The bird dog is a wonderful tool to improve your ability to control your hip/rib/spine position against rotation and low back extension, all the while driving a bit of hip and shoulder mobilty and stability. The problem is, is that it often becomes one of those exercises that people roll their eyes at and think it’s a waste of time because they don’t feel it’s doing anything. And 9.5 times out of 10, it’s down to poor execution and not paying attention to the key points.
I posted this on IG this morning as a quick guide to the main issues and to give quick fixes for each:
1. Letting the shoulder drop. You basically end up hanging off the shoulder blade of the supporting arm, losing any need for your core to maintain a solid torso position against the removal of a point of contact. To fix this, shift a little more weight to the supporting shoulder and actively push yourself away from the floor. This will get your serratus working harder, which helps hold your shoulder blade tighter to your ribcage and help you brace against the rotational forces coming from lifting your other arm off the floor. In turn this forces your abs and spinal erectors to work harder to maintain spinal stability again the rotation. Aka, your abs have to work harder.
2. Arching your back, losing any semblance of control and spinal stability. This can be a lack of strength at your midsection or trying to kick your leg up too high, causing you to compensate for hitting the end range of your ability to extend the hip with excessive low back extension. Either way, it’s a bad thing. To fix this, actively work on closing the gap between your ribs and hips and drive your heel back not up. Try to form a straight line from your shoulder, through your hip to your knee. One option to practice this is to use a slider under your foot so it remains in contact with the floor throughout and stops you from being pulled towards
the dark side into lumbar extension.
3. Sagging onto the supporting hip thereby removing any need for core strength to resist the rotation caused by lifting the opposite leg off the floor. Once again, you’re removing the ability to stabilise the spine against both extension (since your flexed hip puts you into flexion) or rotation (since the lower part of your torso is supported on the thigh) The fix for this is similar to number 1, as you lift your leg off the ground, actively shift your weight slightly forward onto the supporting arm on the opposite side. This not only reinforces the correct upper body position, but stops you sagging backwards onto your hip.
If you want to see demonstrations of each of these points, I shot a short video to illustrate each and talk through the fixes I use.
Give these tips a try to upgrade your bird dogs and get a rock solid midsection.