May 7, 2021
2 MIN. READ
How to Do the Bird Dog Exercise in 4 Steps
Learn what the bird dog exercise is, how to do them, and all the benefits of regular bird dogs.

The bird dog exercise is one of the most underrated exercises out there.

Sure, it’s got a funny name, but there’s nothing funny about all the helpful ways it works to strengthen important muscle groups with one simple movement.

In this quick bird dog breakdown, you’ll learn how to do the bird dog exercise, bird dog dos and don’ts, and how to add bird dogs into a well rounded exercise routine.

Let’s get started!

What is the bird dog exercise?

The bird dog exercise (or bird dogs for short) is a core and bodyweight workout that helps strengthen the back and avoid lower back pain. Bird dogs combine a neutral spine, arm & leg extension and a table top pose to engage and strengthen the core.

How to do bird dogs in 4 steps

1. Start in a tabletop position with your back flat, your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips

2. Keep your spine neutral and your shoulder blades together by engaging your abdominal muscles

3. Extend your left arm forward and your right leg back until they are level with your back. Hold for a few seconds

4. Lower your arm and leg back to the starting position and repeat with your right arm and left leg

If you’re new to bird dogs, start small and work your way up to more reps. Try doing 10 reps to start.

Remember, one rep includes raising both legs and both arms once.

Common Bird Dog mistakes

To get the most from your bird dogs, make sure you avoid these common bird dog mistakes.

Keep a straight spine

Don’t let your spine bow up or down while you do your bird dogs. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged and keep your back flat as you do your bird dog extensions.

Keep your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips

Keep your position stable by keeping your hands and knees directly under your shoulders and hips.

This will ensure you’re targeting the right muscles with your movements and not making the exercise more difficult than it has to be.

Find a flow

Your bird dog should be flowy. Try to keep your arm and leg extensions one fluid motion as you go through your reps.

This will help you keep your exercise moving and ensure you’re targeting all the right muscles at once

Don’t push it

Bird dogs aren’t a race, they’re a marathon. Make sure your movements are stable and aim for your fullest extension possible.

Bird dogs are great for building stability so try to linger on your extensions as you get your reps in.

Breathe through your bird dogs

Like any exercise, your breathing cadence should fit your movement. Sync your inhales and exhales with your extensions and retractions to get the most from your bird dogs.

Use your breath to find extra extension with each bird dog rep.


Bird dog benefits

The biggest bird dog benefit is core strength. Core strength is one of the most important muscles groups in your body and is part of several activities you do throughout your day.

Bird dogs also promote spine and lower back health and can actively help reduce back pain and discomfort.
In fact, they’re one of the exercises that comprise the McGill Big 3, an incredibly impactful set of movements developed by Dr. Stuart McGill.


How to add bird dogs to your workouts

Bird dogs are a simple movement that don’t require equipment or a ton of space to complete.

Add them to your workouts to target your core and pair them with other exercises that add to core strength like planks and push-ups.

Bird-dogs are also a great movement break if you’re sitting a lot during your day and need to improve your lower back strength.

Just be sure to be careful with your bird dogs if you’re suffering from acute or chronic back pain and consult your doctor before you add them to your routine.

Get bird dogging!

Now that you know how to do the bird dog exercise and some of the benefits of regular bird dogs, add them to your daily workout routine for better core strength and less lower back pain.

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