Leg-lowering exercises have long been a common way to light the abs on fire and make them stronger. You may have seen or even done yourself the “Partner Leg Throwdowns” where one person forcefully pushes the other person’s legs toward the ground. The person on the ground must rapidly contract their abs and stop their legs from smashing into the floor.
The thing is though: we don’t really like this move.
While the abs are engaging (maybe, if you’re super strong already), what’s actually happening can make a properly-trained eye cringe. You see, most people don’t have near enough established brain-to-muscle communication to send the right signals to fire at the right time (or that quickly). What you’re left with is a low back that’s waaaaay excessively arched off the ground, flailing legs, and an exercise that’s doing more harm than good. And, unless you think low back pain or diastasis (separation) of the ab muscles is cool, we think you’ll dig exercises like the Dead Bug a whole lot more.
THE DEAD BUG (3 OPTIONS)
We progress our members through variations of an exercise called The Dead Bug. The purpose for this silly name is to imagine you’re squashing a bug to the ground with your low back. This common denominator (low back driving into ground) will be the primary way the abs fire, since it forces your brain to call on your transverse abdominis muscle – aka your natural brace. And FYI, the stronger your natural brace is, the more taut and flat your tummy. Bonus! So, as you lie on the ground, tilt your pelvis back slightly (posterior pelvic tilt) as if you’re bringing your belt buckle to your belly button. Doing so will get you in the correct posture for working your abs. This is also the same move we do standing up, demonstrated here.
In the first picture below, you’ll see me using a small ball between my same-side elbow and knee. As I produce force into the ball to keep it in place, my core is on FIIIIIRE. The forced core engagement is made possible because I’ve tilted my hips/pelvis back, my low back is driving into the ground and my abs are braced tight (not pushed out or sucked in, but braced in all directions).
In the next picture, I’m demonstrating another option for good core work: I’ve left one foot flat on the ground and am extending one knee in and then back out. I’ll then put that foot on the ground and switch, bringing the other leg out. My abs are engaged, I’m keeping my pelvis rolled back, and I’m driving my low back into the ground the whole time. Squash that bug! lol
In this last picture, I’m doing the same ‘bicycle’ motion with my legs, but both feet remain off the ground for an even greater challenge. My focus is still making sure my low back is touching the ground and my pelvis is tilted back as not to lift my spine into an arch. If you put your hand on my stomach, you’d feel my abs working hard, doing their job of bracing and stabilizing.
This, my friends, may look like a ‘dumbed down’ exercise as compared to something like Partner Leg Throwdowns but I assure you, it is for any fitness level as flatter tummies + stronger mid-sections + low backs relieved of pain result when this is done right. Don’t be afraid to:
- remember the intent of an exercise (in this case, make your core strong)
- bypass the glitzy moves
- slow an exercise down and
- choose ones that will safely give you a BIG bang for your exercise buck
The Dead Bug is where it’s at and, as always, we’d be happy to help create and coach you through a program where these types of exercises are modified and progressed exactly as you need them. Just fill out this form here to get in touch with us and we’ll help you take the next step.
Jess + Team Valeo
Happy birth-month to these three Valeo beaties. Strong, adventurous, determined, dedicated, and powerful. Yup, we think you’re awesome, Rachael, Kiersten, and Alyssa, and hope you have a fantastic year ahead!
From the weight room to their wedding….we were so excited to celebrate with Valeo members, Kim and Nate, this past weekend. Your special day was so beautiful and fun, guys!