Bird Dogs: The Ab Exercise (Almost) Everyone Gets Wrong

ab exercise

First of all, let’s go ahead and clear something up real quick: bird dogs are way more than just an ab exercise. I’ll be totally honest — the phrase “ab exercise” is in the title for SEO purposes.

Anyway, now that’s I’ve addressed that, let’s dive deeper into the bird dog. Bird dogs are, in my opinion, one of the most underrated and most frequently incorrectly performed core exercises out there. You’ll see a lot of people online doing weird-ass exercises to target their core, but they could get so much more done if they just did some freaking bird dogs.

A lot of people think that bird dogs are a beginner-only exercise. They might even go so far as to say that they’re easy. Well, I’m going to go so far as to say that, if you think bird dogs are easy, you’re probably not doing them correctly. Bird dogs look easy, but there’s a lot that goes into doing them in the proper way.

In this post, I’m going to break down the correct way to do a bird dog. I’m also going to dive into what makes them such a great core-strengthening exercise.

Why Should Bird Dogs be Your Ab Exercise of Choice?

Again, I’m using “ab exercise” for SEO purposes. Not even ashamed of it. If you saw the Google Analytics insights into this blog, you’d get it.

Okay, bird dogs. What makes them so great? Why am I dedicating an entire blog post to them?

Bird dogs offer a lot of benefits, whether you’re a novice exerciser or a seasoned pro. The following are some of the primary reasons why I recommend making them a regular part of your workout routine: They strengthen all the muscles of your core — beyond being a good ab exercise, they also target the muscles of the back, the obliques, the transverse abdominis, and even the glutes

They help to improve poor posture and may help to minimize back pain when done on a regular basis

They promote good balance and spinal stability

They promote proper shoulder and hip alignment

They help you identify muscle imbalances and weakness

They can improve mobility, especially in the shoulders

Clearly, there are a lot of benefits that bird dogs can provide. The key to experiencing all these benefits, though, is to make sure you’re doing them properly.

How to Do Bird Dogs Correctly

Bird dogs look like an easy exercise, and a lot of people even claim that they are easy. I used to think they were, too. When I started performing them with proper form and intention, though, I realized that they were way more challenging than I though.

Here are some basic cues to keep in mind when doing a bird dog:

  • Start on all fours with knees below hips and wrists below shoulders
  • Head should be neutral (don’t tuck your chin or extend your neck so you’re looking upward)
  • Pull your abdominals in so your back is flat — you may want to round your lower back just slightly to engage the glutes and maintain proper spinal alignment
  • Slowly raise your right arm and left leg off the ground at the same time — straight then arm and leg and raise them until they’re parallel with the ground
  • Avoid letting your body rock from side to side — do your best to isolate the arm and leg so they’re the only parts of your body that are moving
  • Move slowly and with control — don’t let your back arch or your stomach sag
  • Hold your arm and leg at the top of the movement for a second before lowering them back down (again, moving slowly and with control) and repeating on the other side

As you can see, there’s a lot you have to think about when you’re performing bird dogs.

Keep in mind, too, that this exercise is more about intention and mind-to-muscle connection than it is about busting out tons of reps.

You’re not going to feel your abs burning if you do 100 bird dogs as fast as you can. However, if you do 10 slow, controlled bird dogs while focusing on all the points I listed above, you’re definitely going to feel your core muscles firing and you’ll know that those muscles are being put to work.

Bust Out Some Bird Dogs Today

There you have it. A breakdown of the humble bird dog and an explanation of why it’s such a great exercise. If you’re not making these part of your routine, I highly recommend adding them in.

I like to do them as part of my warm-up to improve my core engagement during my workout. They’re also good to do on their own when you’re having a low-impact day but still want a little core action.

Next time someone says bird dogs aren’t a good ab exercise or that they don’t feel them in their core, ask them if they’re doing them correctly!

What’s your opinion on bird dogs? Do you do them on the regular? Do you think they’re easy? Comment down below and let me know!

4 thoughts on “Bird Dogs: The Ab Exercise (Almost) Everyone Gets Wrong

  1. David Earley says:

    I love how you admitted using ab exercise for SEO purposes. Good stuff. The bird dog probably isn’t anyone’s favorite exercise, but it has value for several reasons, like you mentioned. I use it as part of a warmup as well. Holding the limbs out for several seconds, and stretching the fingers away from the toes is a good way to engage the muscles and increase the intensity as well. Don’t forget to try the standing and plank variations for an even greater challenge!

      1. David Earley says:

        You’re coming up on page one for “bird dog ab exercise” so congrats! I love finding other people who share detailed and useful content. Looks like you have some very good information on your site. And if that is you in the photo, your form is perfecto. There are a lot of photos and videos online, but you can tell when people are moving correctly with purpose. Do you do in-person, or online coaching?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *