This is your's truly:
While it looks like I got a set of rocking abs, I don't.
The reason is my abs (at that point) were not helping to keep me out of anterior pelvic tilt (APT).
When I get new clients that already have a six-pack, I find they’re not anymore pain-free than my new obese clients. As it concerns the spine, the six-pack guy will often have more back problems.
Often, they will have a dominant rectus abdominis and weak obliques. This was me.
And this is why you shouldn’t always be impressed by the guy with the six-pack.
One assessment I like to use for new clients who already strength train is the Bent Knee Dead Bug exercise. Since a lot of the guys who have six packs like to look good, a lot of them have dominant and tight quads. (To tell if you have tight and dominant quads, check out my last article).
The problem with the standard dead bug is that this will reinforce tight quadriceps. For those with tight quads, I prefer the bent knee dead bugs. (Don't get me wrong, the straight leg dead bug can be extremely valuable for hip and knee stability, but pelvic alignment comes first.)
Quite often, it’s impossible for the guys with the best-looking abs to do a basic variation of the bent knee dead bug properly. Either, their leg cannot go down all the way, or their back comes off the bench, or both.
Here’s the bottom line: If you want to get a real six-pack which can deflect a bullet and keep you out of anterior pelvic tilt, you need to master the dead bug.
Since there are a kabillion ways to do a dead bug, here are my top 5 ways to progress or regress dead bugs:
1. Do One Leg at a Time.
This is a great option for those are coming out of back pain, have hip instability, or have side to side strength differences. I use four progressions:
The first and easiest position is having the leg fully supported at 90 degrees:
The second progression is having the leg at 45 degrees:
The third progression is having the leg straight (or you can bend the knee):
The fourth progression is having the non-moving leg bent at 90 degrees, but unsupported.
2. Alternate the arms.
There are so many great variations to use with the arms and it should be individualized. Here are some variations I use with my clients.
·Leave the arms overhead for the whole set. This is the most challenging for the abs.
·Alternate the arms with one into full flexion and the other into full extension. This is a great option for those who have limited shoulder mobility.
·Leave the arms at 135 degrees overhead to stretch the pecs.
·Alternate one arm reach for the ceiling to activate the serratus anterior while the other moves into shoulder flexion (for mobility).
3. Use a Progressive Range of Motion
Many clients simply don’t have the ability to keep their low back flat against the bench if they perform a full range of motion dead bug.
In these cases, you definitely want to limit the range of motion and begin with something which is non-painful. One option is to begin on the floor. Only allow your moving leg to momentarily touch your heel to the floor.
Eventually, you want the ability to lower your thigh to parallel with your back still flat. This is a great way to stretch out the hip flexors and quads while getting out of APT.
In the picture on the right above, I've moved my client onto a stepper to progress his range of motion. I can continue this progression putting blocks underneath the stepper if I wanted.
If you find you cannot get your thigh parallel, you either have tight quads, don’t possess adequate oblique strength yet, or have both problems. In this case, you should use an easier variation. You may also need to stretch the quads.
4. Both Legs Going Down at the Same Time
Most people do dead bugs with alternating legs. However, having two legs go down provides a tremendous force into anterior pelvic tilt. To resist this, you need to really use your obliques and keep your back flat.
If you have someone coming out of back pain, make sure that you master the single leg versions first, followed by alternating legs, then, you can try two legs going down. When you initially try both legs going down, you should do it off of the floor first.
5. Breathe Hold
Using an inhale and exhale at the bottom is a great way for the diaphragm to help stabilize the pelvis. Plus, it’s hard as hell. If you thought doing a plank with good form for 40 seconds was easy, try holding this for 40 seconds WHILE breathing and keeping your back totally flat.
The dead bug is one of the best exercises to help you get out of APT and to get your six-pack. Learn it and dominate it!