How To Do The Dead Bug Exercise

If you’ve ever seen a beetle desperately trying to right itself after ending up on its back, you’ll have some idea of the challenge of the dead bug exercise. Those insects with a strong core survive; those who’ve skipped one too many workouts are food for the crows.

It’s fitting, then, that the dead bug is a great way to strengthen your abs and core, and we’ve had it recommended to us as an exercise to make you both a faster runner and a less injury-prone cyclist. It’s an excellent move for beginners too because it doesn’t put excess strain on your lower back, which can be a concern with sit-ups and many other common abs exercises.

How To Do It

Lie flat on your back with your arms extended towards the ceiling. Then lift your legs and bend your knees at 90° so your lower legs are parallel with the floor. Engage your core and draw your bellybutton in to get your back as flat against the floor as possible – you shouldn’t be able to get a hand in between your back and the floor, and you need to maintain this throughout.

Slowly lower your right arm behind your head and extend your left leg forwards at the same time, exhaling as you go. Keep going until your arm and leg are just above the floor, being careful not to raise your back off the floor. Then, as you inhale, slowly return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite limbs.

The dead bug might seem quite easy for the first couple of reps, but if you keep your core engaged, move slowly and avoid raising your back off the ground, you’ll be surprised how hard it is. Aim for three sets of five to 10 reps on each side, or just keep going until the shaking in your abs gets too much.

Dead Bug Variations

It’s very easy to vary the dead bug according to your level of fitness – you simply lower a different amount of limbs. Ranging from easiest to hardest: one arm, both arms, one leg, one arm and one leg (the classic dead bug), two legs, both your arms and legs. If you’re unable to complete any of the exercises without arching your back, it’s a good indication that you might need to take a step back.