Crush Your Core With The Deadbug

The other day  I was going over some common core exercises with some of the newer trainers at Equinox, and they were stumped by how many versions of deadbugs a client can progress through over time.

When we proceeded to go to the hands on demonstrations, the trainers immediately thought twice about making fun of this simple YET EFFECTIVE exercise.

The Deadbug and all its glory

The deadbug is a great exercise that teaches motor control throughout the entire body while improving core stability.

Because the deadbug isn’t sexy as  a hanging leg raise, many people dismiss this very important exercise altogether, or do a horrible job at performing it correctly.

Two of the most common mistakes I see are people compensating by having an excessive arch in their lower back , and rushing through the exercise.

While that may not seem like much of an error to most, it can actually cause a lot more harm than you may think.

Why does this matter?

The true function of the core is to transfer force between the upper and lower body. More specifically, the anterior core is meant to to resist excessive arching through the lumbar (lower back) region.


Why does preventing an excessive arch matter?

Because the posterior joints and discs are placed in heavy amounts of stress to where they are essentially crushing the spine to gain stability. If you are not able to control excessive arching through the lumbar region, it is only a matter of time before you end up with some kind of low back pain.

Research estimates that roughly 80% of all Americans will experience low back pain at one point in their lives,and people who tend to arch excessively through their low back are often the ones who suffer from chronic hamstring strains, anterior knee pain, hip pain, and a bunch of other nagging injuries.

But, I don’t have an excessive arch, do deadbugs still work? 

The deadbug can help teach anyone motor control and help dictate imbalances that need to be addressed before moving on to more advanced exercises.

How do I start?

The best thing to do when learning the deadbug is to first slow yourself down and start from the beginning. Get a feel for what the correct position should be during a deadbug set up. A great tool to teach is that when you are down on the ground in the starting position, you should not be able to fit an entire hand underneath your lower back,  if you can, then you have an excessive arch, and should start with the following basic versions of the deadbug first.

Deadbug 1 Limb Only 

In the video below I conduct a deadbug with one leg on the ground and move the opposite leg. This is a great starting point for those with low back pain or for someone who does not understand the proper mechanics required to resist arching while firing their core at the same time. The key is to learn how to maintain a neutral spine while moving the limbs.

You can utilize this concept with both sides and as well as having both legs down and just moving the arms.

Once someone masters this with no pain, they are ready for the next version.

Arms Only Deadbug

Once you are able to master a neutral spine while moving your limbs, it is time to move onto a little more difficult versions of the deadbug.

The  Deadbug 

Hopefully by now you are starting to catch on to the concept of dead bugs, but just incase, here is an actual deadbug.

Forgive my lack of shoulder flexion on the right side, and yes I know it is horrible.  I’ll just blame it on all the pull-ups I did while in the Marines. 

The key here is to maintain a nuetral spine and move opposite limbs while exhaling and keeping that ribcage down.  Try not to rush through the movement.

Wall Press Deadbug 

What does it do?

It teaches you to work on core control while shutting off those overactive lat muscles.  Most people will want to jump right in with this excercise, but is important to master the basic versions first because if you are too tight in your lats or do not have good shoulder mobility, you will cheat this exercise.

Set up in front of a wall with your hands up overhead and slightly bent. While maintaining a neutral spine against the floor, press into the wall and begin to lower one leg to the ground while exhaling. repeat for both sides.  Keep pressing into the wall behind you the entire time for deep abdominal recruitment.

KB Pullover Deadbug

This is a great exercise that creates a little bit of lat length, and really challenges the shoulders and core.

Start in a deadbug position with your knees bent , and exale hard while moving one leg at a time like a normal deadbug. The key is to resist arching, and only put the kettlebell as far as your body will allow you without arching the lower back.

 Resisted Deadbug

Once you have mastered all of the basic versions, you can then make the deadbug as challenging as you want. The first step is to add a little resistance , and the cool thing about the deadbug is you can challenge the body in different planes.

Core Resisted Deadbug

With these versions, the counter pressure helps drive better abdominal and core pressure. It also forces you to train the core in all directions while promoting core stability.

Stability Ball Deadbug 

ViPR Deadbug With Lateral Shift

In any rotational sport, there is a huge separation that take place between the hips and torso. The lateral shift deadbug is  great exercise to teach the body to move in opposite directions. You can also do this with a resistance band.

To wrap it up

The deabdug is a great exercise to promote core stability and motor control. No matter your fitness level, you can benefit from this exercise in any program.  Give them a try and let us know what you think.






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