How To Do Bird Dog

By: Chris Freytag, CPT

Chris Freytag demonstrates a Bird Dog

Bird Dog is a core body exercise that strengthens the lower back and abdominals while helping your body learn to balance and find stability. If you learn how to do Bird Dog, you will have an exercise that helps teach and train your body to be stronger in the center, providing you with more strength overall.

The first tip in practicing Bird Dog is to make sure you are on a mat or softer surface for your knees. Don’t pick something too thick or you will have trouble getting enough balance to perform the exercise. However, make sure it is a soft enough surface that you do not aggravate your knee caps since you will be on all fours. Another tip for this exercise if you have sensitive wrists is to close your hands and place your knuckles on the floor instead of open hands or hold onto some stable dumbbells that will keep your wrists in neutral position.

Bird Dog is all about stablilization. Stabilization is an often-overlooked term in fitness. It’s not as glamorous as six-pack abs or as sexy as sculpted thighs, but it’s extremely important to the health and strength of your entire body. By drawing in your low ab muscles – the transversus abdominus – you learn to keep you mid-section stable and your back strong no matter what the rest of your body is doing. In Bird Dog, this is a key factor in performing the move correctly. Try to keep yourself still while holding out your arm and leg. Pretend there is a glass of water on your back that you don’t want to spill. It’s hard! All the while you are contributing to flatter abs and a stronger back. This move it well worth your time.

You can practice Bird Dog 2-3 times per week. Try it in our workout 10 Best Exercises for Your Bad Back.

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    How To Do Bird Dog

    Here are the steps to performing Bird Dog:

    1) Kneel on the mat on all fours. Reach one arm long, draw in the abdominals, and extend the opposite leg long behind you.

    2) Repeat on the other side.

    See the video below to see Chris Freytag break down how to properly perform Bird Dog.

    What Muscles Does Bird Dog Work?

    Bird dog is an awesome core strength move that works your abdominal muscles, lower back and stabilizers. Bird dog is an isometric move. Isometrics have you hold still while the muscles contract to keep your steady.

    Benefits of Bird Dog

    There are many reasons you should incorporate bird dog into your workouts. Here are just a few:

    Stronger Low Back

    The bird dog is a move that focuses on stability, strength and overall health of your core and low back. Moves like the bird dog will help you avoid low back pain and injury by keeping the muscles that surround your spine strong and capable.

    Sculpt Your Abs

    There are so many exercises available for getting tight abs. Bird dog is different than most because it doesn’t rely on flexing your spine or crunching movements. Bird dog relies on stability and strength in an isometric way. By holding your arm and leg out away from the middle of your body, your abdominal muscles are drawn in tighter and work hard to keep you stable.

    Improve Your Balance

    Part of the challenge you will find in practicing the bird dog is keeping your balance. Extending one arm and the opposite leg poses a good challenge for your balance and stability. Balance comes by practicing. The beauty of this move is you can really feel how your core muscles engage every time you start to wobble. You can practice this move little by little. Start with just extending your arm. Then put your hand back down and practice just extending your leg. Once you can do each of these separately then put the two together.

    How Many Calories Does a Bird Dog Burn?

    People often ask how many calories they are burning in their workouts. Most exercises will generally burn about 100 calories for every 10 minutes you are working at higher intensity. Bottom line – the harder you work, the more calories you burn. The benefits of the bird dog far outweigh any calorie burn so stay focused on the goal of this move rather than the calories being burned.

    Other Exercises Similar to Bird Dog

    If you like the bird dog and the results you get from it, here are a few more exercises you might want to try.

    How To Do Swimming

    How To Do Side Plank Scoop

    How To Do Basic Crunch 

    Incorporating Bird Dog Into Your Workouts

    Bird dog is an amazing core exercise all on its own! However, you could also incorporate bird dog into other workouts to mix them up. Here are some ideas to make that happen.

    Use Bird Dog in a Core Strength Workout

    It only takes 4 or 5 good moves to get a complete core workout and cover virtually every muscle group in your middle. Bird dog is included in this overall core strength challenge.

    Core Body Blast

    Forearm plank – Hold 30 seconds

    Modified Side Plank Crunch – 10 reps right, 10 reps left

    Bird Dog – 30 seconds each side

    Scissors – 30 seconds.

    Repeat if desired!

    Use Bird Dog in Your Yoga Practice

    Yoga is such a good workout not only for your flexibility, but also for your overall strength and core training. Incorporating bird dog into your yoga practice adds balance and core strength. Try this short yoga series at home:

    Yoga For Core Strength

    Cat-Cow- (5 repetitions)

    Downward dog – Plank – Chaturanga – Upward Dog – (repeat series 5 times)

    Crescent Lunge Right – Warrior 2 – Reverse Warrior – Warrior 3

    Downward dog – Plank – Chaturanga – Upward Dog –Downward Dog

    Crescent Lunge Left – Warrior 2 – Reverse Warrior – Warrior 3

    Downward dog – Plank – Chaturanga – Upward Dog –Downward Dog


    Bird Dog

    Child’s Pose

    Use Bird Dog in Your Full Body Strength Workout

    Leg Day is great. Upper body day is fantastic. But FULL BODY day is the best! Take one workout and get it all done at once. This next workout gets it all done and includes bird dog as well as a bunch of other basic strength moves.

    Full Body Basic Move Strength Workout: Warm up for about 2-3 minutes then:

    Do between 10-15 of each of the following moves:

    Basic Squat


    Side Lunges

    Tricep Dips

    Alternating Forward Lunges

    Bird Dog – holding a few seconds, before switching arm and leg. Switch a total of 10 times.

    Repeat the sequence again!

    Here are 3 more workouts that incorporate bird dog.

    5 Best Exercises To Beat Back Pain

    15-Minute Workout To Get Rid of Lower Belly Pooch

    8 Strength Moves Women Over 50 Should Do

    Targets: core, back


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