Nothing hurts as good as a great ab workout, unless that workout is the wrong workout and that burn you’re feeling isn’t just your core muscles building themselves back into a six-pack. You know the feeling—it’s in your back.
You might know to avoid situps without proper form, which can cause back pain. But if you’re stuck on what to try next, we’ve got an idea: lying on your back like a dead cockroach, Kafka style. The move is called the deadbug, and it’s one you should be adding to your repertoire of safe and pain-free ab routines.
Men’s Health fitness advisor and superhero trainer Don Saladino recently showcased the exercise on Instagram. “The deadbug is a safe yet intense way to train your abdominals and core while establishing great movement throughout the body,” Saladino writes on the Instagram post.
Here’s how to safely pull off the deadbug, from Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.:
- Start with a strong lower back position. That means contracting your abs so that you can drive your lower back into the ground. You can use a mat like Saladino to reduce any additional stress. The goal is to eliminate any space between your back and any ground surface. Not even a pencil should fit between.
- Now, focusing on holding this position, extend one leg and the opposite arm. Extend only so far as you’re able to without losing that back-to-the-ground position. Don’t worry if you can’t go as far as Saladino; the move will get easier the more you perform it. What’s important is that you fight to maintain the lower back position, as this will be the mechanism that really works your abs. This will also test your shoulder mobility. If you begin arching your back, you may be overextending your shoulders. Keep fighting to keep your lower back grounded.
Ebenezer Samuel cautions that maintaining the form is paramount. “Deadbug only effectively works your abs if you execute it correctly—and it’s very easy to nail in the move and wonder why it’s not working.” Be sure to focus on the cues above, so your time spent working like a bug isn’t time wasted.
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Ready to add the move to your repertoire? Saladino suggests doing 3 sets of 10 reps of the deadbug twice a week, as a warmup or as a punctuation to your workouts.
Want even more moves from Saladino? Check out his Men’s Health Superhero Shred training program, which can help you to build a body worthy of a powered-up hero.