Fitness Tips

One of the Most Effective Yoga Core Moves Is Also the Easiest To Mess Up

"Focus on form" is the fitness world's version of "always wear sunscreen" in that both should be priorities in your everyday life.  It's critical to pay attention to how your body's moving in order to avoid injury and reap the full benefits of your workout, because even the most seemingly simple exercises can mess with your muscles if you aren't doing them right. One prime example? The "dead bug," the yoga-class favorite core move has the potential to work your abs to burnout or do... absolutely nothing, depending on your form.

In this episode of The Right Way, Brian Spencer of East River Pilates shows us how to do a dead bug properly. The movement involves lying on the floor with your feet and table top and your arms stretched up toward the ceiling, then alternating between extending your opposite arm and leg. It sounds pretty simple in theory, but in practice, there are three common mistakes Spencer sees all the time. Below, he breaks down how to fix them so that you won't miss out on abs-strengthening and coordination benefits of doing dead bugs in the first place.

1. Inconsistent breathing

Breathing properly is an important element in any abs workout, and with dead bugs, you'll want to make sure you're inhaling into the proper parts of your diaphragm in order to properly activate your core muscles "What we tend to do is fudge the breath work and put unnecessary activation into the quads and hip flexors," says Spencer says. Remember to inhale as you extend your limbs and exhale as you return them to start, taking deep, even breaths with each repetition.

2. Improper tabletop

Since the tabletop position serves as the central point of the move, it's important to get that right right off the bat. "We tend to bring the knees too far in automatically ripping those hip flexors and rounding that low back," says Spencer. Be sure to keep your knees directly over your hips, and engage your core to hold them in place as you move.

3. Too much range of motion

With this move, it doesn't matter how much you're moving—it matters that you're moving correctly. In other words? Don't worry about how far your arms and legs are extending out, especially if you're new to the exercise. "We want to prioritize form over range of motion," says Spencer. "It's always better to build range of motion once you've gotten those correct muscles strengthened enough to stabilize this exercise, rather than going and dumping too much work into low back, hips, or quads," he says. Your lower back shouldn't arch off of the mat, and your pubic bone and tail bone should be nice and stacked. Once you've got that down, then you can try to increase your range of motion.

See Spencer's tips in action by watching the full video, above.

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