension of the anterior body wall. In collaboration with the back musculature they stabilize the vertebral column and move the trunk. Through abdominal press they increase the intra-abdominal pressure and thereby support emptying processes (e.g. defecation, micturition) and the exhalation (expiratory breathing muscles).

In detail, a bilateral contraction of the lateral abdominal muscles causes an abdominal press and ventral flexion (internal and external oblique). Depending on the particular muscle the unilateral contraction leads either to an ipsilateral lateral flexion (internal and external oblique), ipsilateral rotation (internal oblique and transverse abdominis) or contralateral rotation (external oblique).

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