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Dead Bug Variations for Trunk Stability

If you're searching up what the 'dead bug' exercise is, why you should be training them, how to perform it correctly, as well as variations for it, then you've come to the right place!

Your 'standard' Dead Bug variation for improving trunk stability

This blog post is written by our Exercise Physiologist, Pat, who are experts in the field of exercise-based therapy, including rehabilitation for musculoskeletal injuries, as well as how to train in order to avoid injury and improve performance.

We've also included 5 different Dead Bug video variations, so let's get into it!

What is the Dead Bug and it's relation Trunk Stability?

The Dead Bug is an exercise commonly prescribed in a rehabilitation setting to improve a patient/clients ability to generate intra-abdominal pressure. This is how much internal pressure (stability) your body is able to generate within your trunk (from hips to shoulders), in order to resist movement of your spine.

For a lot of sporting populations or gym goers, being able to resist excessive movement at the spine when under load (e.g., squatting, deadlifting, or being hit by opposition in contact sports) is extremely important for reducing risk of injury to the spine, hips and knees.

When referring to 'trunk stability', this is simply your body's ability to stabilise or create 'stiffness' within your trunk area. In laymen's terms, this is known as a type of 'core strength'.

As seen in the videos below, the start position involves laying on your back, with your hips and knees up in roughly 90 degree angles, and your hands pointed up towards the ceiling. The traditional variation involves no equipment, just your body weight! However we shall show you a few additional variations soon...

Here is an example of the 'standardised' dead bug exercise.

1. Dead Bug with Diagonal Extension

Why you should be training (or prescribing) the dead bug

There are numerous benefits to the dead bug. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Improving anterior chain strength (strength of all the muscles in your abdomen and hip flexors)

  • Improving performance for heavy lifts at the gym - back squats, deadlifts, military press, bench press, etc. If you're body is able to generate more internal force (intra-abdominal pressure/trunk stability), you will be able to generate more strength in order to help you move an external load (e.g., a barbell).

  • Reduce low back pain - by improving the strength of your anterior trunk muscles (deep abdominals), this will help your body offload stress on the opposing posterior side of your body (spinal joints, muscles & ligaments). Essentially, the more your abdominals are doing to help stabilise your spine and generate strength, the less your lower back has to.

  • Improve pelvis to ribcage spatial awareness - these two areas are key in learning how to properly engage your 'core', or as mentioned above, generate trunk stability. To achieve this, stack your ribcage over your pelvis by pushing both your lower ribs and lower back down to the ground.

  • Linked to the point above is learning how to maintain neutral spine whilst moving your limbs. During this exercise your arms and legs will be moving, by focusing on keeping your lower back in neutral (gently pressed down to the ground) you feel start to improve your understanding for what that position feels like.

How to perform a Dead Bug Correctly

Step 1: Start by laying on your back, bring your knees up so that they and your hips are at 90 degree angles, and point your arms up to the ceiling. Have your head resting on the ground too.

Step 2: Arguably the most important aspect of the exercise to learn. Gently push your lower ribs and lower back down to the ground. Your goal for every dead bug variation is to maintain contact with your whole spine to the ground throughout the exercise, particularly your lower back.

Step 3: Slowly extend out your diagonal arm and leg out and down towards the ground, stopping just above it, then returning back to the starting position. Change to your other diagonal side, and repeat.

Step 4: This is more of a useful tip, but only extend out your limbs as far as you are able to maintain your lower back pressed down to the ground. I.e., if at a certain point your lower back arches/lifts up off the ground despite your best efforts, then that is your finishing point. Return your limbs back to starting position, and work on only lowering down to that range.

Find that too easy? Here are some fun and challenging variations!

2. Loaded Dead Bug with Banded Psoas March

3. Dead Bug with Swiss Ball Squeeze

4. Dead Bug with powerband ant-extension

Lastly, if those variations are too difficult and you are more of a beginner to training, give this regression a go!

5. Dead Bug with Heel Taps

Want to improve the efficiency of your training, reduce risk of injury and improve your performance?

We offer Exercise Physiology services and Personal Training at our Chatswood and North Sydney clinics if you are based in Sydney.

Alternatively, we also off Online Coaching for those based anywhere in the world that are not able to see us face to face!

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