How to Do Dead Bugs: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do dead bugs to strengthen your core, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Oct 12, 2023
a-woman-doing-a-deadbug

How to Do Dead Bugs: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do dead bugs to strengthen your core, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Oct 12, 2023
a-woman-doing-a-deadbug

How to Do Dead Bugs: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do dead bugs to strengthen your core, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Oct 12, 2023
a-woman-doing-a-deadbug

How to Do Dead Bugs: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do dead bugs to strengthen your core, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Oct 12, 2023
a-woman-doing-a-deadbug
Table of Contents

This exercise may have a funny name, but dead bugs are really effective for strengthening your core — the muscles in your abs and back. They’re a nice switch-up from moves you may be more familiar with, like planks and bicycle crunches. And the more variety you can put into your routine, the better results you’ll notice over time. If you always do the same things, your body can get used to those activities and you won’t see the same progress. (Hello, plateau.) A little challenge now and then will keep your muscles and mind engaged — and help you reach your fitness and health goals.

Here, learn more about the benefits of dead bugs and how to do them. Plus, get tips on making the exercise easier or harder.

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Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

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What Are Dead Bugs?

The dead bug exercise works the muscles in your core. These muscles act like a corset of sorts, working together to keep your torso tight and stable. That’s important because your core muscles are involved in pretty much everything you do, from walking the dog, to putting away groceries, to activities like yoga, jogging, tennis — you name it. A strong core can also help prevent and improve back pain, which as many as 80% of adults in the U.S. will experience at some point in their lives. A strong core also benefits your overall balance.  

The dead bug exercise involves simultaneously lowering your opposite arm and leg toward the floor while lying on your back, which engages multiple muscle groups in your abs and back.

What Muscles Do Dead Bugs Work? 

  • Internal and external obliques. These abdominal muscles are located on the sides of your waist and help you rotate your upper body from side to side.  

  • Rectus abdominis, commonly known as the "six-pack" muscle. It’s actually just one sheet of muscle (not six) that stabilizes your core and allows you to do things like sit up in bed. 

  • Transverse abdominis. Dead bugs are particularly good at targeting this muscle, which lies deep inside your core under your rectus abdominis (in the very lower part of your abdomen) and supports your lower back and pelvis. In fact, it’s thought to be one of the most important muscles for preventing back pain, according to a 2019 study published in HSS Journal.

  • Erector spinae are muscles that run vertically along the spine and assist in back extension and stabilization.

  • Multifidus. This is a muscle deep in your back that attaches to each vertebra. It stabilizes your spine and helps your back extend when reaching, bending, or stretching. 

  • Pelvic floor muscles. Your pelvic floor muscles play a role in urination, bowel movements, sexual function, pregnancy, childbirth, and more.

Benefits of Dead Bugs

Add dead bugs into your regular strength routine and you may notice these benefits: 

  • Better balance. All movement originates from your core — so having a strong foundation there will allow you to feel more stable and surefooted in everything that you do.

  • Reduced back pain. Good core strength is associated with less back pain. It may also help prevent back-related injuries, kind of like how a strong framework protects a house from damage.

  • Healthy posture. This isn’t just about sitting up straighter. A strong core helps prevent your back and other muscles from getting tight from spending too much time in any given position.

  • Daily chores and activities feel easier — especially ones where you have to extend opposing limbs, like reaching to put something on a high shelf, vacuuming, or playing with your kids. 

Dead Bugs: Exercises and Modifications 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

Deadbug

Deadbug

Deadbug

Deadbug

To do dead bugs: 

  • Lie on your back with your arms extended toward the ceiling, and your knees bent 90 degrees, feet lifted off the floor

  • Reach one arm straight back back by your ear as you extend the opposite leg toward the floor. You can start with reaching your right arm back and extending your left leg toward the floor.

  • Your right arm and left leg shouldn’t touch the floor, but hover several inches above it.

  • Focus on keeping your back flat on the floor (don’t let it arch up) and focus on keeping your core muscles tight as you hold this position for a breath or two.  

  • Slowly return your arms and leg to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Then reach your left arm back and extend your right leg toward the floor.

Everyone is different, which is why you may need to modify this exercise to meet your needs.

Dead Bug Mods

Dead Bug Mods

Dead Bug Mods

Dead Bug Mods

To make dead bugs easier:  

  • Limit how far you lower your arm and leg. Only go as far as what’s comfortable for you while you’re still able to keep your back flat on the floor. 

To make dead bugs harder: 

  • Hold bottles of water, cans of soup, or light free weights to add a little extra weight. 

  • Start with your legs slightly extended, rather than 90 degrees. This will require more core strength, especially to keep your back flat against the floor.

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.  

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. 

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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References

  1. Gelman, R., Berg, M., & Ilan, Y. (2022). A Subject-Tailored Variability-Based Platform for Overcoming the Plateau Effect in Sports Training: A Narrative Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(3), 1722. doi.10.3390/ijerph19031722

  2. Cho, H., Kim, E., & Kim, J. (2014). Effects of the CORE Exercise Program on Pain and Active Range of Motion in Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. doi:10.1589/jpts.26.1237

  3. Kang, K.-Y. (2015). Effects of Core Muscle Stability Training on the Weight Distribution and Stability of the Elderly. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 27(10), 3163–3165. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.3163

  4. Rubin D. l. (2007). Epidemiology and Risk Factors for Spine Pain. Neurologic Clinics, 25(2):353-71. doi:10.1016/j.ncl.2007.01.004

  5. Lynders, C. (2019). The Critical Role of Development of the Transversus Abdominis in the Prevention and Treatment of Low Back Pain. HSS Journal, 15(3), 214–220. doi:10.1007/s11420-019-09717-8