During respiration, abdominal muscles experience loads, not only in the muscle-fiber direction but also transverse to the fibers. We wondered whether the abdominal muscles exhibit a fiber architecture that is similar to the diaphragm muscle, and, therefore, we chose two adjacent muscles: the internal oblique (IO), with about the same muscle length as the diaphragm, and the transverse abdominis (TA), which is twice as long as the diaphragm. First, we used acetylcholinesterase staining to examine the distribution of neuromuscular junctions on both surfaces of the TA and IO muscles in six dogs. A maximum of four irregular bands of neuromuscular junctions crossed the IO, and as many as six bands crossed the TA, which is consistent with a discontinuous fiber architecture. In six additional dogs, we examined fiber architecture of these muscles by microdissecting 103 fascicles from the IO and 139 from the TA. Each fascicle contained between 20 and 30 muscle fibers. The mean length of nonspanning fibers (NSF) ranged from 2.8 +/- 0.3 cm in the IO to 4.3 +/- 0.5 cm in the TA, and the mean length of spanning fibers ranged from 4.3 +/- 0.5 cm in the IO to 7.6 +/- 1.4 cm in the TA. NSF accounted for 89.6 +/- 1.5% of all fibers dissected from the IO and 99.1 +/- 0.2% of all fibers dissected from the TA. The percentage of NSF with both ends tapered was 6.2 +/- 1.0 and 41.0 +/- 2.3% for IO and TA, respectively. These data show that fiber architecture in either IO or TA is discontinuous, with much more short-tapered fibers in the TA than in the IO. When abdominal muscles are submaximally activated, as during both normal expiration and maximal expiratory efforts, muscle force could be transmitted to the cell membrane and to the extracellular intramuscular connective tissue by shear linkage, presumably via structural transmembrane proteins.