When the bird dog is performed correctly, it checks off many important health and mobility boxes.
- Improved core strength: Check
- Better balance & coordination: Check
- Improved shoulder stability: Check
- Lower back saver: Check
You’re probably getting bored now because the benefits are many and the disadvantages are few. The bird dog is a simple bodyweight exercise for your warmup, core training, or strength training routine. There is nothing fancy about it, but it is an important exercise to add to your routine when it comes to helping master other main movements.
How The Bird Dog Exercise is Important?
Spine expert Dr. Stuart McGill, professor emeritus of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, came up with three exercises to help strengthen the core and prevent lower back pain. One of them is the bird dog. Yes, the bird dog is that important, and if it’s good enough for Dr. Stu, it is good enough for you.
But you know what the problem is when some lifters perform the bird dog? Besides not doing it, they make common and fixable mistakes, and all those bird dog benefits disappear. Here we’ll go into how to do the bird dog correctly and the fixes for the errors that happen with it.
How To Do The Bird Dog Exercise
- Get on the floor in a six-point stance: hands, knees, and toes on the ground. Ensure the knees are underneath your hips and hands underneath your shoulders.
- Then, find a neutral spine and keep it there during the entire exercise.
- Extend your right arm in front of you and your left leg behind you while keeping a neutral spine.
- Slowly return to the starting position and do all the reps on one side or alternate sides. This is a matter of personal preference.
3 Common Bird Dog Mistakes & How To Fix Them
The bird dog is a simple exercise, and because of its simplicity, some mindlessly go through the motions while not paying attention to the finer details of this exercise. To get the very best out of the bird dog, ensure you don’t make these three common mistakes.
1. Your Hips and Lower Back Are Rotating too Much
Because the bird dog is a unilateral exercise, if there are any strength imbalances or tight muscles, it usually shows up in a movement compensation. A common one with the bird dog is rotating to one side because of core strength deficits or tight hips. The arm on the ground will bend, and people will almost lose their balance when performing a hip extension on the opposite side.
Solution: First, realize you are making this mistake. A weight plate on the lower back because the plate will fall off when you rotate. Working on your hip mobility while staying in with a workable range of motion works best. Returning to the trusty front plank and its variations to build core strength will also help.
2. Too Much Low-Back Extension and Not Enough Hip Extension
The bird dog is a hip extension exercise and a lower back strengthener because the low back muscles contract isometrically to keep the spine neutral. The lower back allows the hips to do their job. The problem is that some must tell the difference between low back extension and hip extension.
Low back extension in the bird-dog happens due to a few reasons. First is a lack of awareness; two, some in the effort to get extra ROM will extend the lower back and the hips. Last, lack of hip mobility causes the low back to extend, not the hips. If you keep extending the lower back, it will not be pleased.
Solution: Similar to the previous mistake, you must know this is happening. Placing a weight plate on your lower back will provide feedback because you should feel it move if any lower back extension is happening. Ensuring your hip mobility is up to par and reducing your ROM so low back extension is avoided will help.
3. Not Providing Enough Tension Throughout the Movement
During your barbell squat or deadlift setup, you need muscular tension to ensure a neutral spine and a good lifting technique. The bird dog doesn’t require as much tension as these exercises but requires some. A lack of tension usually shows up by making the above mentioned mistakes, losing your balance, or mindlessly lifting the back leg too high.
Solution: You can do a few tweaks here to ensure adequate tension. Attaching a band to your opposite hand or opposite foot will force you to create tension throughout your entire body. Because if you don’t, the band will get loose, and you don’t want that. If you’re not up for the band, pressing your non, working hand and knee into the ground will help too. Because if you lose tension, you will receive instant feedback.