Your abdominal muscles have many important functions, from holding organs in place to supporting your body during movement. There are five main muscles: pyramidalis, rectus abdominus, external obliques, internal obliques, and transversus abdominis. Ab strains and hernias are common, but several strategies can keep your abs safe and healthy.
Your abdominal muscles are a set of strong bands of muscles lining the walls of your abdomen (trunk of your body). They’re located toward the front of your body, between your ribs and your pelvis.
There are five main muscles in the abdomen:
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Your abdominal muscles have several important jobs:
There are five main muscles in your abdomen. Two are vertical (up and down) muscles located toward the middle of your body. Three are flat muscles stacked on top of each other, situated toward the sides of the trunk.
The two vertical muscles are:
The three flat muscles are:
The most common condition affecting the abdominal muscles are abdominal strains or pulls, which occur with:
Strains can involve tiny, minor tears in the muscle fibers to severe pulls that can even detach the muscle.
This type of injury is more common in sports that require twisting, such as tennis, football, baseball and golf. Symptoms of a significant strain include:
Treatment for an abdominal strain may involve:
Another health issue in the abdominal muscles is a hernia. A hernia is when an internal organ pushes through a weak spot in the muscle. For example, the small intestines may push through a weakened abdominal muscle in the groin area, causing an inguinal hernia. Symptoms of a hernia include:
Several strategies can help you prevent ab injuries:
If you have symptoms of a significant abdominal strain, call your healthcare provider, especially if you have trouble:
In addition, if you can see or feel a bulge in your abdomen or in the groin, you should be evaluated for a hernia.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your abdominal muscles are essential in keeping your abdominal organs safe and stabilizing your body during movement. Problems with the abdominal muscles are common. If you think you’ve strained an abdominal muscle, call your healthcare provider, especially if pain interferes with normal activities. If you can see or feel a bulge in the abdomen/groin, you should be evaluated for a hernia.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/23/2021.
Learn more about our editorial process.