The Bird Dog Exercise
First in a two-part series
The bird dog exercise is an excellent method of strengthening the primary movers of the spine, such as the superficial erector spinae muscle group and the deeper spinal muscles (i.e. multifidus, etc.). And, the bird dog strengthens the secondary muscles, the rectus abdominus, transversus abdominus, and gluteus maximus along with many of the shoulder girdle muscles which function as stabilizers during this exercise.
This week, we will feature the foundational bird dog exercise as well as three progressive variations this and next week. Always master the foundational exercise prior to attempting the variations and follow the suggested progression, mastering each variation before moving to the next. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
Bird Dog - Foundation
• Begin by kneeling on the floor on the hands and knees. The wrists should be aligned directly under the shoulders and the knees directly underneath the hips.
• Head, neck and shoulders should be a natural extension of your spine - gaze at the floor. Avoid permitting the head to sag downward or any hyperextension of the spine; keep the rib cage lifted, the navel pulled toward the spine and the pelvic floor muscles engaged.
• Maintain this position of the spine/torso throughout the exercise.
• Take your left leg and extend it back tucking the toes underneath creating a straight diagonal line from the hip to the heel. Then, engaging your gluteus maximus, lift the leg to hip height so that the leg is parallel to the floor. The left hip and knee should point toward the floor and the toes should point toward the wall behind you.
• Make certain that you have found a stable position on the right leg/right/left hand (i.e. three points). Now, extend the right arm out so that the fingertips point to the wall in front of you and point your thumb toward the ceiling with the arm parallel to the floor.
• You want to create a straight line from fingertips to toes on opposing sides of the body, now stabilizing on "two points" (i.e. your right leg and left hand).
• Hold this position for 4-30 seconds without compromising your form at any point, and then perform on the opposing sides.
Perform this exercise two-three times through, two-three non-consecutive days/week.
Make certain to breathe deeply and rhythmically throughout the exercise; keep your body weight as equally distributed as possible; initially perform on a stable surface, and strive for meticulous form/technique throughout; never permitting any discomfort in the lumbar spine. If you begin to lose balance/stability, pull your pelvic floor in deeply and make certain that the glutes are solid as a rock on the extended leg side.
Variation/Progression No. 1
• Holding the bird dog position as described above (i.e. left leg and right arm extended), draw the extended leg and arm back in toward the torso simultaneously, flexing at the elbow and hip/knee joints so that the elbow lines up directly under that shoulder and the knee lines up directly under that hip joint. Then, extend back to the beginning position and repeat. Perform 8 repetitions each side.
• Avoid moving the head/spine/torso-hold your position and let your appendages move.
Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Never Summer Fitness, LLC located in Grand Lake, Colorado. She may be reached at her website at www.neversummerfitness.com, her email at NSFGL@comcast.net , her blog at www.skyhidailynews.com and her Facebook page at Never Summer Fitness.