By, Sean Light CSCS
Several months back, I discussed the general anatomical attachments of the Rectus Abdominis. Today I’d like to dig a little deeper into the actions, or better yet what it does when there is no action in this anterior abdominal muscle.
I also wrote a piece on Upper Cross Syndrome detailing its effect on posture and relative tension.
In order to properly continue in discussing the Rectus, let me also briefly touch on Lower Cross Syndrome. The same concepts of short and long muscles apply here only it applies to the hips. So when you have a crossing pattern of weak and a crossing pattern of strong muscles in this region, you will develop a constant anterior pelvic tilt causing a chain reaction of muscle issues.
Because the Rectus attaches on both the hips (pubis bone and pubic symphasis) and the ribs (xiphoid process and cartilage of ribs 5-7), we can then determine that an inhibited Rectus Abdominis will allow for the ribs to flare and the pelvis to tilt anteriorly. Both of these results help catalyze what is known as the open scissors. This is a combination of both a rib flare and lower cross syndrome. It should be noted that although the presence of a rib flare does not guarantee the existence of upper cross syndrome, it is highly likely that the individual with open scissors will have both syndromes.
Because of this, many athletes will make a conscious effort to single out the Rectus and focus on strengthening it to lessen the open scissors. While this is a good idea in theory, the primary action of the Rectus is not work alone and its certainly not designed for sit ups and crunches. What should be done instead is allow for your abdominal muscles to work together and create core stability. A proper plank is a great way to activate your entire core while emphasizing the Rectus Abdominis. The Rectus is an anti-extension muscle (meaning it works to prevent your lumbar spine from going into extension), so squeeze your glutes and allow for that pelvis to tilt posteriorly to a more neutral position. It should also be realized that your breathing pattern will likely have the greatest effect on your ability to correct these postural issues. Plain and simple, if you cannot breather properly, restoring posture will border on impossible.
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