Exercises You Should Be Doing: Stability Ball Deadbug

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It’s been stated that roughly 80% of Americans will experience low(er) back pain at some point in their life. For the mathematically challenged, that’s four out of every five people. Chances are if you’re reading this blog post, you’ve experienced some form of lower back pain, or at the very least, know someone who has.

As such, not a week goes by where we don’t see someone walk into CP for the first time and reveal that they’ve been suffering from a jacked up back for days, months, or in the worst cases, years at a time.

Moreover, trying to uncover the root cause of their pain can be tricky. Was it a one-time, blunt trauma, like falling of a ladder, or, I don’t know, being a bit overzealous and busting out your robot at the company Christmas party? Maybe it’s due to faulty movement patterns? Is it pathological (disk herniation, spondy, etc)? How about poor program design? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s due to the fact that you sit all day in a flexed position and have the mobility of a pregnant pig?

Needless to say, it could be any number of things, and while I can usually speculate as to the root cause, it’s important to remember that I’m not a doctor dammit, I’m a strength coach.

To that end, when it comes with working with people with lower back pain, more often than not, my job is to just get them feeling better. Stuff like working on tissue quality, improving length-tension relationships, as well as improving posture and movement quality will all go a long ways in helping them. Specifically, however, developing their core strength/stability is crucial.

What Is It: Stability Ball Deadbug

Who Did I Steal If From: Personal trainer and coach, John Izzo, from his DVD Shatterproof Spine.

What Does It Do: Admittedly, this is more of a “beginner” exercise, but given that most people think they’re more advanced than what they really are, I’m not scared to recommend this exercise for just about everyone.

In short, it’s a great exercise to train, what Dr. Stuart McGill refers to as the orchestra—-internal/external obliques, rectus abdominus, and transverse abdominus. Too often, we get so focused on isolating ONE muscle, that we fail to recognize that we need to fire EVERYTHING; particularly when it comes to promoting core stability. As such, this is an excellent exercise that teaches the trainee to “engage” his/her core musculature, which in turn, will provide more spinal stability. It’s a win-win.

Key Coaching Cues: Keeping the back flat, lie supine on the floor holding a stability ball between your hands and knees. From there, simply extend contra-lateral limbs (left leg, right arm and vice versa) in a controlled manner. Obvious progressions include taking away the stability ball and/or keeping rhythm with Ludacris in the background.

Of note, there should be no deviation in the lumbar spine or hips. Meaning, don’t move (other than the limbs, of course). You could use this as part of a general warm-up, or for those clients who are really de-conditioned, as part of their actual training session. I’d recommend 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps on each side.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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