Do you know the bird dog? While, at first glance, this bodyweight exercise may not seem very challenging, its magic is definitely in the quality of the execution!
Want to know why and how you should add this exercise to your own repertoire? Read on!
What Are the Benefits of the Bird Dog?
The bird dog’s benefits are numerous, and the exercise can be used to do any or all of the following, depending how it’s used in the workout (more on that later):
- Warm up the body before performing more advanced exercise variations, or as part of a general warm-up.
- Increase core strength, including the anterior core, the posterior core and the glutes.
- Even out asymmetries and imbalances between the left and right sides.
- Reduce the risk of injuries, particularly any that may result from a weak anterior core and the subsequent pelvic and spinal stability issues that may follow.
One of the best things about the bird dog is that it can essentially be performed anywhere, as it requires no equipment, and minimal space.
Who Can Perform Bird Dogs?
The bird dog is accessible to all, from absolute beginners to advanced exercisers. Beginners who struggle with balance and core stability can begin by performing only the arms or the legs component of the exercise, or by keeping their arms and legs lower to the ground to start. Once you can perform 10 reps of the exercise with good form, you can move on to more challenging versions of the exercise.
Intermediate and advanced exercisers can challenge themselves by holding the position longer and integrating dynamic breathing, or adding resistance to the exercise with bands. See the video below for a description of the dynamic bird dog, which is another more challenging variation.
Where Should You Use the Bird Dog in Your Workout?
Bird dogs can be used several ways in a workout, including:
- During the warm-up, to prepare the body for your training session.
- In between more challenging resistance training exercises, as a form of active rest.
- As part of a conditioning circuit.
No matter where and how you choose to use the bird dog, remember that proper technique is paramount to get all the benefits of this exercise.
What’s the Proper Technique?
As mentioned above, to get the most out of the bird dog, strengthen your core and challenge your stability, you want to pay close attention to how you execute the exercise.
When you are performing this exercise, it is imperative that your spine remains in neutral alignment, and that your hips and spine do not twist. The whole point of this core stability exercise is to train your body to resist extension and rotation.
If you are doing this exercise properly, you should be able to balance a dowel on your back and not have it fall off.
Set Yourself Up
- Get into a quadruped position (i.e., on your hands and knees).
- Set yourself up so your hands are directly under your shoulders (you may want to look at yourself in a mirror to double-check your form, as many people tend to automatically place their hands higher, below their face instead of their shoulders).
- Make sure that your knees are directly under your hips, and that your spine is in a neutral position.
- Before you go, forcefully exhale, actively tuck your rib cage towards your hips (you can pretend that you are doing a crunch).
- Slowly, simultaneously extend your arm and opposite leg until they are straight and off the floor.
- Make sure that you lead with your heel, and don’t lift your arm or leg past parallel to the floor as this will cause your lower back to arch.
- Make sure that you don’t shrug your shoulder, and that you keep your neck neutral throughout the exercise.
- Slowly return to the starting position.
- Reset and repeat with the opposite arm and opposite leg.
- Remember that the goal of the exercise isn’t speed, but control!
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