Men Over 40 Can Use This Move to Build Core Strength Without Back Pain

Photo credit: FXQuadro - Getty Images
Trainer, writer, and fitness model, Kirk Charles, NASM-CPT CES, knows that life can get more complicated as you age. That shouldn't stop you from being at the top of your game, however. It helps answer the tough training questions that come with age so that you too can live to be over 40.
About five years ago I took a Pilates class to mix up my typical routine of lifting weights and doing plyos. I needed something light - so why not hang out with the ladies in class and have fun? Every time I peered into the class it looked like they were always lying on the floor and not moving too much.
But I was surprised by my actual experience of trying Pilates. The day after class, I had a lot more pain than expected, especially in my stomach and groin area. One step we took in class that set my core on fire was the dead bug. This is one of many exercises that looks easy, but if done correctly you will feel it. However, it's a safe core exercise that involves your abs, obliques, and spinal extensors. It can also be a great core option for people with lower back pain.
To stand up, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. The most important part of the dead bug is keeping your core occupied. To do this, contract your abs and then drive your lower back into the floor. Next, lift your feet off the floor so your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Your hips should be perpendicular to the floor and your shins parallel to the floor. Lastly, raise your arms so that they are pointing straight towards the ceiling.
From this starting position - called the table position in my Pilates class - slowly extend your right leg forward until your leg is straight. Keep your foot about two inches off the floor, then bring your leg back to the starting position. At the same time, lower your left arm above your head until your hand is about two inches off the floor. Hold this position for a short stroke, then return to the starting point. Repeat the same movements with your left leg and right arm and that is one repetition. This is the most basic movement for dead bugs.
Photo credit: Men's Health
Pay attention to your back positioning when extending your legs and arms. Your spine shouldn't move at all. If your lower back arches up during the extensions, you are probably stretching your leg and arm too far. In this case, shorten the extensions or just straighten your legs while keeping your arms straight up.
As you will see, the dead bug is a great way to work your core, and it's best to master it before moving on to more advanced exercises like the hollow handle. One variation that can make it more interesting and challenging is holding light dumbbells in each hand and / or adding ankle weights.
The important thing is that you slowly go through the dead beetle's movements. The faster you do the reps, the less effective it is. Time under tension is key to this exercise. I recommend four sets of five repetitions each to start slowly and deliberately.
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