Beginner Bird Dog Exercise Legs Only

Video Transcript:

Today we are focusing on the bird dog exercise, beginner version with legs only. This is a slight increase in difficulty from the beginner bird dog arms only version.

Bird dogs are a fantastic core exercise, really working on strengthening your core, to really help stabilize your lower back area.

I will run you through what this looks like first, and then I’ll go over some key points. To start with, we are on all fours.

Once in this position, the first thing which we do is that we contract or tighten our abdominals. So when I say contract, I don’t mean to suck in your stomach, I don’t mean to hollow it. Literally, if somebody was going to punch you in the stomach, you would tighten that area, you would contract that area. That’s what we are focusing on first.

The next step is that I push my leg out. You hold this position here for about six to eight seconds, with your leg elevated behind you. Then you swing it down nice and slowly, then raise it up again on the same side.

Aim to do five repetitions, holding it six to eight seconds each time. Now a couple of key points here. When I’m doing this, when I’m pushing my leg out, I am not focusing on lifting it up. Oftentimes when people really focus on raising or lifting their leg, they go past horizontal, higher than horizontal, and they end up twisting their lower back, which puts excessive stress on it.

We want to avoid that. So literally in my mind’s eye, I am focusing on pushing my leg back. As I do that, I’m also actively pushing my heel backwards, so there is an active contraction through there. All the while I am also continuing to contract my abdominals, to stabilize my low back.

When I’m slowly swinging my leg down, I’m not touching down with my foot at the bottom. I’m just swinging down nice and slowly, nice and controlled, barely pausing at the bottom, then raise it back up again on the same side. I’m then holding the elevated leg position for 6-8 seconds.

After you’ve done five repetitions on that side, stop. You reset yourself. I make sure I am contracting through my core, my abdominals. Then I do the opposite side. I’m again pushing my leg back, I’m pushing my heel back. I’m holding that again. I come down nice and controlled, nice and slowly and I go up again on that side.

I want to aim to do five repetitions, with three sets on each side. This should be a nice controlled, smooth motion. We do not want to have any lower back pain as we do this. If you have any pain with this, please stop. Let us know. We can work on modifying this, but the key is to do this nice and slowly, and to stay contracted
through your core throughout the movement.

These muscles, the core muscles, they are designed to actually prevent motion in the lumbar spine. So as you’re doing this, as your leg is moving, the abdominal muscles, they are stabilizing the lumbar spine. That is what actually strengthens them.

Any questions about any of this, please ask.

What is the Beginner Bird Dog Exercise Legs Only?

This is the next version of the bird dog exercise after the arms only version. This bird dog involves leg motion, which brings slightly more movement into the lower back, but also more core activation. This is the second easiest bird dog.

Beginner Bird Dog Exercise Legs Only Instructions:

  • Step 1

    Begin on all fours.

  • Step 2

    Contract your core to begin with, basically bracing it. Do not hollow or suck it in.

  • Step 3

    Extend one leg out behind you, to just slightly below the horizontal position. Do not raise your leg above horizontal, as this can result in twisting in your low back, and pain.

  • Step 4

    Focus on actively pushing your heel back, and hold this position for 6-8 seconds.

  • Step 5

    Maintain the contraction in your abdominals the entire time, particularly while your leg is in motion, to limit the movement in your lumbar spine.

  • Step 6

    Slower lower your leg down, but do not touch down at the bottom or stop.

  • Step 7

    In a gradual slow motion, raise your leg up again to just below horizontal.

  • Step 8

    Repeat this movement 5 times on the one side, then switch legs.

  • Step 9

    Aim to do 2-3 sets per side, 1-2x/per day.

  • Step 10

    If you have pain, please stop, and we can modify the exercise.

  • Step 11

    Any questions, please ask.

Read More About Beginner Bird
Dog Exercise Legs Only Below

In this video you will learn how to do a beginner bird dog exercise legs only version, which is one of the basic bird dog variations, but a great overall exercise for anyone with back pain. This video will show you the step by step process for this exercise, which is a great for anyone with lower back pain, or a history of back pain, because it isolates the movement to only the legs, minimizing stress on the low back, while still being a great core exercise for stability and strength.

The setup is the same as for all the cross crawl exercises versions. To do this, start on all fours, and stabilize or contract your abdominals. Watch the video in detail for an explanation of how to do this step by step. This detail is important for the effectiveness of the exercise, but also to do it safely without injury.

An absolute key with this beginner bird dog exercise is that your low back should not move and any point as you move your legs through their range of motion. This focus on core stability is critical to protect your low back. This is accomplished by maintaining an abdominal contraction throughout the exercise, but particularly while you are moving your leg in its arc. This focus on core contraction makes the beginner bird dog with legs only an excellent exercise for people with low back pain, and one of the most effective and safe core exercises.

Once you can do this version easily, without pain, progress to the intermediate bird dog exercise using arms and legs.

If at any point during the exercise you experience pain, please stop. A modification may be required, or a simpler version.

Any questions, please ask.

For further low back exercises, low back stretches, and core exercises, refer to our back pain Toronto condition page here:

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