Dead Bug Benefits and Three Core Blasting Variations

Need to improve your core strength and stability? Try the dead bug and its variations.

There’s no need for fancy core training. You don’t need to twist yourself up into knots or hold your front planks for far too long. All core training really needs to do is to be is effective and have carry over to your big lifts.

The dead bug fits this to a T.

Here are a few of the benefits the dead bug provides,

  • Reinforces contra lateral (opposite arm/opposite leg) limb movement
  • Improves lumbopelvic stability
  • Reinforces correct breathing patterns
  • Prevents misalignment and encourages good posture

Squats, deadlift and overhead presses and their variations are better with a neutral spine, which is something the dead bug encourages. If you have trouble not feeling your core, or not knowing what your spine is doing during exercise, then this movement is for you.

Because the dead bug provides a lot of ah-ha moments when done correctly. It may look easy to someone who’s never done it, but once they try it, they know it’s the real deal. In addition to the many benefits, the standard dead bug is a great warm-up exercise and can be used for recovery and mobility purposes between sets of lifting heavy. The standard dead bug is the version you need be practicing and doing most of the time.

However, like a lot of things you do repetitively, you can get bored and need an upgrade. When you’ve nailed the standard dead bug and want to ramp it up, take a these out for a test drive.

Dead Bug Variations

1. Pullover Dead Bug

The kettlebell and dead bug is a match made in heaven, like peanut butter and jelly or bicep curls and mirrors. The offset nature of the kettlebell combined with the standard dead bug movement puts extra demand on your core, shoulders, and lats.

The pullover itself is fantastic movement for the chest and lats. However, lifters can over extend their lower back in an effort for more range of motion or extra reps. Doing this dead bug will prevent this and save your spine.

Pairing this exercise with a movement that demands core stability and a neutral spine works best.

For example

  • A1. Squat/deadlift variation
  • A2. Pullover dead bug 6- 8 reps per leg

Or seeing that you’re already down on the floor, pair it with a single arm floor press for a great upper body/core workout.

  • A1. Pullover dead bug 6-8 reps on each leg
  • A2. Single arm KB floor press

2. Weighted Dead Bug

Adding light weight plates in each hand (2.5-5 pounds) slightly increases the intensity, but the real benefit is that the resistance helps slow down the movement as the weight plate descends towards the floor.

This doubles as a good shoulder mobility exercise if you actively reach behind you because it stretches the lats and encourages upward rotation of the scapula.

This movement is perfect for your warm-up, but if you’re feeling extra ambitious, pairing this with a plank variation will give your core a double whammy.  As I always stress, you cannot get enough core work.

For example

  • A1. Weighted dead bug 6-8 reps each leg
  • A2. Plank with plate switch

3. Stability Ball Dead Bug

Using the stability ball reinforces the correct movement pattern because using the same arm/leg will cause the stability ball to drop to one side. Furthermore, actively pressing your opposite arm/leg into the ball combined with belly breathing will create extra tension that your core will benefit from.

This variation is great to use in your warm-up or could be included in a core tri-set, which is ideal to perform before your squats or deadlifts as it “wakes up” your core and glutes and gets your knee-joint ready for action.

For example.

  • A1. Stability ball deadbug 6-8 reps on each side
  • A2. Stability ball hip ext./hamstring curl 12 reps
  • A3. Stability ball rollout 8-12 reps

Wrapping up

The dead bug, and its variations, deserve a spot in your routine because of all the benefits they can provide. And don’t worry about looking weird to your fellow gun-goers. They don’t know what they’re missing.

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Feature image from Rutgers Olympic Strength and Conditioning YouTube channel. 

Shane McLean

Shane McLean

Shane McLean is a Certified Personal Trainer who’s worked with a wide variety of clients, from the general population client all the way to ex-Navy seals and college athletes.

Shane is a big believer in exercise being a gift for the body and never a punishment because exercise is fun and never just a “work” out. My training is focused on fun and simplicity.

In today’s, heavily-scheduled, electronically plugged-in world, where you stare at your smart phones, check your emails/texts and generally sit for too long, there is a real disconnect between you and your body.

This is where I can help you.I want you to have better mobility, stability, and strength, so you can move better and feel better, and I want to help you to better deal with the challenges of daily living.

When you get to the gym I want you to crush your deadlifts, squats and bench presses with a smile because getting stronger is also fun. Shane writes regularly here on a variety of health and fitness topics while guzzling copious amounts of coffee. Check out his professional website at The Balance Guy.

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