Get the Most Out of Your Bird Dog

By Molly Galbraith
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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 and control, including the anterior core, the posterior core and the glutes.
  • Even out asymmetries and imbalances between the left and right sides (which are normal, but can still be improved).

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, you want to aim for a more neutral spinal alignment, and resist rotation in the spine and hips. The main purpose of this exercise is to train your body to resist extension and rotation.

A cue I love to use with clients is to picture a cup of their favorite beverage balance on their lower back and to prevent it from falling off. While I don't recommend putting a cup of hot coffee on your client's back, you can place a dowel on your (or your client's) back and practice keeping it steady.

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).

The Movement

  • 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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About the author:  Molly Galbraith

Molly Galbraith, CSCS is co-founder and woman-in-charge at Girls Gone Strong, a global movement of 800,000+ folks passionate about women’s health, fitness, and empowerment. She’s also the creator of the The Girls Gone Strong Academy, home of the world’s top certifications for health and fitness pros who want to become a Certified Pre-& Postnatal Coach or a Certified Women’s Coaching Specialist.   The GGS Academy is revolutionizing women’s health and fitness by tackling critical (and often overlooked) topics like body image struggles, disordered eating, menopause, amenorrhea and menstrual cycle struggles, PCOS, endometriosis, osteoporosis, pre- and postnatal exercise, incontinence, diastasis recti, pelvic organ prolapse, postpartum recovery, and much more.   Learn more about Molly on her website and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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