One Exercise that My clients are Loving Lately for the “Abs”

Sometimes the simplest exercises are extremely challenging!  This is one of the reasons I like this Dead Bug BATTLE!!

I started using this exercise recently because i noticed that many of my clients didn’t understand the term “creating tension” or engaging their entire core unit- AKA abs, obliques, back, lats, glutes etc.

The purpose of creating tension in those muscle groups is to primarily act as the base for stability in order to perform other exercises.  For example when our entire core (entire torso unit) is stable and engaged we can then perform other exercises with it such as squat, run, overhead press etc in proper form and without injury.

For a long time I enjoyed prescribing the dead bug exercise.

dead bug

Whoops wrong photo…

dead bug exercise

Here is the Dead bug exercise.  But what I found is that clients would pump out 20 reps, but the whole time their breathing would be out of sequence, I would see their back shifting or pelvis moving, and I soon realized that with my verbal cueing I sometimes wasn’t “getting there” in terms of describing to clients how to create tension in the entire core unit.

If you are legitimately engaging all of your core muscles (which are pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae, and the diaphraghm (as well as the lats, glutes, and traps on a minor scale) then you shouldn’t be able to pump out 20 dead bug reps very easily.  I have an incredibly strong core and after 20 reps I can “feel the burn” of those muscles working hard, because I am able to activate them.

***  You will notice that diaphragm is written in as a core muscle.  This is imperative!  Your diaphragm is the musculature that expands and contracts as you breathe.  If you aren’t coordinating a full breath with your core (or any exercise for that matter) you are losing the connection with one of your main core muscles!!

You’ve got to breathe and you’ve got to breathe right to work your core. 

Back to my original point,

I found another ‘dead bug’ option that FORCES people to activate most of those muscles I am trying to have them work on the arm/leg lowering option.

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In this option you find your neutral spine on the floor, and have a “BATTLE” with your arms pushing against the ball, and your knees pushing back.  You need to be able to breathe properly while doing this, and engage your abdominals, without having your lower back muscles take over.  Although the back muscles are involved I generally go with the rule of thumb that if a client is feeling their lower back they probably aren’t staying tight through the front body.  If you start to really feel your lower back, stop the exercise, find your form again, retighten your abs, and don’t forget to breathe!

Hold this exercise for 20 seconds to start, and you can work your way up over time.  

Once you start getting really good at it you can have a friend tap the sides, front, top and bottom of the ball to try to knock it away from you.  You will quickly notice if there are any ‘weak spots’ of disengaged muscles!

You can also move up to the next level- start to drop one arm and one leg down at a time, while pushing the other opposites into the ball.  Remember your lower back should be neutral and not pushing down into the mat!

So give it a try- let me know how it goes 🙂


PS-  Next time you have a friend ask you for an ab exercise, send them this one!  So many people want flat abs and they attack sit ups, crunches, ‘flexion’ activities like mad.  Honestly, the only thing an untrained person is going to get from these exercises is a sore back!  Flexion exercises (sit ups) are good to train if you are a person who can’t perform a fundamental movement like rolling up out of bed or off the floor (this is a movement we need to do in real life), but other than that purpose we don’t need to train with these potentially damaging exercises like sit ups.  There are so many more functional, purposeful, CHALLENGING exercises that will work your ABS!   Oh an ps- don’t forget nutrition, strength training, cardio, sleep, and stress reduction in your hunt for evident abs!

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