How To Do A Birddog
By Alli McKeeFebruary 29, 2016

Bird Dog Exercise

What is a bird dog? This question is frequently asked by many. A bird dog is a great exercise for strengthening the musculature of the anterior core, and to a smaller extent, the muscles of the posterior core and glutes. The bird dog exercise is a perfect option if you are a beginner and need to gain the necessary levels of core stability before you move on to more advanced core exercises (both stability and mobility), full body compound exercises, and even conditioning exercises.

Equipment needed:

You do not need any equipment to do this bodyweight exercise.

Ability level:


The bird dog is a great option for beginners who are looking to improve their core stability. Beginners might perform 1-3 sets of 5-10 reps/side of the bird dog. Once beginners can perform 10 reps/side with good form, they can move on to more advanced variations of the bird dog.


Intermediate lifters who have mastered the bird dog can progress to the dynamic bird dog from the Functional Movement Screen where you touch your elbow to your knee, and then return to the starting position. This involves a slightly greater range of motion and also involves a slight amount of spinal flexion, which is totally ok. You can also perform a bird dog variation where you hold your body in a static position after you have extended your arm and leg, and do several diaphragmatic breaths. This combines proper breathing while challenging your stability. Women of an intermediate fitness level can do the bird-dog as part of their warm-up, can perform it between sets of upper or lower body exercises, or can put it in their conditioning circuit as a way to increase their overall core stability work. This exercise can also be used in workouts that are done in de-load weeks, or during recovery workouts.


Advanced lifters can use the bird dog in their workout program the same ways as intermediate lifters. They can also perform a more advanced variation of the bird dog where they add a weight plate to their back and perform the regular bird dog or the bird dog plus the breathing. This extra weight will make the exercise even more challenging. Another advanced variation is to attach a resistance band under the bottom of your one foot and hold onto the band in the opposite hand, and perform the regular bird dog or the bird dog plus the breathing. The additional band resistance will challenge your core stability to a much greater degree. You can even challenge your core by doing a bird dog workout and performing all of the options that I described above in a single workout.

Benefits of Bird Dogs:

There are many benefits of the bird dog. How a woman chooses to use a bird dog is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, her reason for using the exercise, the set/rep scheme used, where it falls in the workout, what it’s paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general bird dogs can be used to do any or all of the following:

  • increasing core strength, particularly the anterior core
  • increasing the strength of the posterior core and glutes
  • evening out asymmetries and imbalances between the left and right sides
  • preventing injuries, particularly any that result from a weak anterior core and the subsequent pelvic and spinal stability
  • warming the body up before performing more advanced exercise variations, or as part of a general warm-up
  • conditioning (if used as part of conditioning circuits)
  • convenient as it requires no equipment and can be performed anywhere, any time

How to perform a Bird Dog:

  • Get into a quadruped position. Set yourself up so your hands are directly under your shoulders, your knees are directly under your hips, and make sure 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), and extend your arm and opposite leg.
  • 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.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Reset and repeat with the opposite arm and opposite leg.
  • 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.

Video Transcription: 

This is a birddog. A birddog is often used in a warm-up, but this can be actually be a challenging core stability exercise for people depending on your level. Sometimes I throw it in conditioning circuits, just as a little extra core stability work.

You going to be in the quadruped position with hands under the shoulders and knees under the hips. You’re going to alternate raising your opposite arm and opposite leg while keeping your spine as neutral as possible and not collapsing in the middle. You’re here, you want to leea with the heel of the foot, and you don’t want to go too high. If you go too high you’ll collapse in the middle. So, opposite arm, opposite leg - you should be able to balance a broomstick on your back while you are doing this.

Another more challenging variation: you can do the birddog and you can take a couple of dynamic breaths while in that position. You’re breathing while challenging your stability. You can also do what we call a dynamic birddog. This comes from the Functional Movement Screen. So ] opposite arm, opposite leg, and then you are going to bring your elbow and knee together then come back out and this is a dynamic birddog.

So that’s a regular birddog and a dynamic birddog.


Want to learn more about the women’s health and fitness issues you care most about?

Get Access to Our Free 5-Day Courses

Find the most up-to-date and helpful resources for tackling body image struggles, pre- & postnatal training issues, and everything in between.

Whether you’re a health and fitness professional looking to level up your knowledge or a woman wanting to feel stronger, fitter, and more confident, get the advice you can trust from the experts at Girls Gone Strong.

About the author:  Alli McKee

Alli is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She's contributed to and modeled for a number of major publications including Oxygen magazine and the New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged. You can find out more about Alli on her personal blog at

More Resources

envelope-oclosechevron-upchevron-downbookmark-otwitterfacebookchainbars linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram