DeadBug Pilates core exercise
How to Do the Dead Bug Floor Core Exercise | In-Depth Guide [VISUAL LEARNERS] Intermediate
Proper Form, Common Mistakes,+ Easier & Harder Variations | Home Resistance Training
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE?
MUSCLES THIS WORKS
MAIN MUSCLES WORKED IN The Dead Bug
Transverse abdominis, obliques, & rectus abdominis
OTHER MUSCLES WORKED:
- Pelvic floor
WHAT WE'RE DOING TODAY
WHAT & WHY
BENEFITS OF TRAINING THE core muscles
WHAT WE'RE DOING TODAY
ALL WE'RE DOING:
Supposedly behaving like a dead bug? Or a dying bug? Read on...
LAYING DOWN EXERCISES YAY
The dead bug exercise is a highly effective exercise for strengthening the muscles of the core, including the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and oblique muscles. This exercise can help you improve your overall core stability, which can have numerous benefits for your overall health and fitness.
This is one of my favorite core exercises. I will probably end up writing this on every core exercise blog post, but core exercises have changed the strength of my body a LOT. I am able to have a good comparison because, welp, embarrassingly I never did them before at all. I didn't really understand their value so I skipped them. I feel so different in my body when exercising and doing daily life now that these movements have been a part of my regular workout routine.
These movements are done lying down on your back, making them a nice way to start or end your day. Lying down lets you concentrate on activating the abdominal muscles without worrying about the back muscles. These exercises seem pretty simple but they can be very challenging and do a great job of activating the core.
MAIN MUSCLE WE ARE TRYING TO ACTIVATE
It is important to really understand and feel the abdominal muscles working the way they are supposed to work. The main muscle you are trying to activate is the transverse abdominis which is deep - deeper than the rectus abdominis (6-pack) muscle. This is the corset muscle - it is attached to the ribs, the pelvis, iliopsoas, connective tissue in the front of the torso, and wraps around your midsection to join the fascia that attaches to the back muscles. When activated it feels like you have shrink-wrapped your mid-section, just like cinching up a corset or back brace. If you have never heard of this muscle before and have no idea how to activate it, start with the Transverse Abdominis Activation exercise before moving on to the others.
The key to the core exercises is being able to find and activate this muscle. The transverse abdominis muscle runs across your midsection, from the ribs to the public bone, around the sides of the torso, and attaches to the spine through fascia, it is like a big back brace. It is one of the most important spinal stabilizers, unfortunately, many people are not even aware of it and they don’t know how to activate it. A bonus is to be able to activate the pelvic floor muscles at the same time. This will take time and concentration. The biggest mistake people make is that they are not patient enough to make sure they are using the correct muscles and they progress the exercises too quickly. This set of exercises is designed for making it easy to feel the correct muscles working.
WHY BOTHER DOING IT?
WHY DO WE EVEN CARE?
Core exercises should be considered the foundation for all exercises - you must be able to stabilize your midsection to be able to use your arms and legs in a healthy and effective way.
TYPE OF CORE EXERCISES MATTER
Exercises like sit ups, crunches or Russian twists, involve holding the legs and arms still and moving the low back (lumbar spine) over and over again. Sometimes this is even done while holding weight. This type of movement trains the muscles to move through the spine. This type of exercise, bending over & over at the spine, will actually weaken the tissues that support the spine, the ligaments and discs. These exercises work the rectus abdominis muscle which acts to bend the back (flex), it does not stabilize the spine, it does not even attach to the spine.
Exercises that train our core muscles to stabilize the spine instead of moving the spine helps to prevent damage to the low back. This is what most physical therapists will tell you.
HELPS HAVE THE STRENGTH, BALANCE & COORDINATION NEEDED TO DO EVERYTHING BETTER & MORE EFFICIENTLY
Unfortunately, a very high number of people in the U.S. will have back pain at some point in their lives. Also, once you start lifting weights to increase the strength of your legs and arms, or increase your activity to include heavy work like shoveling, you want to be sure that your core muscles are strong enough to keep up.
Strong and healthy abdominals impact just about everything we do in our daily lives. When the abs are stronger you can move with less effort, lift more, carry more, and walk and bike further. The core muscles are the center of the body - they all work together to coordinate the lower and upper body and the left and right sides of the body. Healthy core muscles will improve balance and coordination.
Learning how to move and exercise with good form will help prevent back pain, and if you injure your back, having good core strength will help you recover more quickly. Core exercises will increase the strength of your core, but more importantly, the exercises train the muscle how to do their job. Their job is to make subtle coordinated changes constantly in order to hold and move the body. These exercises train the muscles of the torso for endurance, strength, and motor control (the ability of the muscles to work together to stabilize the trunk as the arms and legs are moving). Many people are unsure of how to activate their core muscles, especially the transverse abdominis. The main job of the transverse abdominis is to compress and stabilize the midsection. The core muscles need to work together all day long, in a highly coordinated fashion to keep us upright during all of our daily activities.
If you have ever had back pain or an injury, complex pregnancies and/or deliveries, pelvic floor pain, abdominal surgery, including cesarean sections - sometimes the transverse abdominis is not responsive. It is not uncommon for muscles to “shut down” after pain or injury. And in the case of abdominal surgeries, it is necessary to get through these muscles. Different surgeons have different approaches, but to get through to the contents of the abdomen, you must get through the muscles, so the muscles have been injured. After the surgery or trauma, the muscles need to be re-educated, to learn to do their job. This is no different than rehabilitation after a sprain, strain, or tear of the other muscles in your body.
Untrained core muscles don’t always cause back or neck pain, when the core is not stable, it affects the way we use our arms and legs. Poorly trained core muscles can cause hip, knee, ankle, foot, shoulder, and arm pain or injury.
These exercises focus on activating the muscles that compress the abdomen. The muscles support and protect the internal organs, including the liver, stomach, intestines, and bladder. Increasing the intra abdominal pressure by activating the muscles improves the function of the internal organs including digestion, bladder and bowel control, and breathing.
EVERYDAY LIFE &
HOW WE USE OUR core MUSCLES IN EVERYDAY LIFE
1. THE TRANSVERSE ABDOMINIS, AND OBLIQUES WORK ALL DAY LONG TO STABILIZE THE SPINE DURING DAILY ACTIVITIES:
- Pushing a wheelbarrow
- Washing windows
- Kicking or throwing a ball
- Climbing stairs/ladder
- Stepping into a high car/truck
- Painting overhead
2. THE RECTUS ABDOMINIS FLEXES THE SPINE
- Sitting up from lying down - like getting out of bed
- Prevents you from falling backward - balancing on a ladder while washing windows or painting.
3. THE TRANSVERSE ABDOMINIS, OBLIQUES, DIAPHRAGM, AND PELVIC FLOOR COMPRESS THE ABDOMEN
- Going to the bathroom
- Supports the internal organs for improved function - especially digestion
This movement is the classic Dead Bug exercise. Lying on the back the legs and arms are lifted up. The arms and legs act as the resistance that the abdominals must work against. As the arms and legs move out away from the midsection the core muscles must work harder to hold the spine in a neutral position. The arms and legs are moving constantly and the core muscles must continually respond to these movements.
Once this move has been mastered it is easy to increase the difficulty by moving, some examples to try are the single and double leg stretches.
HOW TO FEEL WHAT MUSCLE IS WORKING
How to Feel What Muscle is Working
The most important muscle to activate for this group of exercises is the transverse abdominis muscle. This is a hard muscle to find. It is broad and deep. When you activate this muscle the belly button and spine move closer together, the ribs on the left and right sides of the front of the torso come in closer together. You should feel like you are tightening up a corset or shrink-wrapping your midsection.
Transverse abdominis: Lie on your back, knees bent. Find the two pointy parts on the front of your pelvis. Drop your fingers down off of the bony part, in the direction of your belly button. Now clear your throat. You should feel the transverse abdominis contract under your fingertips.
If you cannot find this muscle, or if you are unsure if you are doing it right, try the Transverse Abdominis Activation exercise.
HOW TO DO THE EXERCISE
HOW The Dead Bug SHAPE OUR BODY
Flat stomach, toned and tapered waist, improved posture, confident, graceful movement.
PROPER FORM: Dead Bug
EQUIPMENT, SETS & REPS
Mat, washcloth for under neck if needed
SUGGESTED STARTING WEIGHT FOR WOMEN:
SETS & REPS:
8-10 on each side
Controlled movement of the arms and legs. Increasing the speed of the movement will increase the muscle activity of the core - maintaining a neutral and stable torso.
BODY POSITION FOR The Dead Bug
BODY STANCE: Lie on your back. Neutral spine (including neck - if you need to put a small folded washcloth under your neck for support that is fine). Knees bent. Activate your transverse abdominis - bringing your belly button and your spine closer together. The core should feel engaged and slightly braced.
LEGS: Lift one leg up off of the floor, so that the thigh is perpendicular to the floor and the lower leg is parallel to the floor. The lumbar curve should not change and the abdominal muscles should not bulge out. If they do, return your foot to the floor and start over again. [If you have difficulty with awareness of lower back : place one hand under your low back before positioning legs].
Lift your other leg up to meet the first leg. Make sure the lumbar curve is maintained, and your abdominals do not bulge up (this indicates that your abdominal muscles are not working to hold the spine still). You should be able to keep breathing.
ARM: Straighten your arms up, your elbows straight, and hands in line with shoulders.
HOW TO DO
HOW TO DO The Dead Bug
CUE: Your core should feel very stable but you should be able to breathe freely.
Move one arm and your opposite leg out - your arm will move down towards the floor and your hip and knee will straighten out and lower towards the floor. Your arm and leg movement should be smooth and effortless. The further your arm and leg are moved out the harder the core will have to work - the greatest resistance will be when your arm and leg are parallel to the floor.
Pull your arm and leg back to the starting position and repeat with your other arm and your opposite leg. This movement will happen at the same time so when one leg is moving out the other is moving back in.
Continue the movement alternating sides for the desired number of reps. The movement of your arm and leg should be smooth and controlled with the focus on keeping the torso still.
HOW TO SAFELY GET OUT OF THE EXERCISE
Bring your hands down. Lower one leg to the floor, lower the other leg to the floor. Roll to your side and sit up.
WHAT TO AVOID WITH The Dead Bug
Guess what? Good news! Many avoids are the same for most movements. Once you learn the basics, there's really only a few extra avoids for each individual movement.
1. Avoid Abs Bulging Out
AVOID: Avoid letting your abdominal muscles bulge out.
- This is the most common mistake.
- You should not see your lower abdomen pooch or bulge out when the abdominal muscles are active.
- This means that you are pushing your rectus abdominis (6-pack muscle) out instead of using your transverse abdominis to stabilize your midsection.
WHAT TO DO:
- This most frequently happens when you are first lifting the legs or when your core muscles get tired.
- Make sure to lift one leg at a time, concentrating on pulling the belly down towards the spine without flattening your low back.
- Correct activation of your abdominal muscles will result in a flat or slightly “scooped” out appearance of your lower abdominals.
- If you are unable to activate your abdominals without them bulging out
- Work on pulling your belly button down towards your spine in a hook lying position (feet on the floor, knees bent)
- Add in controlled breathing while maintaining the position.
- Master this exercise before progressing core exercises.
2. Avoid Arching Low Back
AVOID: Avoid arching your low back.
WHAT TO DO:
- Maintain a neutral spine position to prevent low back joint injury, muscle strain or damage over time.
- If your ribs lower ribs flare upwards or your belly is lifted up - this indicates you are arching your low back. Your pubic bone and front hip bones should be in one plane - can check by placing fingertips on the pubic bone and set the base of your palm on the hip bones - your hand should be flat.
- This can happen if you move the arms up too far overhead or your legs too close to the floor.
- Limit how far you move your limbs.
3. Avoid Flattening Spine Into Floor
AVOID: Avoid flattening your low back.
WHAT TO DO:
- Maintain a neutral spine position to prevent injury or muscle strain.
- You should not be able to feel your low back pressed into the floor.
- Work on activating your core muscles without flattening your low back.
4. Avoid holding your breath
AVOID: Avoid holding your breath.
WHAT TO DO:
- When first learning core exercises it can be difficult to keep the abdominals activated and continue a normal breathing pattern.
- Inhaling and exhaling will increase the core muscle activity, and bring oxygen to the muscles as they work.
- It is helpful to work on abdominal muscle activation coordinated with breathing before adding the leg movement.
MAKE IT HARDER
MAKING The Dead Bug MORE CHALLENGING
Arms held over Head
Arms held over head deadbug
Hold both arms overhead and alternate the legs in and out. This will keep constant tension on the upper portion of the rectus abdominis.
Hold Dumbbell Beyond Head
Hold a dumbbell Deadbug
Hold a dumbbell or weighted ball with both arms overhead and alternate the legs in and out. This will keep constant tension on the upper portion of the rectus abdominis.
MAKE IT EASIER
MAKE The DeadBug MORE DOABLE
1 Foot On Ground
Keep one leg on ground
This will be easier because one leg will be on the ground supporting you.
Limbs Closer To Body
Limited Range of Motion
The closer the arm hand and knee are to your mid section (of the torso- belly button region) the less the abdominal muscles will need to work.
Limiting the distance that you move the arm overhead and the hip down will decrease the level of difficulty. Progress by taking the limbs further out as your core gets stronger.
SPIFFILICIOUS FACTS ABOUT MUSCLES & MOVES
It could be argued that it is not necessary to do specific exercises for your core muscles because you are using them all day long. This is true to some extent. If you are relatively active, with good posture, good control over your midsection, you have established healthy movement patterns - keeping your spine neutral and stable during heavy lifting or repetitive movement, and have no history of back pain, or abdominal surgery (cesarean sections, hysterectomies) or complications/difficulty in pregnancy or childbirth, then you may not have to do specific core exercises - because you are using those muscles correctly all day long.
ALLLL MUSCLES & WHEN
ALL MUSCLES WORKING & WHEN DURING The Dead Bug
The core muscles are gently activated to maintain a neutral spine as the legs are lifted up to 90 degrees of hip and knee flexion. The arms are positioned at 90 degrees of flexion and held straight.
One arm and the opposite leg move out away from the body - the arm is moved into flexion (this is mostly from the pull of gravity but the rotator cuff muscles and the muscles around the shoulder joint (triceps, biceps, pectoralis, lats, deltoids, coracobrachialis, teres major) will be slightly active to control the shoulder joint and arm movement. Gravity will help to pull the leg down as it extends out and the muscles around the hip joint and knee joint will control the movement of the hip as the leg is straightened out. The quadriceps will act concentrically to extend the knee (this is minimal because there is no resistance). The rectus femoris and the iliopsoas work eccentrically to control hip extension. The further the arm and opposite leg are stretched out the longer the lever arm on the torso, pulling the low back into extension. All of the muscles of the core will become more active to keep the torso stable. The rectus abdominis and obliques are working hard to prevent lumbar extension.
The arm is pulled back up to the starting position by concentric activity of the lats, and triceps. The thigh is returned to the starting position by concentric contraction of the iliopsoas and rectus femoris.