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Columns: Exercise Technique

Exercise: Bird Dog

Graham, John F MS, CSCS*D, FNSCA

Author Information
Strength and Conditioning Journal: December 2009 - Volume 31 - Issue 6 - p 93-94
doi: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e3181c2228a
  • Free
Figure
Figure:
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John F. Graham, MS, CSCS*D, FNSCA

Column Editor

TYPE OF EXERCISE

Core.

MUSCLES USED

Erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominus, gluteus maximus, trapezius, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, teres minor, anterior and medial deltoids, posterior deltoids, serratus anterior, gluteus medius/minimus.

STARTING POSITION

  • Kneel on a stable exercise table, mat, or floor.
  • Position the hands directly under the shoulders at shoulder width with the fingers facing forward.
  • Position the knees and feet hip width apart with feet dorsiflexed.
  • Pre-brace the abdominals and core muscles by attempting to contract the muscles and placing the spine in a neutral position, prior to initiating the ascent.

ASCENT-RIGHT ARM AND LEFT LEG (UPWARD MOVEMENT)

  • With control, simultaneously flex the right shoulder and extend the left hip to a parallel or near parallel position with the floor.
  • Right shoulder flexion: Slowly raise and straighten the right arm forward until it is at or near parallel to the floor without raising or dropping either shoulder (keep both shoulders parallel to the floor).
  • Left hip extension: Slowly extend your left hip backward by raising and straightening the left knee until it is at or near parallel to the floor without any rotation in the hip (keep both hips parallel to the floor).
  • The degree of right shoulder flexion and left hip extension is determined by the ability to maintain a neutral spine and avoid a lumbar lordosis (sagging of the lower back). The right arm and left leg should only be raised to heights where a neutral spine can be maintained through the actions of the core and abdominal muscles working together (Figures 1 and 2).
  • Keep the head and neck rigid and aligned with the spine throughout the ascent.
  • At the completion of the ascent, hold the limbs for 5 to 10 seconds.
  • Exhale slowly throughout the ascent.
Figure 1
Figure 1:
Bird dog: right arm-left leg.
Figure 2
Figure 2:
Bird dog: left arm-right leg.

DESCENT-RIGHT ARM AND LEFT LEG (DOWNWARD MOVEMENT)

  • With control, return the right arm and left leg to their starting position.
  • Keep the head and neck rigid and aligned with the spine throughout the descent.
  • Inhale slowly throughout the descent and repeat the exercise with the left arm and right leg.

ALTERNATIVE

Figure 3
Figure 3:
Bird dog physioball: right arm-left leg.
Figure 4
Figure 4:
Bird dog physioball: left arm-right leg.
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© 2009 National Strength and Conditioning Association