Professional Baseball Strength & Conditioning


Dead Bug Exercise
By James Gonzalez, CSCS – New York Yankees
Have you ever experienced a “lower lumbar pump” or stiffness in your low back because it became guarded and tightened up during a training session?   This uncomfortable tension is often caused by the lumbar erectors and surrounding musculature acting as a splint to protect the lumbar spine.  The dead bug is a core/torso exercise that is performed in a supine position to activate the anterior abdominal wall to enhance stability during movement.  Players can perform several variations prior to or during a training session to improve the loading and activation of the anterior core/torso.  Combating extension loads with this relatively simple exercise will help promote optimal torso fitness/health.  Not only does your core/torso need to be strong and stable, it must also have a high level of muscle endurance. The purpose of this post is to explain the proper mechanics, cue system and progressive loads for the dead bug exercise.

As with all exercises, there is not a “one size fits all” when performing the dead bug exercise. A coach who understands the variations possible with this exercise can help players perform the proper movements needed to meet specific needs and use the proper amount of progressive overload needed to develop torso stability.
Dead bug mechanics and Cue System:
1. Lie on your back with both hips and arms flexed at 90° so that both arms and legs are in the air above your torso
2. Engage your core and press your lumbar spine into the ground to achieve a neutral lumbar, thoracic and cervical spine
3. Exhale as you lower (extend) your left leg and right arm toward the floor in a slow, controlled manner, stop the movement just before your arm and leg touch the ground, hold these extended positions for 1-2 seconds before inhaling and returning to the starting position
4. Repeat the movements on the opposite side
5. This is one rep
6. Perform 2 sets of 12 reps on each side
Coaching points:
1. Perform all movements at a slow and steady pace, don’t rush
2. Exhale on extension and inhale when returning to the starting position
3. Maintain a stable core, neutral spine and keep your back flat on the floor though out each rep
4. Don’t let your hips or spine twist during the movements
5. Perform each rep in a controlled manner
6. Stop when your form begins to break down
7. When you have mastered the dead bug movements and can do 3 sets of 12 rep, progress to more advanced variations demonstrated in the following link:

James Gonzalez, RSCC*D, is a minor league strength and conditioning coach with the New York Yankees.
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