Certain non-negotiables in exercise are near and dear to my heart, with the bird dog being one of them. What the heck is that? Is it a cross between a bird and a dog? Don’t worry; I’ll get into that soon.
There are other non-negotiables like water, food, being kind, and Chuck Norris, but that can wait for a different time. Just don’t tell Chuck I made him wait. 😊
Let’s get into what the Bird dog exercise is, how to do it, why it is excellent, and some fantastic variations you can use in your training to strengthen your lower back and glutes and improve your core stability and balance. Because once you do the bird dog, you’ll see why it’s the bomb.
What Is The Bird Dog?
The bird dog is a core stability exercise performed on all fours where your move your opposite arm and opposite leg (contralateral movement) while keeping the rest of your upper and lower body stable. This exercise is excellent for your lower back as it strengthens the small muscles around your spine, which are essential for posture and reducing your chances of blowing out your back.
How To Do the Bird Dog
1. Kneel on the floor in a six-point stance (hand, knees, and toes) with the knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders.
2. Then press your hands into the ground and find a neutral spine and keep this the entire time. You want your lower back neither arched nor rounded.
3. Raise your opposite arm and leg in front and behind, keeping your core tight and spine straight.
4. Return to the starting position and reset and repeat
5. Perform all the reps on one side or alternate sides.
5 Reasons Why The Bird Dog Is Awesome
Okay, you have seen the video and the explanation of how to perform it, but why should you do it? I’m about to give your five reasons why. The bird dog might look like nothing but trust me, it’s something.
Reduces Lower Back Injury And Pain
The Birddog focuses on erector spinae (lower back), three long thin muscles that run from your neck to the lower back. (1) These muscles keep the spine neutral under load and movement and doing the Birddog helps. Exercises like the bird dog shouldn’t be seen as a solution to preventing lower back injuries and pain. But by performing an exercise like the bird dog, you’re better equipped for everyday life’s general physical stressors.
Shoulder mobility is excellent, but your shoulder needs stability too. The muscles surrounding the shoulders work hard to keep the shoulder joint in place and the shoulder blade against the ribcage. When pressing the non-working hand on the ground, the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint work isometrically to strengthen your shoulder and provide better shoulder mobility for the working arm.
Improved Spinal Stability
Spinal stability is the ability to limit spinal movement so as not to damage the spinal cord and prevent unnecessary changes to the spine when you’re exercising. The Bird dog improves spinal stability by training the core area to be stable by improving muscular endurance and coordination. Training spinal stability and stiffness enhances lower back strength and spares your spine unwanted stress while under load.
Better Hip Extension
Hip extension is a fundamental human movement, forming the basis of many activities of daily living. When you use the hips and hamstrings as intended, you protect the back and have a better-looking butt. Being on the floor, you can differentiate between hip extension and lower back hyperextension.
Hip extension = is good. Lower back hyperextension= is bad. If you’re not feeling the Birddog in your butt and hammies, your low back is slipping in hyperextension, which is a no-no.
Improved Balance & Coordination
The contralateral movements form the basis of locomotion. Movements like walking, running, sprinting, and core exercises have contralateral actions as their base. The bird dog helps build a better foundation to increase awareness by reinforcing this contralateral movement. Exercises like the bird dog improve balance and coordination, and this has a direct carryover to all locomotion activities.
3 Bird Dog Variations
When you feel comfortable with the regular bird dog, here are three bird dog progressions to further strengthen your core and lower back.
Quadruped Bird Dog On Bench
Narrowing your support base increases the difficulty compared to the regular bird dog exercise. Any deviation due to hip imbalance or lower back hyperextension will result in a loss of balance.
Stability Ball Bird Bog
The instability of the stability ball and not having your knees on the ground makes you more aware of any deviations. The loss of balance due to losing stability may result in you biting the dust. That’s a workout fail video waiting to happen.
Resistance Band Bird Dog
The band increases rotational forces on your spine and the demand for core stability, and you’ll get some increased upper back action too. Make sure to hook the band securely over your hand and foot because if the band gets loose, it will leave a mark.
Things To Watch Out For And Programming Suggestions
There are three big no-nos when it comes to performing this exercise.
One is no hip/low back rotation because this negates the core stability benefits.
Two is no lower back arching to get an extra hip extension because this kills the spinal stability benefits and can hurt your lower back.
Three is not maintaining tension.
Putting a small weight plate on your back will provide enough feedback to make you aware that one of these three things is happening.
There are a few ways to program bird dogs into your programming
1. Perform as a warm-up exercise for ten reps on either side.
2. Pair it with a strength exercise to improve form and recovery from the strength exercise. For example,
1A. Deadlift or Squat variation
1B. Bird dog variation ten reps on both sides
Now, do you believe that the bird dog exercise is the bomb? Often you look for complex exercises when simple exercises like the bird dog are all you need. When it comes to your core and lower back, it’s easy to overlook this exercise but do so at your peril.