Core Progression

Dead bug mastery

One of the main things I get asked as a personal trainer and a dance teacher/ lecturer is how to improve core strength…or if not that…how do I get abs.

Well it’s a good question, “core” is almost a buzz word now on social media and fitness plans but then people still fall back into the old habit of endless sit ups and crunches. I have gone into a little more depth on what “the core” is actually made up of in the post “No crunch core exercises” you can find here.

One exercise I give to most people who are aiming to strengthen their core muscles is the dead bug…however this isn’t the easiest move and it can be very easy to not get the right technique in which case you may not feel any benefit at all.

So for clients who are not yet strong enough in their core muscles to perform full dead bugs I work progressively through the exercises I will detail below (I have also used this on post-partum clients- after 6 months recovery and being cleared for exercise as it helps to slowly and carefully regain strength in the core, you may want the supervision of a trainer.)

Toe taps

1. Lie down on the floor and bring the knees and the feet up so there is a 90-degree angle at both the hips and the knees- like making a tabletop with your shins. Now pop your fingers under the natural arch in your back resting your arms on the floor, this is for tactile feedback, so as you are performing this exercise think about squeezing your fingertips with your back.

2. From here, keeping the bend in the knee, move one foot down towards to floor and tap the toe on the ground…. not putting any weight onto this toe, there s no rest at this point. Return to the first position and repeat with the other leg.

Lying single leg extensions

1. Same as Toe taps

2. From here instead of keeping the knee bent, extend one leg while lowering until it is straight and parallel to the floor (DO NOT LET YOUR LEG REST ON THE FLOOR!).  The return to start position and repeat with the other leg. Still remembering to keep squeezing on your fingers…and breathing!

Lying single leg extensions with raised arms

1. Same as Toe taps and Lying single leg extensions EXCEPT the hands are now no longer underneath your back, by this point you should be able to get the feeling of engaging the core without the feedback. Instead you are going to keep your arms straight in front of you (or above you, depending on how you look at it).

2. From here, perform step two the same as the Lying single leg extensions. However, you are now engaging the core without hands underneath you.

Dead bugs

1. Same as Lying single leg extensions with raised arms.

2. From here you will be extending one leg while lowering until parallel to the floor and at the same time raising the opposite arm until parallel to the floor above you (or behind you, depending on how you look at it). This gives an extra little bit of extra weight to resist letting go of those core muscles.

Start by aiming for 10 reps of each stage of the progression for three sets. Once this doesn’t feel as challenging, move up to the next stage. When performing dead bugs, start by aiming for 10 then add 2 reps every session until you get to 16.

Dead bugs are one of those exercises that is good for every level to do, even the more advanced. Everyone should go back to basic every now and again to check up on technique and remind themselves how it feels to really engage those core muscles.

Enjoy xx

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