I love giving out dead bugs to clients. It’s one of the best core exercises to teach bracing, rib positioning, breathing under tension, and doing it all in a way that doesn’t smash out the spine with a ton of shear force or compression.
However, it’s not all sunshine and puppy snuggles. Occasionally people may experience some anterior hip pain with these, or a sensation of something popping in the front of the hip as they lower a leg. There’s a few potential reasons for this, from the psoas tendon sliding back and forth over a portion of the femoral head, to the tensor fascia latae doing something similar, all the way to an anterior labral tear.
In each case, the movement of the hip through eccentric action puts stress on something in the front of the hip, and makes for an uncomfortable sensation.
In most instances, this is more of an annoyance than a specific injury or a problem. If it doesn’t hurt during the movement, it’s likely a pretty minor thing, but that doesn’t mean you want to continue hating the process while getting your dead bug on.
There are a few things you could do to reduce the possibility of this happening. First, it may come down to changing how you brace your abs, with more of an emphasis on pulling the ribs down and getting more work from the obliques to help provide some stabilization that can take some of the loading off the psoas and reduce the tension in that muscle during the eccentric movement.
Another option could be to reduce the lever arm length and instead of lowering a leg flat to the floor, you lower it with a bent knee and not right to the ground.
This also has the added bonus of not stretching the psoas as far, or creating as much of a stretch to anterior hip structures that may also contribute to the snapping hip sensation. It’s a good regression that seems to help a lot of people still focus on the benefits of the movement without the discomfort.