It is funny, Jessica likes to joke that we didn’t see so many dead bugs being done in the fitness industry until we started talking a lot about them several years ago. Dead bugs are not a new exercise and I’m sure plenty will rush to tell us we didn’t invent them (never claimed we did;). However, the real point is that now we people seeing the value of the dead bug and being more thoughtful about their core training we are seeing a new issue arise.
What’s that? People are trying to get really good at doing dead bugs. Why is that a bad thing? What I mean is that they are just trying a million and one ways to do a dead bug. They forgot the point of the exercise in the first place and that the goal of doing dead bugs is NOT to become a dead bug expert.
Why use dead bugs in the first place? The point of a dead bug is to teach people how to control their pelvis as the extremities place load on the core by extending their range of motion. This is very much to build the foundation of locomotion and why we see so many low back problems and almost no one ever traces it back to how people walk badly.
Cam Ward of DVRT Australia even helped his wife’s low back issues with very foundational DVRT dead bugs to restore pelvic control after a very bad series of low back pain.
There is also the use of the opposite arm and leg, the same cross patterning our body uses in walking and running to create stability of the spine. So far so good right? Why be on our backs though? The dead bug is meant to be a very rudimentary exercise. It stems from physical therapy to restore core function. Never was the dead bug meant to be some super charged strength exercise.
Being on our back means we are trying to eliminate gravity as much as possible. While most fitness pros don’t give gravity much thought, it does make an exercise more intense, the more we have to deal with the influence of gravity. In order to introduce movement concepts, starting people in a very stable position is helpful.
Physical Therapist, Dan Swinscoe breaks down the little details that give the DVRT dead bug such power.
Of course we use dead bugs for all these purposes quite a bit and we have plenty of progressions to them as you have seen in our L.I.F.T. programs. What made what we did in L.I.F.T. unique in the fitness industry was we didn’t lay out the exercises as “101 ways to do a dead bug”. Instead, we tried to give you a path of which dead bug variation to use and what each tool taught us about the movement concepts that the dead bug tries to teach us.
Having said that, we don’t want to live off dead bugs. Sure, we may always use the concepts and even some progressions in one form or another, but the point isn’t to be good at dead bugs. Rather, we want to take the concepts and strength we build in these movements to more sophisticated forms of training.
Very simply, a bird dog is a dead bug we flip on over. Now we have to support more of our own bodyweight and due to the position we set-up in, we have to react to more forces acting upon our body trying to disrupt our alignment.
Douglas Sheppard of J and D Fitness in Las Vegas, breaks down the keys in optimizing the Bird Dog.
Many people are shocked how powerful Iso Pulls are in building that connection and core strength. Important to have the right level of any movement.
We’ve discussed half kneeling a lot because I think it is just such a beautiful place to teach people concepts of movement and build stability and strength for greater challenges. However, being half kneeling itself isn’t very powerful unless we are willing to be very intentional in the position like DVRT Master, Cory Cripe breaks down. From there, we do have plenty of progressions we can play off of in our training.
Half kneeling is an even more complex environment where we can build off the concepts of the dead bug. Being more upright and in a split position places even higher demands in our ability to control our pelvis as we create movement in the upper body.
Single leg training has gotten more popular over the years, but sadly I don’t think it will ever get the respect it deserves. Lunging is one of our seven foundational human movements. As I recently got to spend time with world renowned therapist, Gray Cook, we discussed how lunging is not only more telling upon your movement competency and strength, but in a real world application way as well.
Meaning that if you look at the demands of life, people are going to be far more apt to lunge in a multitude of ways than they really are going to squat. Especially, if you put human movement in context of what we did before technology, we would see people lunge probably a heck of a lot more than they squat.
We know squats will always reign supreme because you can just use more load and that is a tragedy. It isn’t squats are bad, but that overly simplistic view of movement strength holds people back from really making progress in their training.
DVRT Master, Cory Cripe, shows where we start so many lunges in Up Downs. A powerful drill that often gets overlooked!
Lunging plays off of the dead bug in not being in a more upright posture, but now we have greater complexity in having direction of movement, reactive stability/strength, as well as power to accelerate and decelerate ourselves. It always amazes me how people thought crawling for its ability to be “corrective” but miss that lunging is even more so if we place the right intent behind it.
So, should you do dead bugs? Absolutely! Build that foundation, spend time moving slowly through progressions, but also have in mind what you are progressing towards. The exercise is NEVER as important as the movement lessons we place behind it!
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As a physical therapy I look for ways to integrate great movement ideas into dynamic strength training programs. Our MAX lunge is a great representation of this concept focusing on the diagonal patterning that comes from the famous therapy system of PNF. Find out how we get so much more out of this sophisticated movement.