Note from Zach: Huge thanks to Kelvin King for writing this article. Kelvin has a ton of amazing exercise variations, like the dead bug exercises he shows below. Be sure to follow him!
A little rant: I love dead bugs. However, their relationship to specific sports performance has not been fully tapped into.
The transferable skill of dead bug variations will demand immediate spine protection, core stiffness, strength, and core endurance. Training will change the landscape of athletic performance through topical stress within an organic environment experienced through movement.
More importantly, there should be a slow cooker approach to athletic development, it is imperative we teach athletes to absorb force correctly to deal with the multidirectional and multidimensional movements absorbing daily.
Several of the advanced exercises below will change the way you look at the dead bug. Although advanced, below are several dead bug variations you must include in your training program. For those who need to stick with the basic dead bug variations, please do so.
Thoracic (T-Spine) Mobility Dead Bug – Various
Many athletes find themselves sitting all day. This prolonged forward flexed posture can lead to inadequate thoracic spine mobility, limiting the ability to get into athletic positions.
These dead bug variations will remove the rolling back and forth on a foam roller, allowing pressure to be applied in places where it is needed most. This variation also challenges the strength and stability of the core with an added benefit maintaining good hip and shoulder mobility.
Dead Bug With Feet on Foam Roller
This dead bug is tricky because of the rigid foot and ankle alignment to keep the foam roller locked in. Movements on the foam roller in this and other capacities challenge the stability and motor control throughout the lower body. In all, this supports the dead bug variation because the number one goal is to keep the entire core musculature dialed for effective movement.
Chaos Band Dead Bug
This dead bug variation demands core stabilization, strength, and endurance. This variation also demands glute activation, leg strength, hip mobility, spinal stabilization, and balance.
Sprinter’s Dead Bug
This dead bug sprinter variation can help solidify the technical aspect of sprinting, reinforcing the posture needed to be in the right position, and being able to apply force preparing for the integrated movement of sprinting.
An athlete’s speed is determined by stride length, stride frequency, and force production when applied to the ground. More importantly, what is not noticed in this progression is the ankle mobility that will help an athlete dorsiflex their ankle, maximizing their foot contact into the ground. The block forces the athlete to keep the toes pulled up toward shins with feet activated into the block as in the ground. Knees are up and at the flexed position keeping shins behind knees, glutes, and hamstrings are activated.
With this dead bug variation, we get good core control, posterior pelvic tilt, hip flexion, and hip extension.
If you do not have a yoga block, use a small foam roller.
Isometric Hip Extension w/Dead Bug Protocol
This variation strengthens the glutes, encourages leg abduction, and the dynamic forces of the lower in conjunction with the upper body to resist rotation.
Like the dynamic movements in sports, this protocol activates the anterior and posterior chain with testing one’s Tri-planar hip stability. Furthermore, posterior chain engagement is encouraged for adequate hip extension to perform explosive and dynamic movements. The colorful approach of this exercise also demands spine/abdominal control and stability with adequate hip musculature for endurance and balance, also, to learn and control the body through explosive movements.
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Single Arm Iso Hold w/ Dead Bug Protocol
Inverted rows are a great way to build the back musculature. This variation increases the demand on the core/trunk musculature challenging core and glute/hamstring strength. With this single-arm iso hold, there are specific rotational mechanisms that must be resisted.
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There will be a time when you will want to perform some different dead bug variations and what better way to hit your core and advance your training program, in addition, to increase performance than perform these variations.
Bio: Kelvin King, Jr is the owner of Creative Athletic Movements, and serves as a High School Strength and Conditioning coach and consultant. Kelvin is a highly sought after strength and conditioning expert and writer who works with athletes in the Washington, DC area.
NSCA Publications: https://www.nsca.com/education/articles/ptq/core-development-through-the-use-of-sled-training/and https://www.nsca.com/education/articles/ptq/addressing-adhd-within-a-program/