By Neal Prokop, Sport Performance Specialist
The dead bug is a popular core and anti-extension exercise that we’ll use with our developing athletes to target athletic attributes and improve coordination. It can be difficult to execute properly, especially as you start to include dead bug variations. Here are five of the most common mistakes we see athletes make when trying to execute the dead bug.
Mistake #1 – Back Rounding or Not Staying Flat
If you still notice that you can’t keep your lower back from arching off the floor, reduce the range of motion of your extensions. Only extend your leg and opposite arm as far as you can without your back beginning to arch. When you feel your low back arching, bring your arm and leg back to centre before repeating to the opposite side. The fix: Have a partner there to try reaching under your back . . . if they can slide their hand underneath, engage your core and push it out of there!
Mistake #2 – Moving Too Fast
Remember, the whole point of the exercise is to complete the movement without arching and twisting. We call it an anti-extension because you don’t use your spine to round or lift off the ground. When athletes move too fast, their technique often suffers. The fix: Try the movement to a count of two, two seconds to the end point, and two seconds back to the start point. Another fix is to try squeezing a medicine or stability ball with your opposite limbs. By holding it in place, you’re forced to slow down and resent between each repetition.
Mistake #3 – Lifting the Head
Athletes like to watch themselves complete the movement, which cranks the neck and rounds the cervical spine. It goes against one of the main goals of the dead bug, maintaining a neutral spine. The fix: Before you start the movement, look straight up, and pick a spot on the ceiling slightly behind you. During the movement, focus your sight on that spot, as you lower each extremity.
Mistake #4 – Drifting Arm
The dead bug movement requires both activation of your abdominal and trucks muscles, and the ability to coordinate the contra-lateral movement of your limbs. A common mistake we see is the lowering of the arm as the leg drops to the ground. So if athletes are suppose to be contra-laterally extending their right leg, their right arm will also typically drift towards their right leg. The fix for this one is to modify the exercise. Try holding a basketball or med ball flat on your palm. If you arm starts to drift, the ball falls. This exercise modification also requires you to slow down the movement, resetting after each rep!
Mistake #5 – Sinking Foot
As you lower an arm and leg, the opposite limbs should be resting perpendicular to your back, with the shin, perpendicular to the thigh. But like a drifting arm, the foot will also tend to drift and sink towards the ground. The fix on this one is to try putting a mini-band around your feet. If you don’t keep engage your hip flexor, keep your limbs perpendicular, or ankle dorsi-flexed, the mini-band shoots off, prompting you to start all over again and get a laugh out of your teammates.
Try avoiding these mistakes during your workouts! For questions and support, always reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org