Exercises You Should Be Doing: Core Activated Deadbug w/ KB

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I know for some reading, the idea of reading another post on deadbugs is about as exciting as watching paint dry, or worse, listening to Taylor Swift’s new album. I can commiserate to a degree.

I can hear the cries now:

“I mean really, deadbugs? Come on Tony, I thought you liked to lift heavy things and stuff?! Deadbugs are for pencil necked personal trainers who like to pretend they’re physical therapists and masturbate to their NASM workbook.”

Photo Credit: Studio 950

First off: ^^^^^ Those aren’t the deadbugs I’m talking about. Not to mention, for all I know these bugs are still alive. Cool pic though.

Second: That’s just mean. I’d never say anything like that quote above, or make that sort of correlation or accusation! Maybe 83% of the time. But outside of that, never.

Third (and most importantly): there’s a reason why I continue to sing their praises.

Deadbugs (and in the same ballpark, Birddogs) Work! Like, A lot

Just ask the group of coaches Dean and I took through the gauntlet this past weekend. I think 100% of them had a new found appreciation for how challenging the two can be. When done correctly.

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. I already wrote an extensive post on deadbugs HERE that you can check out. Namely, I go into a bit more detail on their benefits and demonstrate where most people go awry in their execution.

I’ll give you a hint: back position and BREATHING!!!

And to toss another talking point into the fire: we can break breathing down into two separate categories. How I teach someone to breath as it relates to force development and performance (sympathetic activity) is 180 degrees the polar opposite compared to how I go about coaching someone to breath for stability, alignment, and relaxation (parasympathetic activity).

This is something I plan on delving a bit more into at a later time. There’s a ginormous onion to peel back with that discussion!

Stay tuned.

Photo Credit: postbear

Nevertheless, I wanted to share a new deadbug variation that I came across recently that I think you’ll all enjoy.

Core Activated Deadbug w/ KB

Who Did I Steal It From: Crossfit Coolidge Corner coach, Andrea Rodgers

What Does It Do: Assuming you’ve got your deadbug technique down like a boss (for the love of god, just read THIS), this variation serves as a nice progression to further engage the core, which in turn helps to encourage more posterior pelvic tilt, but also adds a nice scapular stability component into the mix as well.

Key Coaching Cues: It’s important to start from the fetal position as shown in the video to help get the KB into place. Using a lighter load won’t be that much of a deal breaker – I don’t care how you get the KB into place – but the heavier you go, the more likely you’ll put undue stress on the shoulder (especially anteriorly) if you DO NOT start on your side and roll to your back.

I know it seems borderline nit-picky, but it does make a huge difference.

The arm holding the KB should be locked and in a straight line (be cognizant not to hyperextend your elbow).  You don’t need to “pack” your shoulder per se, but rather just think about “setting” it in place (scapular posterior tilt). Knuckles should be flush to the ceiling to ensure a neutral wrist position.

From there you’ll perform your standard deadbug keeping the arm holding the KB in place and lowering the same sided leg and contralateral arm. As always, be sure to keep the lower back against the floor, inhale before you start (both your belly AND ribcage should move), and then exhale your air as you lower your limbs.

Once fully extended – your lower back should still be flush against the floor – the heel of the lowered leg should “hover” an inch or so off the floor, and you’ll hold that position for a 2-5s count.

Return back to the starting position, inhaling as you do so, and repeat for a total of 5-8 repetitions. Perform the same process on the opposite side.

Give it a try today and let me know what you think!

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  • nate palmer

    Hey Tony,

    I’ve had a few conversations with physial therapists recently, who have advocated maintaining the natural slight low back arch to ensure the spine stays in a neutral position, rather than reducing the arch in the low back by pressing it into the floor.
    Thoughts on that?

    • TonyGentilcore

      I agree, but for the more extended person using the PPT cue is going to be money. Even if someone isn’t extended, if they have a weak core, as they extend they’re likely to lose their (natural) arch. Starting with a tad more PPT will ensure they don’t extend too far.

      • Anthony

        I like having the low back against the floor because it gives some feedback. The client knows when they lose contact and start to arch. I think if they start with neutral it’s hard to know if the low back is moving or not.

        • TonyGentilcore

          My sentiments too Anthony.

  • Chris Sheehan

    Could progress it even farther by doing it bottoms up

    • TonyGentilcore

      Oh yes. For sure.

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  • Great little progression and I love it. Perhaps the only person who may match your love for the deadbugs. I am not sure whether that makes us the cool kids or not?

    • TonyGentilcore

      We’re definitely sitting at the geek/nerd table in the school cafeteria.

  • Stephanie Rondeau

    I love dead bugs. All of my athletes hate them 🙂 Love this idea for a progression, I’ll have to try this with some of my more advanced rehabs!

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks Stephanie. Definitely give it a go and let me know what you think.

  • Teri Skinner Chadwick

    Hi Tony… Is it better to keep the knees bent in the “starting” position, or can I progress this by keeping the legs straight throughout? BTW, I had at least one of my clients say that “these are too easy”. I then was obliged to give her the Tony Gentilcore lecture on proper form. Haha! … it made all the difference. Now she hates ’em. 😉

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks Teri.

      Hmm, I don’t see what the advantage would be in keeping the knees straight out the entire time?

      Either way, glad to hear that your client saw the light and that deadbugs aren’t as easy as they seem. Too funny.