Bird Dog Exercise – Laugh You Way to a Strong Back

Aug 27, 2012 by

The bird-dog is an excellent exercise to train the body how to stabilize the lumbar spine (low back) during upper and lower extremity movement.

Bird dog exercise is an advanced body floor exercise which is conducted for strengthening the abdominals, lower back, butt and thigh muscles. These muscles lie in the posterior part of the body. This exercise requires you to balance your body in parallel with the earth which is sometimes difficult initially but with the practice and time it becomes easy to get the right balance.

Bird Dog Exercise

The bird-dog is an excellent exercise to train the body how to stabilize the lumbar spine (low back) during upper and lower extremity movement. Never exceed your ability to control movement in the low back

Systematic Step wise approach

  • Starting Position: Obtain a hands and knees position on an exercise mat positioning your knees just below your hips and the crease of your wrists directly below your shoulders. Your fingers should be pointing forward.
  • Engage your core and abdominal muscles. Imagine you are tightening a corset around your waistline. Keep your spine in a neutral position; avoid any excessive bending or curving. Pull the shoulder blades toward your hips.
  • Upward Phase: In this exercise you are attempting to move the opposite arm and leg simultaneously. It is very helpful to use a mirror to help you with form adjustments. Begin by slowly lengthening the left leg until it is long and strong. Lift the leg off the floor until it is at or near parallel to the floor. The leg should not be lifted above hip height. This will help to avoid upward rotation at the hip.
  • Slowly raise and straighten right arm. Attempt to raise the arm until it is at, or near parallel, to the floor. Do not allow the shoulders to tilt upward. Keep both shoulders parallel to the floor. Your head is an extension of your spine and should remain aligned with the spine throughout the movement. Do not lift the head or let it sag downward.
  • NOTE: The leg and arm should only be raised as to heights that allow you to maintain the shoulders and pelvis in parallel to one another, the core engaged and the spine in neutral position.
  • Downward Phase: Gently lower yourself back to your starting position, maintaining balance and stability in the shoulders, pelvis and torso.
  • Alternating Sides: During this phase of changing sides, work very hard to keep the abdominals engaged. Imagine knitting your ribs together as though you were lacing up a tennis shoe. When you change sides, try to do so with minimal weight shift. Do not flop from one side to the next. Maintain balance and control.
  • Starting out, try 5 repeats on alternate hands and knees 10 repetitions in all. Add additional sets of 10 exercises up to 3 sets of 10.

Standing Bird Dog

Bird dog exercise can also be done while standing. Let us see what is different in this form of exercise.

  • Stand on right leg with left knee bent toward chest and arms at sides, elbows bent.
  • Extend left leg back and reach arms overhead. Torso and left leg should be extended about 45 degrees from vertical. Hold for 1 second, then return to starting position. Do on left for 1 interval, then switch sides for the next interval.
  • Make It Easier Extend leg only, keeping hands on hips.
  • Make It Harder Extend leg and torso parallel to the ground.

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