Switching up your core workouts can keep things interesting. Discover how to do bird dog crunches and what the benefits and downsides are.
Bird dog crunches are both a bird dog and crunch variation.
After sitting on your hands and knees, you move one leg and the arm of the opposite side upward while keeping the rest of your body in a straight line.
Lastly, to add the crunch to this bird dog progression you move the shoulder of the arm in the air towards the hip of the other side before returning to starting position.
The regular bird dog exercise is mainly good as a light core exercise that works your muscles in an isometric (static) way.
By adding a crunch movement, you do not challenge your muscles that much more while undoing the benefits of the isometric aspect.
In turn, you can say that if you are comfortable with bird dog crunches, there are many exercises that are more effective.
Unless you really like bird dog crunches, they are generally not recommended.
How to do a bird dog crunch
A soft surface under your knees can make this exercise more comfortable. That being said, take the following steps to do a bird dog crunch:
- Sit on your hands and knees with your arms slightly less than stretched. Keep your shoulders above your wrists.
- Raise and stretch one leg backward until it is about horizontal. At the same time, raise the arm of the opposite side until it is about horizontal. Keep your hips and shoulders at the same angles.
- Move these body parts toward starting position again but before you put them down, move your knee and elbow as far as comfortable toward each other by crunching your upper body.
- Return to starting position.
- Repeat the movements from steps 2 and 3 but with your other leg and your other arm.
To make the first part of the bird dog crunch movement useful you want to make sure your hips and shoulders stay in about the same positions.
This will engage your core muscles to some extent.
Besides that, you want to keep your neck in line with your upper body during the rest of the bird dog crunch.
Bird dog crunches muscles worked
The main muscles worked with bird dog crunches are your obliques and abs and to some extent your erector spinae (lower back).
You can also say your glutes (butt) and deltoids (shoulder) have to work to some extent to raise your legs and arms.
The main goal of the regular bird dog is to engage your core muscles (obliques, abs, and erector spinae) in an isometric (static) way.
This is useful for people who are not that strong yet and find bending their spines uncomfortable.
However, by adding a crunch, you remove this extra comfort for your spine.
The result is that bird dog crunches are a suboptimal core exercise that is not even that much more comfortable than many alternatives.
In simpler words, while bird dog crunches work your obliques and abs to some extent, you will likely prefer the results of other core exercises.
If you absolutely want to do bird dog crunches, you should do about 6 to 25 (or even up to 50) repetitions with a resistance that feels challenging for muscle growth.
Bird dog crunches benefits
Bird dog crunches are not the number one core exercise out there but doing them can still offer certain benefits to some extent. A few examples include:
- Better muscle endurance: Doing bird dog crunches can help improve endurance in your oblique and ab muscles. Resistance training beginners could even see some muscle growth in these areas.
- No equipment or location required: You don’t really need anything besides your body to do bird dog crunches. In turn, you don’t have to invest in fitness equipment or spend time traveling to the gym.
- Balance and coordination: Bird dog crunches require some extent of balance and coordination. This can benefit your skills in these areas to some extent.
- May reduce or prevent back pain: The core muscle endurance you can get from bird dog crunches can reduce or prevent back pain (1, 2).
You can likely get these benefits to a larger extent from other core exercises. However, you can see positive effects from doing bird dog crunches too.
Bird dog crunch alternatives
By now, you likely want to know about some of these more effective or more comfortable bird dog crunch alternatives. A few of these are:
- Crossover crunches
- Oblique crunches
- Bicycle crunches
- Regular crunches
- Ab wheel roll-outs
What movements your body is comfortable with and what muscles you want to work are important factors when deciding between these bird dog crunch alternatives.
Are bird dog crunches a good exercise?
You can get some benefits from doing them but it is hard to really call bird dog crunches a good exercise.
They are less effective than many core exercises for working your obliques and abs.
Additionally, bird dog crunches are less comfortable than the regular version and more effective isometric exercises.
In turn, you typically want to do one of these exercise alternatives instead of bird dog crunches. What muscles you want to work in what ways will influence your decision.
One exception to this is if you really like the bird dog crunch exercise. In that case, you can still consider it since it does offer some benefits.