Boy, do they come up with some interesting names for exercises these days… although ‘dead bug’ is certainly fitting for this one. When performed, it looks exactly how you’d think it would, on your back with the arms and legs up. But hey, if it works then that’s all that matters right?
It’s a functional exercise for the abs, spine, and lower back that can be done in various ways but the overall idea is the same. We’ve explained how to do this exercise with tips, variations, and how to include it in your training regime.
In This Exercise:
- Target Muscle Group: Rectus abdominis
- Type: Strength and function
- Mechanics: Isolation
- Equipment: Exercise mat
- Difficulty: Beginner
The dead bug works the core muscles primarily although other muscles are involved in this movement as well.
The rectus abdominis or abdominal muscles create the ‘six-pack’ look and is part of the core muscles. It functions to flex the trunk and lateral flex the trunk. A good example of how these muscles work is when you curl your torso upward to perform a crunch. The rectus abdominis pulls the pelvis up too.
The gluteus maximus or butt muscle is considered a part of the hips and gives the backside most of its shape and development. Although the gluteus medius and minimus are also butt muscles to a lesser extent. Its main function is to extend and externally rotate the thigh.
The butt muscles are necessary for posture and movements that involve the lower body.
Quads for short, the quadriceps are the large and powerful muscles on the anterior thigh. In fact, it’s the most voluminous muscle in the body. Its anatomical function affects the knee and hips (hip flexion and knee extension). The quads are also important for posture and walking.
How To Do The Dead Bug
Alright now for the fun part… performing the dead bug.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor and arms down by your sides.
- Lift your feet off the ground until your upper legs are vertical and your lower legs are parallel to the floor. Both your knees and hips should be at a 90-degree angle.
- Exhale and make sure that your lower back is flat on the floor throughout the exercise.
- Extend one leg forward until your foot is within a few inches from the floor. Bring your leg back to the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg.
Here’s a video example…
Dead bug exercise tips
- Change up the movement by moving your arms overhead while extending the legs forward at the same. Feel free to perform any combination that you can do safely.
- If you have tight or weak hip flexors, you may have to take care of that before doing this exercise as it can cause pain and injury by forcing the movement.
- To make the exercise easier especially if you have limited hip range of motion or mobility; keep your leg/s higher off the ground at first and then gradually lower it little by little.
- To make the exercise more challenging, use ankle and wrist weights or lower both arms and legs at the same time. You can also alternate lowering the one arm and the opposite leg and repeating this pattern.
Here are some variations/alternatives that you can do instead of the dead bug, that are similar.
Straight leg raise
For this variation, you’re going to keep the legs fully extended as you raise your feet toward the ceiling and lower them down. But the key to this exercise is to avoid arching the back. So you don’t want to allow a space between the back and the floor.
Cocoons are yet another very interesting name for a bodyweight core exercise but it’s going to activate more of the muscles of the midsection. It’s also more challenging by the same token as the upper and lower body are involved to the same degree.
Here’s a great video on some of the best progressions and regressions exercises.
How To Incorporate The Dead Bug Into Your Training Regime
The dead bug is a core exercise and therefore, should be included any time you train your midsection muscles. For example, when you’re performing crunches, leg raises, or any other effective abs and core movements.
2-3 sets of 15-25 repetitions is a good range to stick with for this activity. If it becomes too easy to where you can complete endless repetitions, consider doing a more challenging variation.
The dead bug core exercise certainly has benefits whether you’re a beginner or more advanced exerciser. If you want to be functional, stronger, and better at your heavier compound lifts, athletic activities, or daily chores, this is a great exercise to incorporate into your training regime.