The Dead Bug Exercise: Techniques, Benefits, Variations

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Target: Core muscles, especially the transverse abdominis and spinal muscles

Level: Beginners

When you think of abs or abs exercises, you probably think of exercises like sit-ups, sit-ups, reverse sit-ups, or even Russian twists – exercises that involve bending or rotating. abdomen as you move through a series of motions.

The popular argument is that these exercises “carve” your core and give you the six pack look you want. And while, certainly, they can help strengthen the abs and obliques of the rectum — many of the “show me” muscles of the stomach — it’s important (if not more) to strengthen these muscles. deep in your core, including the spine erector and transverse abdominis. You can do this by adding stability exercises like dead bugs to your regular strength training routine.

Here’s the problem: “dead bug” sounds like a gross or odd exercise. It really isn’t. It’s a simple movement that you do while lying on your back. When you keep your torso still and your core taut, you’ll extend and contract the opposite limbs, preventing your low back from hanging off the floor or your hips or shoulders from swaying back and forth. And as a beginner’s exercise, you don’t need anything beside you to get started. It’s an exercise move that uses nothing but a yoga mat. Just add it to your typical core workout routine or after a cardio session.


When you think of abs, you probably think of working your abs with the goal of looking better in a swimsuit. But your abs are the key component of your total core, which actually includes all the muscle groups that stretch between your hips and shoulders. These muscles work together to transmit motion between your upper and lower body, and they help stabilize the spine, preventing your spine from moving in ways it shouldn’t. As a result, a strong, stable core promotes athletic, coordinated movement while protecting your lower back from injury.

Dead errors are a great exercise to promote overall core stability while improving relative limb engagement. Essentially, this means that the exercise teaches you to effectively move your opposing limbs parallel while keeping your core stable and your back protected.

Think for a moment about sports like tennis or basketball — how athletes need to extend their opponent’s limbs when they jump, stretch, or reach for the ball. A strong, stable core makes these types of movements possible. But it’s not just athletes who need this kind of core stabilizer. Anyone who’s ever accidentally tripped on a rough sidewalk or lost balance after bumping into a misplaced chair knows that losing control doesn’t take long.

The dead bug is a beginner-friendly movement that gets you used to extending the limbs inward while keeping your core stable and protected. Done properly, the dead bug will encourage the deep, stabilizing muscles of your lower back, abs, and hips to work, keeping your back from twisting or arching during exercise. Ultimately, you’ll improve side-to-side coordination, which can effectively translate to athletic performance, while improving deep core strength can reduce your risk of low back injury.

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The dead bug is also a great option for those not ready for the more famous plank exercise. Both moves are designed to help strengthen core stability, but the plank can be challenging for people who don’t have a lot of core strength or those with low back pain. The dead bug can help improve the core stability needed to do the plank while adding a left-hand limb movement challenge to the mix.

Step by step instructions

The dead bug exercise is done on the ground, so you need about the same amount of space as a yoga mat. And, you may want to use a yoga mat or another type of exercise mat for comfort.

  1. Lie on the mat, arms stretched out in front of your chest so that they form a right angle to your torso. Bend your hips and knees 90 degrees, lifting your feet off the ground. Your torso and thighs should form a right angle, and so should your thighs and shins. This is the beginning location
  2. Engage your core, maintaining contact between your lower back and the mat. You want to make sure that your spine maintains this stable and neutral position throughout the exercise.
  3. Keeping your right arm and left leg exactly in their position, then slowly reach your left arm back, over your head, and toward the floor while extending your right knee and hip, reaching your right heel toward the floor. floor side. Move slowly and steadily, breathing as you perform the extension, avoiding any movement of the hips and abs. Stop the movement just before your hands and feet touch the ground.
  4. Reverse the movement and bring your left arm and right leg back to the starting position. Move slowly and steadily, exhaling as you go.
  5. Do the same move on opposite sides, this time stabilizing your left arm and right leg as you extend your right arm and left leg.
  6. Do the same number of repetitions on each side. When you’ve completed a full set, simply bring your feet back to the ground and sit up.

Common mistake

Moving too fast

Lowering your arms, the most common mistake with the deadly exercise is when people mistake it for a bike crunch and try to use speed and momentum to get through. The telltale sign of this is if you notice all of your limbs moving at the same time – like you haven’t come to a complete stop at the beginning of the movement before starting to move to the opposite side.

Go slow, go down. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to stability. If you think you’re moving too fast, try slowing down. As soon as you start picking up speed, that’s when your torso starts to shift and you stop maintaining perfect core stability.

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If you can’t seem to stop yourself from accelerating through each rep, there’s a trick: grab a stability ball or foam roller and as you begin the exercise, hold the tool between your hands and knees. The purpose is to keep the tool from falling – something you can’t do if you release it with more than two poles at once. By holding in place with one hand and one knee as your opposite limbs extend, you are forced to slow down and “reset” between each repetition before continuing the exercise to the opposite side.

Low back arched off the floor

Weak core stabilizers (especially your transverse abdominal muscles and vertebrae) are the main reason your back can automatically lift and leave the floor whenever you perform exercises. Abdominal exercises lying on the back. Your muscles simply aren’t strong enough to hold your lower back in place.

If you notice your back arching, first try to correct the mistake by slowing down. If deceleration doesn’t work, use the trick mentioned above by holding a stability ball or foam roller with two limbs while the opposite limbs move through their extension.

If you still find that you can’t keep your back off the floor, reduce the range of motion of your extensions. Just extend the opposite leg and arm as much as you can without the back starting to arch. When you feel your back arch down, bring your arms and legs back to center before repeating with the opposite side.

Modifications and Variations

Need a modification?

The dead-fault exercise itself is a fairly beginner-friendly movement, but anyone with a weak core stabilizer may find themselves struggling with proper form. If you can’t seem to keep your torso stable during a dead-fault, the best modification is to move the limbs one at a time, rather than moving the opponent’s arms and legs.

Instead of extending your right arm and left leg at the same time, try extending your own right arm. After you bring it back to center, extend your left leg. After you bring your left foot to the center, do the same with your left arm and right leg.

When you feel you can successfully move each limb independently, try again the opposite leg challenge with the opposite arm, but adjust the range of motion accordingly, stopping the stretches when you feel your torso shift or your low back arching off the floor.

Want to join a challenge?

The dead bug is a good precursor to the basic plank or any plank variation because it targets the same stabilizing muscles as the plank, but without the potential stress on the low back, especially for newbies. exercise or people with low back pain. This is because the dead error is performed while you are lying on your back, making it easier to identify and control the lower back arch than with a plank exercise.

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Go ahead and incorporate a standard forearm plank into your workout once you’ve mastered the fatal error, or if you’re comfortable with a basic plank, try an extension plank, in which you lift and lengthen a or two at a time (opposite limbs if you’re lifting two), while maintaining perfect core stability through your torso.

Plank can be done by balancing on the ball of the foot and forearm, squeezing the body and forming a straight line with the torso from the heel to the head. Just make sure you don’t let your hips sag toward the ground or raise your butt toward the ceiling.

Or, if you prefer to do back exercises, just add more weight to the standard dead error. Hold a light dumbbell in each hand as you perform the extension, or hook a resistance band between your opponent’s arm and leg for extra resistance as you extend the hindlimbs. If using a resistance band, just make sure you do all reps on one side before switching sides.

Safety and Precautions

Overall, dead bugs are a safe exercise for most people. As with any strengthening move, the main risk of injury comes when you sacrifice proper form to try to “gut out” a series of repetitions. Just remember, it’s your ego talking.

If your form is starting to suffer, it may be because your muscles are tired and it’s time for you to train again. Doing more repetitions with poor form won’t make your efforts stronger, and in fact, can lead to injury, especially to the low back.

First and foremost, slow down and pay attention to form—make sure your low back doesn’t arch and your torso doesn’t sway back and forth as you move. Second, if you already have a low back injury, don’t try to do the move if it hurts. Muscle soreness or fatigue is one thing, but sharp or stabbing pains, or any kind of uncomfortable feeling that makes you think, “I won’t be able to move tomorrow” is something you want to avoid.

Talk to a trainer or physical therapist for options if dead bugs simply aren’t right for you.


Incorporate this move into one of these popular exercises:

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