The dead bug exercise is a popular way to build core strength and stabilization.
It helps build a solid, stable foundation that protects the spine and allows for greater ease in everyday and athletic movements, such as moving heavy objects, walking up hills, and throwing.
This move also helps prevent and relieve low back pain by protecting your lower back.
It’s a supine abdominal exercise. That means you do it lying on your back. Read on for instructions and tips.
Do this exercise on a padded mat. To support your neck, place a folded towel or flat cushion under your shoulders.
Keep your hips and low back still throughout the exercise. Perform the movement slowly and with control. Engage your core muscles and press your lower back into the floor.
Here’s a video showing you how:
Set up for the pose by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, about a foot away from your hips. Rest your arms alongside your body.
To do it:
- Allow your shoulders and lower back to fall heavy to the floor.
- Draw your shoulders down away from your ears. To get into the starting position, lift your hands so your elbows are above your shoulders with your fists facing in toward each other.
- Lift your legs so your knees are directly over your hips.
- On an exhale, slowly lower your right arm and left leg until they’re just above the floor.
- On an inhale, bring them back to the starting position.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
- This is 1 rep.
Start by doing 1 to 3 sets of 5 to 12 repetitions on each side.
Once you’ve mastered the dead bug and can easily do a few sets, you can progress to more advanced variations. Or you can build a longer routine composed of variations ranging in difficulty.
There are several modifications and variations of the dead bug exercise to make it more or less challenging.
- Heel taps. Keeping your knee bent, slowly lower one foot at a time and tap the floor with your heel.
- Leg extensions. Press one foot away from your body to straighten your leg, hovering it above the floor.
- Leg raises. Straighten your legs so your feet are facing the ceiling, then slowly lower down one leg at a time.
- Palms against the wall. Bring your arms overhead and press your palms into the wall with your knees above your hips. This is great for beginners.
To make it easier
- Lie on your back with both feet on the floor. Slowly slide one foot away from you, then bring it back and switch legs.
- Start with your hands resting on the floor above your head and your feet on the floor. Then lift your arm and the opposite leg as you would normally.
- Do one arm and one leg at a time. Then try doing both arms and both legs at one time.
- Decrease the range of motion by not moving your arms and legs down the entire way.
To make it more difficult
- Use ankle weights, dumbbells, or kettlebells.
- Lower both arms and legs at the same time.
- Strengthen your pelvic floor by doing Kegel exercises during the exercise.
To do it:
- Use a resistance band around your lower thighs for stability.
- Lie on your back with your knees above your hips.
- Use both hands to hold a weighted ball above your shoulders.
- Keep the rest of your body stable as you lower the ball overhead, pausing here.
- Slowly return to the starting position.
Using a stability ball helps increase core and spinal stability. Keep your lower back stable and rooted to the floor throughout the exercise. The only movement should be in your arms and legs.
To do it:
- Lie on your back. Hold a stability ball between your hands and knees.
- Prevent the ball from touching your thighs, forearms, and chest.
- Press your lower back into the floor as you extend your left arm and right leg down to the floor.
- Hold the ball in place by pressing up and in with your left knee and down and away with your right hand.
- Hold this position for a few seconds, then return to the starting position.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
- Do 1 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps.
The dead bug exercise is a safe and effective way to strengthen and stabilize your core, spine, and back muscles. This improves your posture and helps relieve and prevent low back pain.
You’ll also improve balance and coordination. You may find you have the strength and stability to move better during daily and athletic activities.
The benefits of the dead bug are recognized by experts across the board. It’s one of the recommended exercises for:
- people with arthritis
- older people working on improving muscle function
- people with chronic pain
- swimmers who want to improve their body position
- people with Parkinson’s disease to make everyday activities easier and prevent injuries and accidents
The dead bug exercise is beneficial in developing core strength that can help with overall stability and low back pain. It can be done on its own, as part of a core strengthening routine, or along with other exercises.
Its wide variety of modifications makes it easy to find the exercises that work best for your needs. Plus, you can change up your routine to prevent boredom. It’s easy to do at home on its own or as an addition to your fitness routine.
Always talk to your doctor before starting a fitness routine, especially if you have any medical concerns or are new to fitness.