I’ve been finishing my presentations for the Perform Better Summits finished up this week. Perform Better runs some of the best educational conferences in the industry and I’m excited to be presenting at 6 of their events. Whenever I present, I think first about what is the message I want people to take away. This year I really wanted to focus on people being able to understand what makes an exercise powerful or not. I thought a great way to convey this message was through the use of the Bird Dog exercise.
Often the Bird Dog is seen as a good core exercise, but not too much else. In fact, when I’ve posted Bird Dog progressions on social media it is often met with comments like, “that’s a cute exercise, but good luck on making you strong!” Sadly, most people miss that being strong means building a great foundation and understanding how to use the body.
Why the Bird Dog? We get more from the Bird Dog than just being another of one of the many core exercises you have available to you. Even though it IS an incredible core exercise as spine expert, Dr. Stuart McGill, has it one of his “Big 3” core stability exercises. However, many people don’t realize what makes the Bird Dog a powerhouse especially compared to planks, sit-ups, carries, etc.
DVRT UK Master, Greg Perlaki, breaks down keys for great Bird Dogs!
Top 4 Reasons Bird Dogs Are Vital Core Exercise
-Teaches how to hold a plank while you resist rotation and lateral movement.
-Uses the core as a connection of the upper body to the lower body.
-Integrates all of the core from foot to head which includes glutes, lats, and much more.
-Helps people learn to use the ground to create stability.
The last reason is the MAIN point I want to discuss in this blog post about Bird Dogs. As I’ve written in the past, Bird Dogs have a special place to me because they were the first exercise prescribed to me after my low back surgeries. Getting all set-up to perform the Bird Dogs with my physical therapist I found the movement completely impossible!
I don’t mean I was compensating, losing my pelvis, or anything of the like. No! I was COMPLETELY unable to raise a hand or foot off the ground to the smallest levels. That was because I had my main surgery through the front of my body and that cut not only many of the muscles of my core, but nerves as well! My core was as weak as almost humanly possible (without being paralyzed).
It was actually up to me to figure out how to get to the point where I could perform Bird Dogs as the physical therapist really didn’t know how to get me there. What did I do? I first just had to learn how to create tension in my hands and feet! Why? When you “grab the ground” as hard as you can, when you push the balls of the feet into the ground as hard as you can, what happens to your pelvis? Can you move it? Nope!
When people practice these skills they notice their core lights up and they develop the ability instantly to resist the movement that Bird Dogs challenge in the first place. Okay, so? I’ve seen a trend where people don’t understand these points and what makes Bird Dogs so great.
As we started showing some DVRT Bird Dogs that would change how people would see this exercise, people jumped in and made harder and harder versions. One that has become somewhat popular are Bird Dogs with a row. I’m just going to say it, I don’t like it. Wait, don’t WE show Bird Dogs just like this?
Yes and no:)
Do we show Bird Dogs with a row, yes! Do we show it on a bench? No! What does it matter? Doesn’t being on a bench and being unstable make it even better for the core? Not if you understand what core training really means and what stability actually is in training.
I love two quotes from Dr. Brandon Marcello and you will notice that both versions address the stability idea of resisting movement. However, what is missed is the second part about trying to train stabilizers in unstable environments is a mistake. Why? What we have seen in research over and over again is that when we make exercises REALLY unstable we don’t turn on the stabilizers like we think. To engage the stabilizers we have to learn how to connect the body so guess what we need?!
If you said the ground you are right! Watching everyone perform these Bird Dogs with rows from a bench you see that they can’t engage the down foot and the arm is often in a position where it can’t stabilize the upper body either. When people perform these movements you see all sorts of compensatory movement. Many think that is just the core working hard, but it is the body desperately looking for some connection because we aren’t giving it!
So, when we use Bird Dogs, done correctly it can do all that I already mentioned, but also can be a great progression to push-ups, planks, and fix many shoulder issues. That IS if we make these important connections that are available in Bird Dogs. It isn’t just the exercise, but how we use our body in the movement.
Find out the full extent and potential of Bird Dogs in our new Loaded Integrated Functional Training program (L.I.F.T.) HERE
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When it comes to building #corestrength , few exercises are better than the bird dog. While so many think of the bird dog as ONLY a corrective exercise, it is a powerful #plank , means of teaching how to press, connect the chains of the body, brings in the need to RESIST the other planes of motion, and connects #glutes with the core and upper body. —————- With the new found popularity of the bird dog, people are doing all sorts of variations. However, with the desire to make them “harder”, we miss the aspects of the bird dog that make it great! One of the big #fitnessgoals of the bird dog is to create a lot of tension into the ground by both grabbing with the hands and feet. As we move, the goal is keep that tension which keeps the pelvis in place. When we introduce these #DVRT variations the goal is not to make the bird dog more difficult, but challenge our ability to keep tension into the ground. These drills are more about pushing DOWN, than trying to lift the weight up or move the weight. —————— The Ultimate #Sandbag drag with @perform_better mini bands is to designed to connect the body from head to toe. The DRAG, not lift, of the Ultimate Sandbag, creates friction on the ground and the position of the weight allows us to connect the lats to the #core . The mini bands are causing a push/pull in the lower body activating both the glutes and hamstrings like we would in walking and running. ——————- The dumbbell bird dog row isn’t really about rowing, but driving the foot and hand into the ground. The rowing action is simply a means to challenge the stability we create before the movement begins. The use of the lever bell in the third variation takes the leverage of the bell to challenge grip which enhances shoulder stability and leverage to build up the smaller muscles of the lower back. These bird dog drills show that such a #coreworkout builds better strength, movement, and represents what #functionalfitness should be all about. #absworkout #ultimatesandbag #physicaltherapy #coretraining #crossfit #sandbags #kettlebell #functionaltraining #fitforlife #mensfitness #fitover40 #sandbagworkout #personaltrainer #fitnesscoach #conditioning #upperbodyworkout #