Today I want to talk about the dead bug exercise. One of the best core exercises that just takes 1 minute to do yet, if done before your workouts and consistently over time, can not only help potentially speed up your gains but also help minimize your risk of injury and even potentially alleviate lower back pain. And that’s exactly what I’m going to share with you–how one of the best abs exercises (more specifically, the dead bug core exercise) helps with your core stability training. It does this by training a muscle group that most people just don't train properly.
What exactly is this muscle? Well, it’s the transversus abdominis. This muscle actually sits behind your rectus abdominis and wraps horizontally around your lower abdomen to stabilize your spine almost like a weight belt. But the problem is that this muscle is weak as hell in a lot of people and is one of the most common causes behind strength plateaus in big lifts and even back pain. And the reason why this muscle commonly gets weak is because your typical “abs” exercises like crunches and bicycle kicks just don’t cut it when it comes to this muscle. This muscle is instead best strengthened by using isometric exercises that are built to enhance both muscular endurance and coordination.
What exactly does this look like though? It’s something called the dead bug exercise, which has been shown and used in several studies aiming to improve core stability since it seems to activate the transversus abdominus along with the other core muscles the best. This exercise is what’s termed as an "anti-extension" exercise. The dead bug helps teach you how to move at your extremities without compensating at your spine. Now some of you may have seen this exercise before or even tried it out, but I guarantee that you haven’t done it properly and in a way that actually strengthens the transversus abdominis to the greatest degree.
To start properly executing the dead bug core exercise, simply lay on your back with your knees bent like so. Then, take a deep breath into your belly, a deep breath out, and when your near maximal exhalation draw your belly button into your spine to brace your core and flatten your lower back onto the ground. You want to brace yourself as if someone were about to drop a ball on your stomach. Once you get this down, continue breathing as you maintain the bracing in your core, and then bring your arms straight up and knees bent to 90 degrees. Your lower back should still be flat against the ground and you should still be bracing.
Nail this down for at least 60 seconds. Once you’re ready, you’ll want to slowly progress it for enhanced core stability training. To do so, you can start by again bracing properly and then just bring one arm up at a time. Then, from here you can work your way up to the full dead-bug with the opposite arms and legs being extended simultaneously. And then, from here, you can even move onto something like hollow body holds and even hollow body rocks. You can even experiment with keeping a resistance band under your lower back as you do the movement to ensure you’re keeping it flat against the ground, otherwise it’ll slip out.
Ss for when and how exactly to apply one of the best core exercises available (the dead bug), what I’d recommend is to first pick the progression that best suits your current level of core strength and one that you can do properly for about a minute without absolutely fatiguing yourself. You’ll want to do this as part of your warm up routine shortly before you go into your workout, especially if that workout involves exercises that require a lot of core stability. I’d even recommend if your core is quite weak, to periodically do this exercise between your sets of these exercises just to get your core firing and to further engrain that neurological firing pattern during your movements.
But I hope you were able to see that it’s muscles like these that we tend to unknowingly neglect that very easily start to hinder our progress and put us at a greater risk for injury. Which is why it’s so important that you don’t overlook them in your training. And for a step-by-step program that puts this all together for you by showing you exactly how, and why, to train these overlooked muscles and how to combine them with your main workouts week after week so that you can build muscle as efficiently and as safely as possible, then simply take the analysis quiz below to discover which specific program is best for your body and where it’s currently at:
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Filmed by: Bruno Martin Del Campo