Exercise Spotlight – The Deadbug

By Paul Oneid

You may have seen the deadbug performed many times, or you may not have ever heard of it. Most people will see it and think, “Oh that’s too easy” and glance over it to a fancier midsection strengthening movement. The truth is, when done properly, the Deadbug is a powerhouse for anti-extension and anti-rotational midsection strength, as well as being a great way to cue proximal stability and distal mobility – the ability to move the limbs independent of spinal movement.

How is it performed?

The lifter lays on their back with the knees and hips bent at 90 degrees and the arms straight and extended towards the ceiling. It is the same position as the Birddog, except the lifter is supine. From this position, the lifter will take a diaphragmatic breath, engage the core musculature and form a strong connection from ribs to pelvis. The lower back should be pressed into the floor.  This is the start position.

To begin a repetition, the lifter will reach one arm overhead and the opposite leg towards the floor. The end range of the movement is the position in which the lifter does not feel they can maintain the ribs to pelvis connection. For a beginner, the limbs may be quite far from the floor, but as the strength improves, the goal will be for the limbs to touch, or hover above the floor. When this position is reached, the lifter will return the limbs to the start position. Any breathing and resetting of the midsection takes place in the start position. The lifter must remain braced during the repetition.

How would you implement it?

The Deadbug is typically done at the tail end of a training session, or non-training day due to the relative intensity of the movement – it’s HARD! If you are serious about your performance, you should be training your core musculature on all training days AT LEAST. This does not mean that you do your McGill Big 3 in a half-assed manner in the warm-up and go home. It means that you perform one movement to target the midsection each day. Try to rotate emphasis and alter the loading from static to dynamic to train the core through a variety of planes and stimuli.

In some cases, the Deadbug can be done as part of the warm-up protocol. If a lifter has issues with hip flexor mobility, the Deadbug’s cueing of proximal stability while going through hip extension and flexion can open a great deal of range of motion in the area. In this instance, it should be done at a low volume, perhaps 1 set of 10reps per side is sufficient to get the desired effect.


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Unilaterally Loaded

Dynamic Loaded

Wall Resisted

Band resisted

Deadbug Row

Anti-Rotational Emphasis


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Paul Oneid

Paul is an elite level raw Powerlifter with personal bests of an 805lbs squat, 440lbs bench, 725lbs deadlift and a 1960lbs total in the 242lbs class, as well as an 800lbs squat, 430lbs bench, 700lbs deadlift and 1930lbs total in the 220lbs class. Paul brings a deep educational background to the team as he has earned Master’s degrees in both Sports Management and Exercise Science. He is a former D1 Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach, who now works as a Functional Rehabilitation Specialist in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Paul provides coaching services in the areas of training and nutrition through his company Master Athletic Performance and is also the co-founder of a technology company, 1-Life Inc. Stay tuned for more information on that in the future!
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