Bird Dog Exercise Basics And Benefits: Strengthen Your Spine And Core Muscles

Bird Dog Exercise

The bird dog exercise helps strengthen core muscles and stabilize the spine, particularly the lumbar region that supports most of the body. It also improves posture control, aligns the spine, reduces lower back pain, and strengthens the shoulder muscles. It can be performed by most healthy individuals while several challenging variations can help athletes and active sportspeople.

If you are looking to ramp up your exercise regimen, the bird dog exercise is one set of moves you ought to consider. This classic exercise is pegged to be one of the top strengthening and stabilizing exercises to keep your core and back muscles in good shape. Sportspersons (athletes, powerlifters, bodybuilders), fitness buffs as well as active people looking to strengthen their lower back and spine – anyone in reasonably good health – can do the bird dog exercise.

The lumbar or lower back region supports most of the body but is prone to damage, either from back injuries or an inactive lifestyle, such as long periods of sitting at a desk. For athletes, especially those in contact sports (football, for instance), the strengthening and toning of the stabilizing muscles of the core and spine are of special benefit while executing rapid moves on the field. Even if you aren’t into active sports, strengthening the muscles around this vital area should be an essential part of your exercise plan to prevent debilitating lower back pain.


Benefits Of Bird Dog Exercise

Besides strengthening the muscles around the spine like the latissimus dorsi and erector spinae, bird dog also impacts large muscle groups like the gluteus maximus (extending from the hip across the butt), hamstrings (back of the thighs), the quadratus lumborum (deep abdominal muscles), rectus abdominis (commonly, your “abs”), pectoralis major (large chest muscles), and shoulder girdle muscles. With regular practice, here’s how bird dog benefits these muscle groups:


Learn To Do The Bird Dog Exercise

The bird dog exercise can be performed alongside other floor exercises in your fitness routine.

Stagger The Movements If You’re A Beginner

If you haven’t been exercising regularly or have just started, it’s a good idea to move through the bird dog exercise in a graded manner. Here’s how:


Once you are comfortable doing leg extensions, you can progress to simultaneous and opposite arm and leg lifts.

Use These Tips To Get Your Bird Dog Moves Right


Challenge Your Inner Bird Dog With Variations!

There are several variations on the basic bird dog technique that you may want to try once you are completely at ease doing the basics. If you’re a gym buff or athlete, you will already have a good fitness level and these variations will help push yourself even more!

Bird Dog On A Bench

You will need a narrow bench to perform the exercise in this technique first developed by strength coach Nick Tumminello. Simply kneel on the bench, your body aligned with the length of the bench and get going with the bird dog as you balance yourself. What outcomes can you expect from these variations?


Here are some bird dog variations to challenge your strength, once you’ve mastered the essentials. You will need a qualified trainer to guide you and sometimes physically intervene in these exercises.

Bird Dog With A Partner

This variation is of particular use to athletes whose bodies must respond to unpredictable events on a playing field.

Quick Bird Dog Callout

There are two ways to perform this variation of bird dog exercise:


The goal is to respond quickly to the voice signal while also raising the appropriate side correctly without pause. Since both strength and speed of response are involved, this is a physically and mentally intense workout. Bonus: besides working the core and lower back, it also helps improve focus.

Bird Dog On Narrow Base Bench

Want to take it up another notch? Kneel on the narrow width of the bench rather than its length. With your support area reduced, you will be forced to steady yourself even more and avoid rotational forces. This variation is less about speed and more about focus and stability. Not easy, we promise you!

Stretched Bird Dog

For all its awesome strength and stability enhancement, bird dog exercise, say many athletes, doesn’t quite work the core in the same way that plank and abs exercises do. That’s not the goal of this bird dog exercise but if you’d like to include additional core strengthening, try this variation:


Who Should Not Do The Bird Dog Exercise

Shoulder pain is an indication that you should not be doing bird dog. Another contraindication for bird dog exercise is winged scapula, where the shoulder blades stick out like wings when they should normally lie flat against the back of the chest wall. This shoulder dysfunction is commonly caused by bad posture or a previous injury. Check with your therapist if you can do any stabilizing exercises before attempting bird dog.

Some experts are of the opinion that bird dog can be done even if you currently have back pain. If the pain worsens, it’s possible that you are doing the exercise incorrectly. Here, too, a therapist’s opinion is essential. If you have a history of lower back problems, consult your physician before attempting any new exercise regime involving your back. If all is clear, get going!

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