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The Dead Bug exercise boosts the strength of the deep abdominal muscles -- the transverse abdominals, multifidis, diaphragm and pelvic floor -- stabilizing the lower spine. The exercise will help you perform a wide range of motions, such as lifting and bending in everyday activities, and lower the risk of back strain. Because you have to synchronize the movement of your arms and legs during the drill, you can also improve your motor skills and coordination.
Isolate the Deep Abdominals
Performing an abdominal hollowing co-contraction is the key to doing this exercise correctly. A co-contraction is when two opposing muscles contract around a joint. Abdominal hollowing, or the exhale position of abdominal breathing, is combined with the intentional co-contraction of your abdominal muscles. Before you do a Dead Bug exercise, practice this movement. Lie flat on the floor. Exhale and suck in your lower abdominals as if you're tightening a corset around your waist. Imagine your navel buttoning your lower back to the floor. Release your abdominals and repeat, coordinating the tightening of your abdominals with your breathing.
Do the Dead Bug
Lie flat on the floor. Bend your knees until your feet are about 12 to 18 inches away from your buttocks. Rest your arms by your side. Bend your elbows so your hands are pointing upward at 90-degree angles. Take deep breaths for 30 seconds as a preparation. Begin with the hollowing movement, tightening your deep abdominals and stabilizing your lower back. Lift your legs and arms off the floor. Position your knees over your hips and bend them to form 90-degree angles. Bend your arms also at 90-degree angles and align your elbows over your shoulders. Breathe in and slowly lower your left hand and right heel until they barely touch the floor. Breathe out and bring your hand and heel back to the original position. Alternate to exercise your right hand and left heel. Repeat the entire exercise five to 10 times. If the exercise is too difficult, keep your arms by your sides and lower only one leg at a time.
Progress in Difficulty
An advanced version of the Dead Bug exercise is to synchronize the movements of both arms and both legs at the same time. While lowering your right arm and left leg, raise your left arm and right leg. Alternative your arm and leg pairs in a rhythmic way so the exercise resembles a steady march. Add a slight trunk rotation while tightening your stomach. Resisting the rotation will intensify the deep abdominal work out.
If the Dead Bug drill is too painful, wedge an exercise ball under your legs. Place a second ball on your stomach. Have a partner slowly move the ball on our stomach in different directions. Try to stop the ball from moving. Add 1- to 2 1/2-kilogram hand or ankle weights to make the exercise more difficult. Lie on a foam mat. Your abdominals will have to work that much harder to stabilize your lower back.