9 Dead Bug Variations That Build an Athletic Core

STACK Expert Kelvin King Jr. recommends adding advanced Dead Bug variations to your core routine to reap the benefits of this great exercise.

Core stability might not sound as cool as training for a six pack, but it's far more important for athletic performance. Athletes have a tendency to get into poor postures, which, if not corrected, can limit their speed and strength on the field.

This becomes a big problem when executing multidirectional and multidimensional movements, such as shooting a basketball, catching a pass or throwing a ball. Your core needs to be locked in during these movements or your body will shed energy that could be contributing to your skill or throw you off balance.

RELATED: Why the Dead Bug Is Changing Core Training

Advanced variations of the Dead Bug have been highly effective for developing an athletic core. Why? When performing a Dead Bug, you have to lock in your core while your opposite arm and leg move. This is how your body typically works in the vast majority of athletic movements.

Add the following 9 advanced Dead Bug variations to your core routine to reap the benefits of this great exercise.

Here's how to perform the conventional Dead Bug:

  1. Lie on your back with your arms extended in front of your shoulders. Bend your hips and knees to a 90-degree angle.
  2. Tighten your abs and press your lower back into the floor. Take a deep breath in.
  3. As you exhale, slowly extend your left leg toward the floor and bring your right arm overhead. Keep your abs tight and do not arch your lower back.
  4. Slowly return your arm and leg to the starting position.
  5. Repeat with your opposite arm and leg. Continue alternating.

The advanced Dead Bug variations below involve the same form as the traditional Dead Bug, but they're much more challenging.

1. No Crunch Dead Bug

How to:

Follow instructions 1 and 2 above. Tighten your core, breathe, extend your arms and legs (slowly) at the same time. With this progression, there is more pull on the anterior core and shoulder region with the extended arm stretch, along with a great stretch in the lumbo-pelvic hip region and anterior core when the movement is performed correctly. You will know your core is weak if your lower back comes off the ground and repositions. Keep your spine stable and take your time.

Perform 10 total 1 set.

RELATED: Six-Pack for Speed: 5 Core Exercises That Can Make You Faster

2. Anti-Extension Dead Bug

How to:

Tie a band around a pole or squat rack. Follow instructions 1 and 2 above. Grab the band in an anti-extension position, arms locked, which will encourage recruitment of your lats and triceps. Depending on the tension on the band and your amount of core strength, there will be an extended pull on your anterior core, which would more than likely cause an inaccurate rib position, requiring you to keep your core musculature tight as you lower both legs simultaneously.

Perform 5-10 on each side.

3. Dead Bug (Anti-Extension/Rotation) Single-Arm Band Press

How to:

Tie the band around a pole or squat rack. Follow instructions 1 and 2 above. In this progression, we have a neutral spine fighting against anti-extension and anti-rotation, in addition to slight anti-flexion. The resistance band puts you into a more extended position horizontally when pressing the band to the ceiling. While performing the pressing movement, there is some mobility and strengthening in the shoulder/chest region, especially for those who have pain or soreness, or are rehabbing from an injury. Breathe, which is all about rhythm. When systematically performing this movement like the normal Dead Bug variation, you should feel a great stretch in the lumbo-pelvis hip region complex.

Perform 1x5 on each side

4. Anti-Extension Dead Bug Double-Arm Press

How to:

Tie the band around a pole or squat rack. Follow instructions 1 and 2 above. The Double Band Press with the double leg Dead Bug extension tries to pull your body more into extension, rotation and flexion. You also get some work in the upper body region. You must have a more stable core musculature to prevent the instability. One key point: squeezing your glutes and breathing rhythmically will help you.

Perform 1x10

RELATED: 4 Core Exercises That Target Different Muscles

5. Anti-Rotation Dead Bug (Double Leg Lowering)

How to:

Tie the band around a pole or squat rack. Follow instructions 1 and 2 above. With this anti-extension progression, there is more pull on the anterior core with the arms locked out and band extended. As you lower your legs and feel the stretch on the lumbo-pelvic hip complex, there is more glute recruitment and the band triesto pull your upper body into hyperextention, extension and a little rotation—but prevent it. Try to keep a tight core and breathe throughout the movement.

Perform 1x10

6. Anti-Extension Dead Bug (Double Press and Leg Lowering)

How to:

Perform same as above. However, lowering both legs will cause more stretch in the lumbo-hip pelvic region, glute recruitment and a tight core.

Perform 5-10 on each side.

7. Dead Bug Pallof Press (Anti-Rotation)

How to:

Tie the band around a pole or squat rack. Follow instructions 1 and 2 above. This is a different angle as shown in the picture. The Pallof Press trains the core muscles to resist rotation. By keeping out of rotation during these Pallof progressions, you engage your core, and your nervous system induces a reflex response that encourages you to pull your rib cage down and in. Do not move your body side to side during the pressing and opposite leg movement. Resisting rotation (anti-rotation) is the key. There is an isometric core contraction requirement with concentric and eccentric limb movements, and the directional force vectors, which can vary. This also works the chest, triceps and shoulders.

Perform 5-10 on each side.

8. Dead Bug Pallof Press 2.0 Cable Tight Rotation

How to:

Position yourself in the same Dead Bug setup. During this contralateral movement, think about moving your arms back and forward in the middle of the shoulders without rotation. As you start, move your leg simultaneously with the band movement (asymmetrical load – very light but just right to enhance stabilizers across the kinetic chain). As you pull the band to the right, your left leg is lengthened (extended) and vice versa. You will be able to see and feel lateral lumbo-pelvic control and lumbar spine lateral control for successful completion of the movement.

Perform 1 set of 5 on each side.

9. Quadruped Multiplanar Dead Bug (Supine Position)

How to:

Set up the same as for a normal Dead Bug. Simultaneously eccentrically and concentrically extend your upper and lower body limbs in multiplanar directions. This progression puts more demand on the core musculature and requires efficient coordination throughout the movement.

Perform 1 set on each side.


  • Paniabi, MM. "The stabilizing system of the spine. Part 1. Function, dysfunction, adaptation, and enhancement." Journal of Spinal Discord, 5 Dec. 1992. Web. 01 August 2016.
  • Middleditch, Alison, and Oliver, Jean. Functional Anatomy of the Spine,  Second Edition. Toronto: 2005. Print.

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