Dead Bug

Crunches are stupid, here's a better exercise to try!

September 27, 2017

What’s up and welcome back to Down with the Fitness!

This blog is my personal quest to help as many Rockaholics as possible take control of their life by taking control of their fitness.

If this is your first time reading, you can get caught up to speed here

To me, fitness is the best first step towards the life you’ve always wanted…

Even if you didn’t want to be a pro athlete or an astronaut or a race car driver growing up- all of which require incredibly high fitness levels, you probably wanted to at least have the freedom to get through your day without your body holding you back.

Maybe you didn’t even THINK about that freedom when you were a kid because you took it for granted!

Sadly, a lot of people struggle with basic everyday activities like walking up stairs because they’re so out of shape. Let alone other awesome and more strenuous ones like hiking or playing volleyball on a nice summer day.

I’m not here to pretend I can fathom what that would be like, I’m here to help people get that freedom back! In addition to being the Overnight Sensation here at KISW, I’m also a personal trainer. Showing you how to do kickass bodyweight exercises is the easy part. The harder and more rewarding part is convincing you that:

  1. Exercise not a chore, or a punishment for your current physical condition, but rather a GIFT! First off, life itself is a gift. I feel this gets lost on a lot of people in today’s crazy world. Secondly, the ability to move is a gift. I really started appreciating this more when my grandma got diagnosed with a disease that put her in a wheelchair far too early. The really cool part about exercising is that you get to play around with one gift (movement), while prolonging and improving the quality of the greatest gift of all (life).
  2. You are worthy of this gift. Use it! Enjoy it!
  3. When you approach exercise this way, you’ll have a lot easier time exercising consistently. When you exercise consistently, you get serious results!

As a trainer, I never know exactly what is going to push someone over the invisible tipping point of actually appreciating exercise and deciding to enjoy the process. These blogs always start with motivational ramblings in hopes that one of them resonates with you and pushes you past that tipping point.

Really, my energy might be better spent just on this motivational stuff. I was telling my buddy who is WAYYY more jacked than me, about this blog. I mentioned how I already covered the squat, plank, and push up, and he was like, “if people just did those 3 regularly, that’s all they’d really need!” It’s true. The key word is regularly.

The exercises are just tools. Those are 3 of the MOST effective tools out there for getting stronger, but YOU still have to actually open up the toolbox and put them to use if you want anything to get done. Sharing the tools is easy. Getting someone to open up the toolbox is… a dicey proposition.

Getting YOU to open the toolbox is this blog’s purpose, so here we go:

I promise you if you exercise 15 minutes a day for the next 3 months, you will be considerably stronger and feel considerably better physically and emotionally.

If you don’t believe me, PLEASE try to prove me wrong!

(That’s a jedi-mind trick right there... Literally the only way to prove me wrong is to do 15 minutes of exercise a day for the next 3 months. If you do that, you’ll see I’m right!)

Alright well since you’re still reading, I assume you’re gonna try out this whole regular exercise thing and hopefully realize it’s actually awesome… So I should probably give you a new exercise to practice. It’s my favorite core exercise: The Dead Bug!

This exercise is not as popular as crunches, but it should be. I cannot stand crunches!! They only hit your abs, and cause low back pain for a lot of people. Dead bugs meanwhile, engage and strengthen your ENTIRE core; from your abs all the way down to the muscles you’ve never heard of that surround and protect your spine, which actually helps to REDUCE low back pain!

Look, I could write a whole expose trashing crunches. They’re the single most over-rated exercise in my opinion. I’ve helped many clients achieve visible 6-packs without them doing a single crunch. Dead bugs rule. (All that said, if crunches don’t bother your low back and you genuinely enjoy them, go for it. It’s better than nothing and any exercise you enjoy is a step in the right direction!)

This is an article about an AWESOME core exercise though, so let’s focus on the dead bug!

These are simple (brace, breathe, move), but if you do them right even one rep alone will not be considered easy. To get the most out of them, you need to be patient in the learning process. Really focus on your form and feel the muscles working. Notice how slow I go in the video. That is intentional.

This blog post has been over a month in the making because I wanted to do one of my favorite exercises justice. You deserve to know how to get the most out of this exercise. I FINALLY condensed it down as concisely as I could (...says the guy who is over 900 words in and hasn’t even gotten to the exercise!), but take your time going through it, just like I took my time putting it together. In the video I say it’s about quality over quantity but really I’d go a step further and say it’s about MASTERY.

3 Focus Points:

·       BRACE  Start on your back with your knees directly above your hips, and “engage” or “brace” (fancy words you’ll hear that just mean “flex”) your core... In this position, you can simply flatten your low back into the ground. For the plank, I said to imagine holding in a fart to get the same effect... You can also imagine squeezing out a fart. If you toy around with all 3 of these you should feel the muscles in your core working to keep your midsection stable and rock-solid. Just get a feel for engaging those muscles first. Turn them on and off a few times. Now buckle up cuz from here on out, you’re gonna be holding them in the “on” position at a relatively high intensity...

·      BREATHE   While holding that position, take a BIG breath deep down into your belly. Try to keep your chest from inflating. Keep sending that air down til you feel even more pressure in your midsection. Hold it for a second, and then forcefully exhale like you’re blowing up a balloon. If I were standing a few feet away from you, I should be able to hear your inhales and exhales. Again, there should be no low back movement whatsoever during this. Do them right!  It’s a bitch to learn sometimes (particularly on the exhale), but it’s important enough that it’s worth your time to figure it out early. Once again, really get a feel for this before moving on. It’s okay to spend a couple DAYS mastering this part before moving on. Even once you’ve mastered it, I always do 5-10 breaths by themselves before beginning the next step:

·       MOVE   Add movement to the breathing you just practiced. Big inhale at the top position, then as you exhale slowly bring your foot down, lightly tapping your heel on the ground. Back to the top, big inhale; back down with the exhale on the other leg. (All that without letting your low back shift!!) That’s one rep.

Pace: SLOW! Each leg movement should have its own breath. Inhale at the top, lower your leg for the duration of the exhale. Each breath should be as deep and forceful as you can make it.

To Make Them Easier: Just focus on the breathing. One breath SHOULD be difficult.  If it’s not, focus on engaging your core at a higher intensity, and/or breathe more powerfully.

To Make Them Harder: Straighten your leg as you bring it down. Do not advance to this part if you haven’t mastered making 5 reps hard AF the way I explained them above.

Programming Suggestions: 3 sets of 5 is a great number to aim for. If that feels too easy, focus on engaging your core at a higher intensity, and/or breathe more powerfully. 

Recommended Listening: Lionheart “Love Don’t Live Here”

Right off the bat you hear about Rule 2, which is “stay relentless in all that you do”, which is a good workout motto, particularly for a humbling exercise like the dead bug that takes some patience to master. You’ll also notice their singer Rob is JACKED!

You may think either of those are good reasons why I picked this song but really I just can't get enough of that main riff. It CRUSHES! I got really into this band recently when I posted on my Facebook how much I love Hatebreed and a dude named Jon told me to check them out. Thanks Jon!

Next Up: ITYWs

If you've got any questions/comments/success stories/struggles, feel free to come join the private Down With The Fitness Facebook Group

Take Great Care!

-Matt Koch