The bird dog is a valuable addition to your training routine that can help to strengthen your core, but are you sure you’re even doing the exercise correctly?
For this movement, you shouldn’t settle for anything other than perfect form—especially because it’s such a killer exercise that can serve as a simple addition to your training plan. Let Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. and associate fitness editor Brett Williams guide you through the move’s subtleties, saving you from the bad habits that are keeping you from unlocking your fitness potential.
Before get down on the ground to get your dog on, take note that it’s extremely important to pay attention the movement here. Hitting the proper form is essential to make sure you’re getting the most out of the exercise—particularly because of the subtle details with the position and what you need to do to make sure you’re actually getting work in. Let’s break down everything you need to know.
Eb says: It’s not hard to do a bird dog: Get on all fours, raise opposite arm and leg, lower, blah blah. But the bird dog is at its best when you’re intentional and very focused on every movement. Focus on keeping your torso fully parallel to the ground, hips and shoulders always square.
Doing so will require complete core engagement for the life of the bird dog. If you’re having trouble learning that, step through each limb’s movement in the bird dog before doing the full move (and even if you’ve done the bird dog before, this can be a nice refresher course in how to fire up your core properly).
Eb says: You’re not just lifting your arm and leg off the ground and tightening your core. The bird dog is also a unique effective way to generate both shoulder and hip mobility—if you stretch your arm and leg out. Lift your arm up, then reach out as far as possible (while still keeping your hips and shoulders square). Lift your back leg up and extend it behind you, again reaching back as far as possible. Reaching your leg behind you in particular has benefit, gently stretching your back extensors.
Eb says: You may be tempted to look straight ahead when doing a bird dog, but don’t do that. Instead, look directly at your mat, keeping your head (and neck) in a nice neutral position. This will prevent your back from arching, keeping any stress off your lower back.
Want to master even more moves? Check out our entire Form Check series.
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