Exercise of the Week: Bird Dog

 In Mobility & Movement Blog

Luke Lewitzke

Certified A.C.E. (American Counsel on Exercise) Personal Trainer

Weight and Lifestyle Management Specialist


Performing the Bird Dog exercise will strengthen the following core muscles: Rectus Abdominus, Transverse Abdominus, Multifidi, and Erector Spinae.

The rectus abdominus is the primary core muscle that people think about when you say core that lies under the skin to give that “6-pack”. It is responsible for spinal flexion, aiding in maintaining intra-abdominal tension, and expiration. The transverse abdominus is a broad muscle that is found on the lateral side of the abdominal wall and is responsible for maintaining normal abdominal tension and increasing intra-abdominal pressure. The multifidi are small muscles of the lower back that attach to the vertebrae to help stabilize the lumbar spine. The erector spinae are lower back muscles that help extend the back.

Along with the main core muscles, performing the bird dog will also strengthen your back, shoulders and hips.

Performing the Bird Dog

  • Start on your hands and knees with your knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders.
  • Brace your core as if you were preparing to be poked in the stomach and you want to brace against that.
  • Slowly extend the opposite arm and leg off the floor and hold for 3 to 5 seconds.
  • Make sure to maintain a neutral spine so that you don’t shift your hips, rotate your torso, or arch your lower back as you extend your arm and leg.
  • Slowly return the arm and leg back to the floor and lift the other arm and leg.
  • Perform the movement 10-15 times each side for 2-3 sets.


If this exercise is too challenging and you lose your balance or can’t maintain a neutral spine during the movement, start by lifting just 1 arm off the floor while keeping both knees on the floor.

After you can successfully lift one arm off the floor for 10 repetitions, progress to extending just 1 leg off the floor while keeping both hands on the floor.

After you can successfully lift one leg off the floor for 10 repetitions, you should be able to progress to standard Bird Dog.


  • Don’t perform this exercise if you have had a knee or knees replaced as you don’t want to kneel on a hard surface for prolonged periods.
  • Don’t perform this exercise if you have a shoulder or wrist injury where it is painful to stabilize the shoulder or put pressure on the wrist.

Alternative Exercise if you have contraindications to Bird Dog

Standing Opposite Reaches

  • Stand tall and brace the core.
  • Slowly extend one leg back behind while lifting the opposite arm up towards the ceiling.
  • Make sure not to arch your lower back.
  • Try to hold this position for 5 seconds focusing on maintaining your balance.
  • Perform 10-15 each arm and leg.