Exercise of the Week: The Dead Bug

The Dead Bug is a great core exercise to substitute for Crunches or Sit-Ups. Learn how to perform it the right way at STACK.com.

Every Wednesday, STACK brings you a new Exercise of the Week to challenge your strength, speed, conditioning or flexibility—or all of the above.

The Exercise

The Dead Bug is a core exercise that can be used in place of Crunches. It develops the entire front side of the core, whereas Crunches only work the upper abs.

The arm and leg raise works your upper and lower abs at the same time, and your obliques must fire when you reach across your body to touch your opposite foot. All this occurs while your deep stabilizers engage to keep your legs and arms off of the ground.

In addition to helping you develop a stronger overall core, the move also improves:

Power. A strong core makes you a more efficient athlete. You'll be able to transfer the power you generate with your leg and hips through your core to your upper body. You'll also be able to maintain control of your body and avoid wasting energy that can sap power from your throws and swings.

Injury Prevention. Many of the core exercises you have performed, like Crunches or Sit-Ups, involve a flexion of your trunk. This places stress on the spine, which may lead to low-back pain or injury over time.

Appearance. Yes, this is a functional exercise that translates to your game on the field. But it can also improve your appearance. This shouldn't be your primary goal, but it certainly can't hurt to have ripped abs.

How To 

  1. Lie on your back with your legs straight and your arms overhead.
  2. Raise your arms and legs so your hands and heels are 2 to 3 inches above the ground.
  3. Lift your right leg up and touch your right foot with your left hand.Dead Bug 1
  4. Lower your leg and arm to the starting position.
  5. Repeat with your opposite arm and leg, and continue in alternating fashion for the specified number of reps.Dead Bug 2

Common Mistakes and Fixes

Mistake: Resting your hands and feet on the ground. This deactivates your deep core muscles, which are critical for protecting your spine.
Fix: Make sure your hands and heels are 2 to 3 inches off the ground throughout the exercise.

Mistake: Allowing your low back to raise off the ground and arch. This puts stress on your back.
Fix: Keep your abs tight throughout the exercise and imagine pressing your lower back into the ground.

Mistake: Decreasing the difficulty of the exercise by failing to touch your fingers to your toes.
Fix: Lock your eyes onto your foot as it rises up over your hips and reach up to touch it. No exceptions!

Applying It to Your Workout

The Dead Bug is one of the best core-strengthening exercises, so perform it twice per week toward the end of your workout. Try performing it for speed by rapidly rotating back and forth, and also slow it down and hold the toe touch for one to two counts.

If you choose to perform it as a stand-alone exercise, start with 3 sets of 10 reps each side. Increase the number of reps to make it more challenging.

You can also perform this movement as part of a core training circuit. In this case, perform fewer reps because your abs will be burning as you finish your set. Start with 2 sets of 5 reps each side when paired with other exercises.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock