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Re-Thinking the Dead Bug & Core Strength

Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist (Creator DVRT Restoration, DVRT Pelvic Control, DVRT Better Backs, Knees, & Shoulders)

Why So Many Dead Bugs??????

I am not talking about actual dead bugs, like the crickets in my garage I have yet to clean up that seem to party it up in there on a daily basis. I am talking about the dead bug exercise that you keep seeing popping up all over, especially in our Ultimate Sandbag fitness programs. 

In the past couple of years or so I have seen the fitness community bringing back the “old school” dead bug exercise. I would like to think it is because people have seen the importance of Dead Bugs through our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag fitness programs. However, why Dead Bugs are being brought back but that is neither here nor there.

The fact of the matter is that the Dead Bug exercise has been around for a very long time. I remember learning it in physical therapy school, we were simply told it was a great low back exercises and that was about it, but you should use it. 

The problem with the traditional Dead Bug movement was that people were missing the intent and just going through the motions, there was no real feedback for the person/ client/ or patient, so in my opinion it was worthless…just like many movements can be if the intent gets lost.

In fact, I got very frustrated with trying to teach patients these exercises. I knew they were suppose to be good for them, but the reality was it wasn’t making people better!

Lots of fitness pros and therapists continue to have this struggle. I see so often people just performing the movement because they were told its a good exercise to do but really don’t know the why’s or how’s. Hopefully these Ultimate Sandbag fitness strategies will change your mind like they did for me. However, let’s understand the why’s first!

So what is a Dead Bug? The Dead Bug exercise would fall into the realm considered to be fundamental training of the stabilization muscles, specifically of the lumbar spine. So basically that means…a great exercise for the low back and core and that is why you are seeing so much of it.

The dead bug exercise starts you off laying on your back, with your arms extended in front of your shoulders with your hips and knees to a 90-degree angle. People are often cued to  tighten their abs (engage their core!)  and press their lower back into the floor prior to initiating the movement. Then take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, slowly extend your left leg toward the floor and bring your right arm overhead. Keep your abs tight and don’t let your lower back arch. Slowly return your arm and leg to the starting position. Repeat with your opposite arm and leg. Continue alternating. 

Some powerful and easy ways we use DVRT to progress the Dead Bug to not just make it harder, but to help connect the body smarter!

This is the traditional Dead Bug I was taught in school and most patients I had that I gave this exercise to, really didn’t understand what and why they were doing it. Their ability to really engage those lumbar stabilizers got lost most of the time, so it just became a movement that was part of their rehab that really didn’t do too much good. I struggled to help them with the right type of feedback. I stopped using it, as it was rather hard to give people enough feedback on how to perform the movement with the proper intent. 

Enter in the DVRT Dead Bug and its progressions. We decided to bring back the Dead Bug because we were able to make in into something better. We were able to bring in that feedback for the client/ patient and allow them to “feel” the intent of what this exercises was suppose to be all this time. We made it better. 

dead bug

Adding in the Ultimate Sandbag to the upper extremities really allows individuals to engage the lats, and make the connection of the lat, glute and core, allowing the individual to stabilize the correct muscles and making the movement purposeful again. It also allows for several progressions of the movement in order to challenge those stabilizers. With the help of a band and the Ultimate Sandbag, the dead but is no longer a dead exercise. 

Learn more how DVRT is changing how we teach functional movement and restoring health and function with our DVRT workshops HERE, Certifications HERE, and Online Education HERE