What exactly is a Dead Bug?
Despite the funny name, Dead Bugs should be regarded as a very important exercise for any athlete, regardless of training age or athletic ability. Dead Bugs are an essential exercise that build core stability and kinesthetic awareness of the pelvis and trunk. That's basically a fancy way of saying they build strength in your midsection and help you keep things in the right place during other exercises, sport and everyday life.
So what is a Dead Bug?
Lie on your back with your arms extended in front of your shoulders. Bend your hips and knees to a 90-degree angle. Tighten your abs and press your lower back into the floor. This is the basic Dead Bug position.
From here let's walk through a few progressions that can help you reach a full Dead Bug before offering a few ways we can progress the exercise to make it tougher.
Learning the Dead Bug
1. Arms Only
Get on the floor and assume the position discussed above. We will start with just the arm movements. Keeping one arm pointed to the ceiling, slowly raise the other arm overhead, keeping it straight the entire time, until your hand touches the ground. Reverse the motion and return to the starting position. You may have noticed your other arm wanting to move about, but try your best not to let it move at all. Try this version a few times before moving on.
2. Legs Only
Get on the floor and assume the position discussed above. This time around, we will keep our arms pointed to the ceiling the entire time and focus solely on the lower body. While maintaining a 90-degree angle at the hip and knee of one leg, extend the other one out until it's fully extended. Keep your lower back flat on the ground the entire time. Once extended, the leg should hover just a few inches off the ground. Return it to the 90-degree position before extending the other leg out. Alternate back and forth slowly, maintaining a braced position with your lower back in contact with the floor the entire time.
3. Stability Ball Form Check
Time to put the arms and legs together as one! We are going to use a stability or physio ball to make sure we are doing it perfectly. Assume the starting position, but this time, place the ball between your quads and your forearms. Apply light pressure so the ball sits in place without dropping down to your stomach. Now the tricky part. Slowly raise the right arm overhead and extend the left leg out. The great thing about this version is the ball will provide instant feedback by falling if any limbs that are supposed to stay static begin to move. Bring the leg and arm back to the starting position, and try the other side.
4. The Basic Dead Bug
Finally, we have arrived at the basic Dead Bug. Perform the movement described above without any external feedback from the ball and do your absolute best to not move the opposite limbs. Make sure to keep the lower back flat against the floor the entire time!
5. Progressing with Bands: Upper Body
If you've mastered the basic Dead Bug, let's make things tougher! Hook two light resistance bands to something solid and set up so you are in line with the bands. Grip toward the end of the bands, one in each hand and get into your Dead Bug position. Make sure you have a bit of tension on the bands in the starting position; you can play with more or less slack to change the difficulty. Perform the Dead Bug as described above, but you will now be fighting against the external pull of the band to stay in position on the non-moving arm. Give it a shot!
6. Progressing with Bands: Lower Body
Grab a light mini-band and place it over top of your shoe laces. Set up just as before and perform the full Dead Bug like normal, but this time press out against the mini-band when you extend the leg. It will be a fight to keep the stationary leg in place, but that's the point!
If you're not familiar with the Dead Bug, follow this process to master the movement. If you've already mastered the basic Dead Bug, try integrating some bands to progress the movement. For more free content or help with your training reach out to me via Instagram or Facebook, @johnpappfitness. Chase it!
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