Let’s start with a basic concept before we take a dive on the Bird Dog exercise…
The purpose of your core/abdominal muscle is NOT to twist, flex, extend, or side bend your torso. Your core’s primary job is to keep your lower spine (the “lumbar spine”) stiff, stable, and rigid so that your extremities (arms, legs, hips, etc) can perform more mobile and functional movements.
Let that sink in… does that thought conflict with what you thought you knew about the core?
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for more dynamic core strengthening moves like sit-ups, Russian twists, and hip/back extensions…
But that place is probably more in the aesthetic realm (building a better looking six pack, for example), than the functional realm (improving deadlift strength or squatting without pain, for example).
WHY THE BIRD DOG IS A FANTASTIC EXERCISE
We hear all the time that Bird Dogs are “easy”, but quite frankly — if it’s easy you probably are doing them wrong…
While the above YouTube link (Subscribe if you haven’t already!) is a great demonstration video on the nuances of perfecting this movement, here are two reasons why the Bird Dog core exercise is so fantastic:
- It’s a safe way to load the spine during or after injury. When in quadruped (fancy language for “on your hands and knees”), your spine is in a uniquely safe position to be challenged. When we sit, stand, jump, squat, hinge, etc…we experience compressive forces throughout our spine due to our more vertical orientation to gravity. But when we’re in quadruped, our spine is suspended away from gravity between our hips and our shoulders in a significantly less compressive way. So when your back is irritated, this can be a great way to introduce some strength & stability without causes further amounts of pain or discomfort.
- It’s a relevant way of training your spine to be rigid & to brace appropriately during functional activity. When done appropriately, the bird dog very effectively trains your “core” to DO ITS JOB when extension, rotational, and flexion forces are acting upon it (the same kinds of forces we have to resist when doing almost anything athletic like running, jumping, lifting, swimming, etc). It doesn’t train you to bend and twist better, it trains your spine to become STRONG & STABLE in the presence of resistance in all directions.
Make sure you check out the demonstration video above and shoot us a comment if you have any questions about the Bird Dog! We’d love to hear about your experience with this movement below!