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  • Writer's pictureChris Cooper

5 Deadbug Progressions That Rock


When you think of hardcore core exercises, deadbugs probably aren't the first thing on your list. You're probably thinking more along the lines of Rocky IV style dragon flags. But I promise you, deadbugs, although they may look easy and simple, pack a mean punch.

This isn’t some boring article on why you need deadbugs in your life and why they’re super awesome. Maybe just a little bit, but we're going to get to the progressions.

Deadbugs may not be the most exciting core exercise you can do, but with that said, don't discount them yet. let’s turn attention to why you should love them. Mostly because they look like nothing but pack a mean punch when done correctly and mainly because they can also tell a lot about how much you can control your core and avoid letting your hips go.

They also make a great choice in learning how to maintain a neutral spine and core tension, which we use just about in any other exercise we do.

Simple = Easy?

The deadbug appears so simple and therein lies the conundrum. We assume deadbugs do nothing or that the exercise is too easy because of simplicity, so it remains overlooked and rushed through. If this thought has ever come across your mind when it comes to these, then you may need to slow down and get some control.

Master The Basics

To progress to harder versions of the deadbug, we have to master the basics and do so till you can do it in your sleep. Getting the foundation down is key, then you can build from there to the cool stuff. Maintaining a neutral spine is more challenging than you think.

Deadbug Pullover - To conquer maintaining position and alignment, starting with a kettlebell pullover is a great spot to teach all the necessary cues and tension. Grab the kettlebell, get your knees over the hips, lock the core down, and reach back as far as you can while maintaining position.

Once you reach your end range of control, bring the bell or whatever object you choose back to start. Keep an eye on this one, it comes back later.

The Progressions

Physioball Deadbug

This variation provides two benefits. Basically a two for one sale. You get the core control of moving the arm and opposite leg like a standard deadbug.

Youll also get some addition core tension from squeezing the ball between your arms and legs. As a bonus, this deadbug helps to keep your coordination in check as you’ll likely lose the ball if you move the wrong limbs.

Anti-Extension Deadbug

The anti-extension deadbug is the first in many that will try to put us in a more extended position. What this means is that the band is pulling our arms backwards as well as our rib cage.

The tension of the band will put more stress on your core, so you'll have to work harder to keep your positioning and alignment.

Wall Press Deadbug

This progression is about making it hard to keep positioning and alignment as we add a different extension element to the mix. This time we're pressing into the wall as we lower the leg.

This will solidify the tension we build through the upper body into our core muscles. As a bonus, these are also great for working on maintaining core tension while doing any sort of overhead work.

In the video, we're using a band around the feet to increase the challenge, however, just doing the wall press can be challenging enough. If you want to level up a bit, add the band as it will challenge the non-moving leg to stay locked in place.

Kettlebell Deadbug Pullover

Similar to the basic position we started with the pullover, we're adding in the leg lowering portion of the deadbug. As we reach back, we're creating more extension through the upper body, but still being mindful of keeping our alignment intact.

These don't need to be heavy to be effective, in fact, I've been sticking with 8kg as a standard weight for these.

Anti-Rotation Deadbug

Why only focus on one plane of movement when we can add in another. Being able to control rotation is just as important for core strength as controlling the extension of the deadbug.

You’ll get all the fun of a deadbug with the bonus of a pallof press. Lock in your arms/upper body and slowly lower the legs down, maintaining tension through the movement. You may notice that your body will shift to one side as you do this. It's up to you to fight that pull.

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