The Back Friendly Core Move — Bird Dog

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When it comes to core training, bird dog pose is a jack of all trades. That’s because the move requires harmonizing every muscle of your core. It’s one of my go to moves for core strengthening and spinal stability. It’s a staple in my Yoga and Barre classes. Don’t worry if you start wobbling each time you get into the bird dog pose. Honestly, I was the same way when I first started out. It’s an easy move to master with time and one that will pay off big time.

The Bird Dog was first made famous by functional training experts Stuart McGill. Since then, bird dog has been an effective movement to reinforce proper spinal alignment and core recruitment. The bird-dog exercise is commonly used by both athletic trainers and physical therapists. It can reduce low back pain and is a safe exercise during recovery from a back injury. Since it doesn’t require repeated flexion like some ab exercises, this exercise is suitable for people with back pain or stiffness. A strong core and good spinal stability helps you in daily activities where bending or twisting is required.

The main focus of the bird-dog is the erector spinae muscle. This muscle extends the length of the spine and is responsible for extending, flexing, and rotating the spine. This move also involves the gluteus maximus muscle when raising the leg. In raising the arm, you engage the trapezius muscles deltoids.

The bird dog strengthens your entire corset by engaging rotational stabilizers. Your hips and spine are stabilized by your core while arms and legs are off the ground or moving. It trains isometric endurance, by resisting the pull of gravity to keep the pelvis from tilting. Both the sides of your body improve the coordination and symmetry with this exercise.

Performing the Bird Dog is quite simple:

· Assume an all-fours position. Maintain a neutral spine with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders.

· To maintain a neutral spine imagine balancing a glass of wine on your lower back.

· Raise your opposite arm and leg straight out till they are parallel to the floor, while bracing your core.

· The goal is to resist rotation and extension forces that attempt to destabilize your spine.

With enough practice though you will quickly get a hang of it. If you are getting stronger at this move, then it’s time to introduce some variations of this exercise.

Zipper- Bend the elbow and bring the knee forward until they touch under the body. Repeat for 12–15 reps per side.

Bird Dog on Bench- It eliminates one base of support. Instead of having your feet on the floor, they hang off the edge of the bench leaving you with two anchor points (hand and knee), which significantly increases instability and activation of the core.

Bird-dog from push-up position- Rather than having your knees on the ground, you are in push-up position balanced on the toes of your feet and your hands.

Sometimes simple is best. This move is easy but packs a big punch. The bird dog provides an array of benefits for your core, spine, and full-body coordination. Try incorporating it into your next workout routine.

About the Author

Aesha Tahir is a health and wellness coach and a certified personal trainer. She holds a Master’s degree in Applied Exercise Science and is certified by the NASM as a Personal trainer. She is a certified USA Track and Field Running Coach and Road Runners of America Coach. She is a 200-HR Registered Yoga Teacher. She is also a group exercise instructor specializing in barre, spinning, strength training, boot camp, and yoga classes. She has over five years of experience in the fitness and wellness arena with focused expertise in coaching, corrective exercise and injury prevention, individualized fitness programs, and group fitness programs. She is also an aspiring public speaker in the fitness and wellness world who believes in this quote; “To be inspired is great, but to inspire is incredible.”



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Aesha Tahir

Aesha Tahir

Coach, writer & runner. Exercise science, group fitness and positive psychology for every athlete. Book a Call with