Strengthen Your Back and Core Muscles
Bird dog is a core strengthening exercise that works both abdominal and back muscles. It requires a little more coordination than other beginner level back exercises. And to do this exercise well, you’ll need to keep your body posture steady as you lift your arm and leg. You’ll also need to concentrate on the way in which you perform the bird dog exercise.
Here Is How to Do the Bird Dog Exercise, for Beginners
Assume The Start Position: Get onto your hands and knees. Line yourself up so that your shoulders are directly over your wrists, and your hips are directly over your knees.
Keeping the front of your shoulders open and wide, pull your shoulder blades down your back. Imagine there’s a string running the length of your spine. The string begins at the top of your head and ends at your tailbone. Inhale, then exhale and imagine the string is being pulled in opposite directions. This should give you a lengthening feeling through your spine. Repeat the breathing and imagining two more times.
Congratulations! You’re in alignment and ready for the bird dog exercise.
Lift Your Right Arm: To learn how to do the bird dog exercise with good form, let’s take it in pieces. For the first step, inhale and as you do, lift your right arm. Both elbows should be straight but not be locked.
Your form is the most important in any variation of the bird dog exercise. Keeping good form will help strengthen your core muscles during the arm, leg, and arm/leg lift phases.
To keep your form, pay attention to any movement your trunk makes while you’re lifting your arm. This action of lifting your arm will “tempt” your core to waiver. Put your stabilizer muscles to work by keeping your trunk position the same all the way through the bird dog exercise.
Set Your Arm Down: As you exhale, slowly set your right arm back down. By moving slowly, you’ll add challenge to your core stabilizer muscles as well as to your body awareness. This is what you want if you are going to get stronger. When you are complete with this movement, your wrist should once again be right under your shoulder.
Lift Your Left Arm: Just as you did with your right arm, inhale and lift your left arm. It should be straight but your elbow should not be locked.
Again, your form is the most important if you want to develop strong core muscles and good body posture. To keep your form, note any movement your trunk makes as you lift your arm, and try to correct for that. The body tends to “lean” to one side in order to accommodate for the fact that you have one less limb on the floor helping you support your weight. Using your abs and back muscles to prevent that leaning will develop core strength.
Set Your Arm Down: As you exhale, slowly set your left arm back down. When you are complete with this movement, your wrist should once again be right under your shoulder.
The “leaning” mentioned above especially tends to occur when you place your arm or leg back down. So remain aware of how you perform the bird dog exercises as you put your arm back on the floor.
Lift Your Right Leg: Next, we’ll lift one leg. Your legs are heavier than your arms. But you’ve already practiced steps 1-5, so most likely you’ll be able to manage the extra challenge with ease.
Inhale, then exhale and straighten and lift your right leg. Ideally, you’ll lift it to hip height, but if you can’t go that far in the beginning, that’s okay. Your form is the most important.
Similar to when you lifted your arm, pay attention to your trunk, in order to keep good form. You now know not to let your core to waiver as you do the movement. That’s the way to get strong ab and back muscles!
Set Your Right Leg Down: Bring your leg back down, placing your knee directly under your hip. Remember to carefully monitor any movements your trunk starts to make and keep yourself steady instead. Because legs are bigger and heavier than arms, this will be more challenging than before.
Lift Your Left Leg: Just as you did with the right leg, inhale then exhale and straighten and lift your left leg. Again, pay attention to your trunk, keep it steady, and try to keep that lengthened feeling in your spine.
Set Your Left Leg Down: Bring your leg back down, placing your knee directly under your hip. Remember to carefully monitor any movements your trunk starts to make and keep yourself steady instead. Because legs are bigger and heavier than arms, this will be more challenging than before.
Lift Opposite Arm And Leg At The Same Time: The most difficult version of the bird dog exercise is to combine the two variations from above into one movement. Work up to this one.
Inhale, exhale and simultaneously lift your right leg and your left arm. If you are truly monitoring your body form as you go, you’ll likely find this is not as easy as it may seem.
Bring your leg and arm back to their original start position slowly, and with awareness. Repeat with the other leg and arm.
- The instructions on keeping your trunk steady as you lift your arm work the same way when you lift your legs.
- It’s better to perform a few bird dogs with good form than it is to do many with poor form.
- Work at your level of strength. If you can only do the arm lift, take a few weeks to master that. Then add the leg lift into your routine. Practice that for a few weeks and then try the arm-leg combination.
What You Need
- A piece of floor or other hard, level surface
- Possibly a mat, thin blanket or rug
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