Beginner Deadbug LEg Taps
How to Do Floor Deadbug Leg Taps - Pilates Core Exercise | In-Depth Guide [VISUAL LEARNERS]
Proper Form & Common Mistakes | Home Strength Training
VIDEO TUTORIALS HEREWRITTEN TUTORIAL + IMAGES BELOW
MAIN MUSCLES WORKED IN Deadbug Foot Taps
TRANSVERSE ABDOMINIS, OBLIQUES, & RECTUS ABDOMINIS
OTHER MUSCLES WORKED:
- Pelvic floor
HOW Deadbug Taps SHAPE OUR BODY
Flat stomach, toned and tapered waist, improved posture, confident, graceful movement.
WHAT WE'RE DOING TODAY
ALL WE'RE DOING:
While laying on your back with bent legs in the air, we'll "tap" one leg at a time down to the ground.
Warning: Don't ever start with the full-on deadbug core exercise. Oh yes, I know they do this all the time in group fitness classes, but it's actually stinkin' hard to do correctly with good form. I'd say that like 95% of us (including me!) are not able to do the full version to begin with. It took me weeks to work up to that. THIS easy beginner deadbug variation, which I kind of just made up, is the one you should begin with. Start with the Deadbug taps and then slowly move on from there.
Also, see my easiest to hardest progression section here.
This is a good exercise to start with if you are unfamiliar with the Dead Bug movement or the idea of holding your spine still in the neutral position. The movement is done lying on your back with the legs and arms lifted up in the standard dead bug position. The arms stay in place while the legs move. The legs are moving constantly and the core muscles must continually respond to these movements.
This exercise is for working on progressing from a bent knee version of the Dead Bug to the Standard Dead Bug where the leg is straightened out so that the whole leg is parallel to the floor. As the foot moves further away from your midsection (low back area), the greater the load on the abdominal muscles. [Lever arm - or distance between the foot and the low back]. This exercise requires attention with a focus on what the back and legs are doing. The goal is to keep your spine neutral as you lower your foot to the floor, but you are also working on being able to lengthen the leg out - get the foot further away from your midsection. In the beginning, this will mostly be motor control training - just learning how to stabilize the low back as the legs move down to tap the foot to the floor. As this gets easier, slowly begin to straighten the leg out to increase the load on the muscles, still paying close attention to keeping the spine still.
Remember that using the core muscles to keep the spine in neutral and still while the legs move is the goal of the exercise. But - you want this to be challenging. This takes a little mindfulness. As you get stronger you will need to continue to straighten the leg out to work the core muscles more, but as the muscles fatigue, you will not be able to move the leg out as far. There will be a fine line between pushing the muscles to work harder and not being able to maintain good form.
This exercise is commonly used for strengthening the abdominals and to treat and prevent low back pain. Once it has been mastered it is easy to increase the difficulty by moving, some examples to try are the single and double-leg stretches.
PROPER FORM: Deadbug Taps - Core Exercise
EQUIPMENT, SETS & REPS
- Washcloth for neck support if needed
SUGGESTED STARTING WEIGHT FOR WOMEN:
SETS & REPS:
8-10 on each side
Controlled movement of the 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 Deadbug LEg Tap
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. Your core should feel engaged and slightly braced.
LEGS: Lift one leg up off of the floor, so that your thigh is perpendicular to the floor and your lower leg is parallel to the floor. Your lumbar curve should not change and your 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 your first leg. Make sure your lumbar curve is maintained, and your abdominals do not bulge up (this indicates that the abdominal muscles are not working to hold the spine still). You should be able to keep breathing.
ARMS: Straighten your arms up, your elbows straight, and your hands in line with your shoulders.
HOW TO DO
HOW TO DO Deadbug Foot Taps
CUE: Pay close attention to your form - make sure your form is good and you are challenging your muscles.
Moving from the hip joint of your working leg only, keeping your knee bent to 90 degrees, lower your working leg down to tap your toes to the floor.
Lift your leg back up to the starting position and lower your other leg down to tap the floor.
Continue the movement without pausing.
If this is easy and you can keep your spine in neutral, as you lower your leg down, reach your foot a few inches away from your midsection. The leg lowers down towards the floor and also lengthens out a few inches by straightening your knee.
Keep trying to increase how far you can lengthen your leg out (moving your foot further from your midsection), but remember that the goal of the exercise is to work the muscles to keep your spine still - how far you lengthen your leg out is not important.
It may take you a bit to find out exactly how far you should be reaching your foot away from your midsection. And, as you get stronger or tired, that position will change.
HOW TO SAFELY GET OUT OF THE EXERCISE
Bring your hands down. Lower one leg to the floor, lower your other leg to the floor. Roll to your side and sit up.
DEADBUG TAPS PROGRESSION
easiest to hardest progression
WHAT TO AVOID WITH THE Deadbug Foot Tap
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 Low Back
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.
WHAT & WHY
BENEFITS OF TRAINING THE core muscles
LAYING DOWN EXERCISES YAY
This is one of my favorite core exercises. I will probably end up writing this on every core exercise blogpost, 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, and 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 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
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.
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 Deadbug Foot Taps
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.
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 thigh is returned to the starting position by concentric contraction of the iliopsoas and rectus femoris.