Intermediate Bird Dog Exercise

Video Transcript:

Today we are focusing on the bird dog exercise intermediate version using both our arms and our legs. Bird dogs are excellent for helping to stabilize and strengthen your abdominals and to help stabilize and strengthen your lower back area.

To start with, we’re an all fours. I contract or tighten my abdominals. So when I say contract, I don’t mean sucking it in. I don’t mean hollowing it. I mean that if somebody was going to punch you in the stomach, you would tighten that area. You would contract it. It’s the same thing.

You contract your core, then you push out the opposite arm and opposite leg. So it looks something like this. I push up my leg and my opposite arm. I hold this position at the top here for about six to eight seconds.

Then I slowly swing my arm and my leg back down, keeping everything through my abdominals tight, keeping it stable. My lower back during the movement of my arm and leg should not move. I don’t touch with my hand or foot at the bottom, it’s a continuous movement.

Once I’m at the bottom with my arm and leg, then I’m coming up again, and I’m holding this position for another 6-8 seconds. I’m aiming for five repetitions per side holding it each repetition six to eight seconds.

There’s a couple key points with this exercise. When I am coming down, I’m not touching down, I’m just going nice and slowly and not touching. I’m keeping everything through my lumbar spine, my lower back, stable. That’s the whole point of the bird dog exercise is that your lower back, your lumbar spine should not move. The core muscles, they are working to contract that area to stabilize it. So as I come down, nothing’s moving.

The next point is that when you’re pushing up with your leg, I’m not focusing on lifting my leg or raising my leg. Oftentimes people go past neutral if they visualize lifting their leg, and they end up twisting in their lower back, which puts excessive stress on it. We want to avoid that, as that can cause injury with the lower back.

Instead, I’m really focusing on pushing the leg actively straight back, pushing my heel back at the same time, versus lifting it or raising it. Watch the video for details of this.

When my arm comes up, I’m focusing on pushing my arm forward. As I make a fist I’m actively contracting, and I’m pushing my fist and arm forwards away from me.

There should not be pain with this exercise at any point. If there’s any pain, please stop. Let us know. We can work on modifying the exercise. We want to do this movement smoothly and controlled. Better to do fewer sets, better to do fewer repetitions properly, with proper form, than to rush through it and do it improperly, potentially causing injury.

Ideally, we’re doing three sets of five repetitions.

Any questions, please ask.

What is the intermediate bird dog exercise?

This bird dog exercise involves motion of both the arms and legs simultaneously, and is a great core exercise. This is the traditional bird dog exercise, and more difficult than the arms only or legs only versions.

Intermediate Bird Dog Exercise Instructions:

  • Step 1

    Start of all fours.

  • Step 2

    Tighten or contract your core to begin with. Do not hollow or suck it in, but essentially brace it.

  • Step 3

    Extend one arm, and the opposite leg in front of you and behind you, to almost horizontal.

  • Step 4

    Actively push your fist forwards, away from your body, while pushing your heel actively away from you, behind you.

  • Step 5

    Hold this elevated position for 6-8 seconds.

  • Step 6

    Avoid raising your arm, but especially your leg, beyond horizontal, as this may cause twisting in your low back, which may aggravate it.

  • Step 7

    Then slowly lower your arm and leg towards the ground, without touching down or stopping. Then all in one motion, raise them up again to just below horizontal.

  • Step 8

    Maintain the contraction in your abdominals the entire time., but especially while your arm and leg are moving, to minimize motion in your low back. This is the key for this exercise effectiveness, but also safety.

  • Step 9

    Repeat this 5 times on that side. Then stop and reset, and do on the opposite side.

  • Step 10

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

  • Step 11

    If there is any pain, please stop, and we can modify the exercise.

  • Step 12

    Any questions, please ask.

Read More About Intermediate Bird Dog Exercise Below

In this video you will learn how to do an intermediate bird dog exercise, which is one of the bird dog progressions, and a great overall core exercise. This video shows the step by step process of this, and if in doubt at any point, please review the video for clarification.

The intermediate bird dog version is one of the best lower back pain exercises and core exercises, because it minimizes the movement in your low back, which is critical to prevent lumbar injury, while still being a great core exercise stability and strength.

The setup is the same as for all the cross crawl type exercises. 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, but bracing your core is an essential part of the intermediate bird dog.

The core stabilization or contraction is a key to limiting the movement in your low back, which is essential to prevent low back injury or pain for everyone, but especially people with a history of lower back pain.

Your low back should not move as you move your arms and legs through their range of motion with this cross crawl exercise. This is key. The contraction of your abdominals should happen throughout the exercise, but particularly while your arm and leg are moving. This contraction is required to prevent motion in your lumbar spine, preventing injury, but also building strength in your abdominals to stabilize the area. This makes this exercise one of the favorite exercises we use with our patients.

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

If at any point during this you experience pain, please stop. A modification may be required, or a different core exercise may be recommended.

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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