And not just deadbugs, but core isometrics in general - planks, hollows, etc.
I've been in the industry now for 15 years professionally, and I've seen plenty of trends come and go, but "core" has been going strong for a long time now and core isometrics remain hugely popular. But are they overhyped?
Generally, the way I see most trainers and coaches prescribe these exercises is sort of to randomly throw them in because they're challenging. And they are! Unfortunately, "because it's hard" or "because it works your core" are not good reasons to prescribe these exercises. Lots things are hard, and lots of things "work your core."
The real "core" of any effective strength and conditioning program needs to be heavy compound lifts with progressive load. Period. Any trainer or coach who isn't prioritizing strength development is wasting your time and money. If you're three months in and still doing light loads, single-joint movements, and core isometrics, it might be time to reevaluate your coach.
So why use exercises like deadbugs? Core isometrics are great for:
- Regression for athletes of all skill levels who have difficulty with proper bracing during heavy loads. Developing proprioception of proper bracing with isometrics can help an athlete exert more control under load.
- Clients who have a lot of exercise-related anxiety. Working on isometrics and other movements without an external load can be an invaluable stepping stone to help a client develop the confidence to start doing heavier resistance training.
- Working around injuries. Because these exercises have no external load and are generally performed isometrically or with very slow movement, risk of injury is negligible.
What we *don't* want to do is facilitate an over-reliance on these types of exercises. Research is unequivocal in that loaded compound exercises work your "core" as hard or harder than unloaded isometrics:
Good overview of research here:
"What we see here is muscle activity during compound movement exercises (Squats, Deadlifts, Push Ups, kettlebell swings) that is comparable to or exceeds that which occurs during many basic core exercises. This means you can be evidence based and train the primary drivers of locomotion while still covering your bases and address all the muscles of the trunk."
In other words, while it's totally fine to use exercises like deadbugs and planks, like all exercises they should be used contextually and strategically. And particularly over the long term, they absolutely should not be, ahem, the core of your exercise program. Grab some weight and start getting strong.