The Bird Dog exercise is a classic core exercise that emphasizes lower back strength and balance. If you’ve never done it before, the first few reps make seem awkward and difficult to balance, but once you get the form down, you’ll want to make it a staple in your exercise program.
Below are 4 variations of the bird dog exercise that are in order of difficulty from easiest to hardest.
Bird Dog Exercise Instructions & Technique
1. Start with on your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips, while keeping your head, neck, and back straight
2. Raise your right arm and reach it forward until it’s in line with your torso
3. As you bring your arm forward, kick your left leg backwards until it’s straight and in line with your torso, hold for 1 second
4. Slowly bring your arm and leg back to the ground and repeat with the opposite arm and leg
Bird Dog Exercise Benefits
Bird Dog Exercise #1 | Basic Bird Dog
For the basic bird dog, start out with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and knees under your hips, forming a box with 90 degree angles. Even in the resting position, you should try to tighten your core, while keeping your shoulders down and back away from your ears (they want to drift upwards). At the top position, keep your arm and leg in line and be sure not to raise your head upward. Instead, keep your head in a neutral position to minimize pressure on your neck.
Bird Dog Exercise #2 | The Zipper
This exercise is similar to the basic bird dog, but instead of alternating arms and legs, you will complete the exercise with one leg/arm, then repeat with the other side. In addition, as you can see from the photo below, you are going to crunch your elbow and your knee so that they meet underneath your body. If you have tight hips, or lack upper back flexibility, you may not be able to touch your elbow to your knee. An even more advanced version if you are flexible is touching your nose to your knee, as is shown in the video.
Bird Dog Exercise #3 | On Exercise Ball
To make the bird dog more challenging and test your stabilization, you can use a stability ball. Be sure to put your hips on the top of the ball to make it more challenging. The further away you place your hips from the top of the ball, the less you will need to stabilize your body. Similarly, if your hands and feet are close to the ball, the exercise becomes more difficult, as opposed to keeping them further away from the ball. The exercise ball should be large enough to make you need to stabilize your body, but not so large that you have trouble touching your hands and feet down at the same time.
Bird Dog Exercise #4 | In Push-Up Position
The most challenging variation of all is completing the bird dog without using your knees, or elbows to help you balance your body. This variation takes a lot of core strength and even more importantly stabilization. Starting out in the push up position, you extend your right arm and left leg simultaneously, while keeping your hips steady so they don’t tip to one side or the other.
I like the variations, I typically only do the basic version but find that it gets easy quite quickly, will definitely try out some of the higher difficulty variations.
@Lyndon – Sounds great. Hope the variations work out well for you.
I should visit this page more often. Another thank you for the tips.
I’m performing that already, however I don’t know how it’s called not until I read this, funny thing right? 🙂 Yeah, I am doing those 2 basic steps now I learn the other sure thing I will do the others. Again thank you very much. Am facing no problem in doing this. 😉
@Simon – Happy you enjoyed the article/video!
Thanks for the great information!
What about adding weight to the bird dog exercise?
I’ve been using weights on my ankles and holding weights in my hands. Is that useful?
@mitch – That is a possibility, but there are a couple other exercises I would prefer over adding weight to the basic bird dog. I would say progress the exercise and make it harder before adding weight to it because the true purpose is that it’s a core exercise, not a shoulder/glute exercise, which is what it sounds like when adding weights.
Hello Marc.First of all i want to say how AWESOME your website is.I want to create a workout that consists of push-ups and the bird dog exercise.I am trying really hard to do that and i need your help.I also want to include a pulling exercise such as chin-ups(not in the same day). I will add a HIIT session in the middle of the week.Please help me if you have the time.Thank you.
@David – I would recommend doing something like:
1) Push ups
2) Chin Ups
3) Bird Dogs
Then doing them in a circuit and complete the circuit for several rounds, maybe up to 5 rounds and rest minimally in between each exercise and a few minutes after each circuit. I would also consider changing the push up and pull up variations from week to week.
Hello Marc again.I am sorry that i keep bothering you.I appreciate what are you doing a lot.So i want to do this workout(push ups,chin ups,bird dogs) on Mondays then a High Intensity Interval Training on Wednesdays and then again the strength training workout (push ups,chin ups,bird dogs) on Fridays each week.Do you think that i give my muscles enough time to rest?I mean from Monday to Friday i rest three whole days and from Fridays to Mondays 2 whole day?Could you give me some advice?Sorry for my English and again thank you.
@David – in terms of resting your muscles and muscle soreness, I just wrote a huge article on muscle soreness where I have an FAQ at the bottom you should check out. I think it’s reasonable for you to do a the strength workout M/W/F and the HIIT workouts T/H/S if you wanted to, it also depends on your own fitness level.