Improve Your Core With The Bird Dog Exercise
The bird dog is an exercise that targets the deep stabilization muscles of your core. It is sometimes referred to as the horse stance, or quadruped alternating arm and leg extension. Bird dogs build strength in the abdominals, spine, back (upper, mid and lower), hip flexors, hip extensors and glutes. They also help treat and reduce your risk of injury to those areas.
The bird dog is a helpful exercise for those who have been told they have a “weak core.” It will also benefit anyone who plays recreational or competitive athletics. For athletes, the bird dog will improve your skills in golf, tennis, lacrosse and any other sports that involve rotation through the spine. For weekend warriors, bird dogs will help to strengthen core muscles that have been weakened over time by extensive sitting.
To perform bird dogs
Begin by placing your hands and knees on the floor.
- Brace your abdominals (pull your belly button in towards your spine).
- Place your wrists directly below the shoulders and your knees directly below the hips.
- Keep your back straight and flat with your eyes focused on the floor. Visualize balancing a broomstick along your spine (lengthwise). For a tactile cue, you can place a stick along your spine. The goal is to keep your back and hips straight while you do the exercise so that the stick does not fall to the floor.
- Your legs should be parallel and elbows should remain turned back toward your thighs. Direct your fingers forward.
- From this position, inhale and raise your right arm up and out to a 45 degree angle (with thumb pointing up (see photo) while you lift your left leg simultaneously as high as you can and into full extension. When doing this, do not let your pelvis sway to either side.
- Hold this position for 2-5 seconds.
- During this extension, continue to keep your back flat. Do not let the broomstick fall to the floor.
- Exhale and tuck your elbow and knee in under your torso so that the elbow goes past the knee. Use your abdominals to pull you to the end of the movement.
- Perform a set on one side, rest briefly and repeat the bird dog exercise on the other side.
- Complete 8-16 repetitions slowly for 1-2 sets.
- To assist with form, place a yardstick or broomstick along the length of your spine.
- Remember to brace your abdominal muscles throughout the entire exercise.
- Remember to breathe slowly throughout the exercise. Never hold your breath.
- To make this exercise more difficult, perform while balancing on a 1/2 foam roller, dyna-disc (disc pillow) or BOSU balance trainer.
- What do you think of the bird dog exercise?
- Do you incorporate bird dogs into your core routine?