Monday Rehab: Bird Dog Edition

Welcome to the Monday Rehab, this is where every week I will be posting an exercise that is notorious for being performed wrong and show you how to fix it!  Last week I showed you how to clean up those pesky mountain climbers, so this week I wanted to share one of my favorite exercises, the Bird Dog!

Who wouldn’t want to do an exercise named after a dog pointing at a bird?

All kidding aside, this is an amazing exercise for working on lumbar stability, hip extension, motor patterns and all around awesomeness.

Problem is, there are a lot of pitfalls with this exercise and many times people are really fast to advance it.

Here is what a standard alternating arm and leg Bird Dog looks like:

 

 

  • Low back stays neutral (stable)
  • Weight does not shift
  • Head stays neutral as well

And here is what happens when it all goes wrong:

 

 

  • Low back loses stability and begins to arch
  • Head extends up and leg goes beyond hip extension
  • Loss of stability out of the shoulder causes you to drop

The key to fixing all these pitfalls is progressing correctly.

First, make sure you can find neutral spine.  To do this requires pelvic mobility.  I like using a modified cat and cow exercise to achieve this.  Set up in a standard horse stance, knees under hips and wrists under shoulders.  Instead of moving the thoracic spine though, you will focus purely on the lumbar spine.

 

  • Arch and flatten the low back to feel out how much range of motion you have
  • Find the mid point between those ranges making sure to find that from the arched position.
  • You have found neutral spine!
  • This will be the position you want to maintain while performing Bird Dogs.

Next step in the progression is to start with either raising one arm at a time or one leg at a time.  This will give you an idea of how much stability you have.  As you can see in the video, I have a golf club balanced across my lower back to give feedback.  If it moves, then my weight is shifting too much or I am losing neutral spine.

Once you master both of these regressions, then you can start to advance to a standard Bird Dog.  When you first start though, I would definitely put something on your low back to give you feedback.  And one of my other triggers is to feel pressure in the hand stabilizing as the leg extends back.

So there you go, a few regressions to help make your Bird Dog the best ever and some keys that will help clean up your form.

Have fun!

-S

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