Dead Bug

How To Do A Dead Bug
By Alli McKeeFebruary 18, 2016

Dead Bug Exercise

The dead bug is a great exercise for strengthening the musculature of the anterior core. The dead bug core exercise has many different variations that range in difficulty.

Equipment needed:

You do not need any equipment to do this bodyweight exercise. If you are performing more advanced variations, you might use a resistance band, a dumbbell(s), or a kettlebell(s).

Ability level:


The dead bug exercise is a great option for beginners who are looking to improve their core stability. Beginners might perform 1-3 sets of 5-10 reps/side of the dead bug. Once beginners can perform 10 reps/side with good form, they can move on to more advanced variations of the dead bug.


Intermediate lifters who have mastered the dead bug can progress to more advanced variations of this exercise. Some variations might include the dead bug with band resistance, or the dead bug with single or double kettlebell resistance. Women of an intermediate fitness level can do the dead bug as part of their warm-up, can perform it between sets of upper body exercises (I do not like to perform this or any other core stability exercise with heavy compound lower body exercises as I want the core to be fresh for these exercises). The dead bug can also be used in a conditioning circuit as a way to increase overall core stability work. This exercise can also be used in workouts that are done in de-load weeks, or during recovery workouts.


Advanced lifters can use the dead bug in their workout program the same ways as intermediate lifters.
They can also perform the same dead bug variations that I described for intermediate lifters, but with more resistance.

Benefits of Dead Bugs:

There are many benefits of the dead bug. How a woman chooses to use a dead bug is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, her reason for using the exercise, the set/rep scheme used, where it falls in the workout, what it’s paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general dead bugs can be used to do any or all of the following:

  • increasing core strength, particularly the anterior core
  • evening out asymmetries and imbalances between the left and right sides
  • preventing injuries, particularly any that result from a weak anterior core and the subsequent pelvic and spinal stability
  • warming the body up before performing more advanced exercise variations, or as part of a general warm-up
  • conditioning (if used as part of conditioning circuits)
  • convenient as it requires no equipment and can be performed anywhere, any time

How to perform a Dead Bug:

  • Lie on the floor.
  • Lift up your legs, straighten your knees, and point your feet towards your face. The more extended the knees are, the more advanced the exercise will be.
  • Lift up both of your arms so they are straight up and over your chest.
  • Take a deep breath into your belly through your nose (360 degrees of air around the spine), then forcefully exhale, actively tuck your rib cage towards your hips (close the space in your midsection), contract the muscles around your trunk (including lats), and slowly drop one leg towards the floor (move by extending your hip, not your knee) and simultaneously lower the opposite arm backwards and towards the floor.
  • Bring the leg and arm back to the starting position, and repeat with the opposite leg and arm.
  • Reset between each rep.
  • The whole purpose of this exercise is for you to maintain the rib tuck and muscular tension in your anterior core the entire time.
  • You should only feel your anterior core, and your lower back should not arch. In virtually all instances, if you think the exercise is too easy, you are not performing it correctly.
  • Please refer to the dead bug exercise video.

Video Transcription: 

The dead bug when performed correctly is an extremely challenging exercise but the problem is it looks really easy. You have to make sure that you are doing everything exactly right. There are several variations of dead bug, but this is the one I am going to show you today. I am going to start out on my back.  I like to have something to support my head so that my neck is nice and neutral. You are going to lie on your back with your arms up in the air and your legs up in the air. Now when you put your legs up in the air, it is truly critical that your hips and that your knees are bent at 90 degrees. If your knees are closer to you body than that, it is going to make this exercise easier. Your hips are 90 degrees, your knees are at 90 degrees, your arms are up in the air, and this is the most important part: your lower back is pressed into the ground. You don't want your back to be in this position, that defeats the purpose of the exercise. Your rib cage is going to be towards your pelvis and your back is going to be pressed into the ground the whole time.

Now the first level of a dead bug is to just lie here and breathe, big, deep, belly breaths. Even just trying to maintain this position I am shaking a little bit because it is so hard for me to keep my ribs and pelvis connected. If you do this and you are able to maintain the pressure of your lower back on the ground, then you can progress.

At that point you are going to start by simply moving your arms while you breathe. I am moving my arm back on the inhale and up on the exhale. If that is too easy you can try moving your legs. This entire time you are trying to maintain the pressure of your lower back on the ground. And if that's too easy you can integrate your arms and legs or you can do same side. Again, the purpose of this exercise is to keep your lower back pressed into the ground and your rib cage and pelvis connected the entire time. Moving the arms and legs simply challenges the ability to keep your rib cage and pelvis connected and your abs contracted and your lower back pressed into the ground. So give dead bugs and try and let me know what you think.


Want to learn more about the women’s health and fitness issues you care most about?

Get Access to Our Free 5-Day Courses

Find the most up-to-date and helpful resources for tackling body image struggles, pre- & postnatal training issues, and everything in between.

Whether you’re a health and fitness professional looking to level up your knowledge or a woman wanting to feel stronger, fitter, and more confident, get the advice you can trust from the experts at Girls Gone Strong.

About the author:  Alli McKee

Alli is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She's contributed to and modeled for a number of major publications including Oxygen magazine and the New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged. You can find out more about Alli on her personal blog at

More Resources

envelope-oclosechevron-upchevron-downbookmark-otwitterfacebookchainbars linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram