Bird Dog Exercise: How To Do, Alternatives,…

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You do not always have to stick to standard core exercises to work these muscles. Find out how to do the bird dog exercise.

To do the bird dog you sit on your hands and knees. After that, you move one leg and the arm of the opposite side upward while keeping the rest of your body in a straight line.

The main goal of this exercise is to work core muscles like your abs, obliques, and erector spinae in a soft and static way.

This can be helpful for people who are weak in the lower back and/or recovering from an injury.

If you are not in this category, there are many exercises that are more effective than bird dogs for growing and strengthening your core muscles.

How to do the bird dog exercise correctly

A soft surface to do bird dogs on can make the exercise a bit more comfortable.

That being said, take the following steps to do bird dogs:

  1. Sit on your hands and knees with your arms slightly less than stretched and shoulders above your wrists. Keep your neck in line with your upper body.
  2. Slowly raise one arm and the leg of the opposite side until these are in one line with your upper body. Keep your hips in the same position and your spine in a straight line.
  3. Lower these body parts to starting position in a controlled motion.
  4. Repeat the same movement with your other arm and your other leg.
How to do a bird dog exercise

The common mistakes when performing the bird dog exercise are also moving your hips and spine and looking up which can be uncomfortable for your neck.

You can put something like a water bottle on your hips to see just how still you are keeping them. If the water bottle falls during the bird dog, your hips may move too much.

Bird dog exercise variations

There are a few ways to do the regular bird dog exercise differently.

First of all, you can start with easier bird dog progressions like only raising one arm or leg.

On the flip side, there are a few harder variations too.

For example, you can do weighted bird dogs where you hold a weight and/or wear a pair of ankle weights or use resistance bands.

Another option is doing Bosu bird dogs when you lean on an uneven surface called the Bosu Ball.

Advanced individuals could also do the bird dog exercise in a plank position with their hips more elevated.

Lastly, you could consider doing bird dog crunches but if you can deal with this movement, there are likely more effective options that you can do too.

Bird dog exercise muscles worked

The main muscles worked with the bird dog exercise are core muscles like your abs, obliques, and erector spinae.

Besides that, your glutes, back muscles, and shoulders may have to work to a certain extent too.

Your core muscles work in an isometric (static) way to keep your hips in position and spine straight.

One of the benefits of isometric exercises is that they can feel more comfortable, in the case of bird dogs on your spine.

That being said, you also need to know that isometric exercises are typically less effective than more dynamic movements for growing and strengthening your muscles.

Bird dog exercise benefits

It is not the most effective exercise for everyone but bird dogs still offer benefits. Some of these are:

  1. Better muscle endurance: The bird dog exercise can help you improve endurance in your core muscles.
  2. May reduce or prevent back pain: Strengthening your core muscles with bird dogs can help you reduce or prevent back pain (1, 2). You do want to be careful if you are already dealing with this.
  3. No equipment or location required: You don’t need to move to a different location or invest in exercise equipment to do bird dogs.
  4. Balance and coordination: The bird dog exercise can be somewhat challenging in terms of balance and coordination. This could be enough to improve your skills in these areas to some extent.
  5. Can be more comfortable: Isometric exercises like bird dogs could feel more comfortable than more dynamic core exercises.

The somewhat more suboptimal effects of isometric exercises still apply but for the right people, the benefits of bird dogs can be worth it.

Bird dog alternatives

There are a variety of other ways to work your core muscles in static and dynamic ways. A few examples of bird dog exercise alternatives include:

  • Planks
  • Hollow body hold
  • Flutter kicks
  • Ab wheel roll-outs
  • Bicycle crunches
  • Crunches
  • Side planks
  • Back extensions

What core muscles you want to work and whether you are comfortable with moving your spine around will influence what bird dog alternatives are good for you.

Is the bird dog a good exercise?

The bird dog can be a good exercise to strengthen core muscles like the abs, obliques, and erector spinae for people who have a weak lower back and/or are recovering from injuries.

You also get a bit of balance and coordination training on top of that.

That being said, if you don’t have any issues with dynamic core exercises, these tend to be more effective than bird dogs.

To grow and strengthen muscles you have to challenge them enough. The bird dog is a relatively light exercise.


What is bird dog exercise good for?

The bird dog exercise is mainly good for working core muscles like the abs, obliques, and erector spinae in a static way. This is less effective than dynamic movements but could be better for people with lower back issues.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.