Bird Dog Progressions (08/15/2023)

We like the Bird Dog exercise and all the variations and progressions that can be built from it.

The Bird Dog is a spine suspended position that helps strengthen the core and improve hip extension.

The Bird Dog establishes scapular and hip stability on the non-moving side while developing improved hip extension on the reaching leg side and shoulder mobility and strength on the arm reaching side.

That means when done properly and appropriately, your core, shoulders and hips can be stronger, more mobile, and for many people, it helps alleviates low back pain and/or discomfort.

The Bird Dog starts with your hands under your shoulders, arms long and pushing the floor away. Your knees are stacked under your hips with your toes dug in under your shins.

Start by focusing on holding this stable position while nasal inhaling and mouth exhaling. When you’re ready, reach the opposite arm and leg while keeping the rest of your body motionless.

If this is more wobbly and challenging than you expected, do all of your reps on the first side then switch to the other side.

The most common cues we give to our members is 1) let the movement match the breath and 2) go slow and be in control.

From this you can branch out into a spider web of Bird Dog variations.

We like to program 2-3 sets for 5-10 reps each side for all the variations in the video above. We’ll even throw Bird Dogs in our conditioning as active recovery between more challenging exercises, like Kettlebell 2-Arm Swings and Assault Bike Sprints.
In the video were eight variations in order of how we progression our members based on where they’re at and what their goals are:

  1. Alternating Bird Dog – the starting point for most people. This is a great warm up drill for the deadlift, pull up and pushing exercises.
  2. Mini Band Bird Dog – we use this to slow people down who like to rush as well as help them feel their abs and glutes in their reaching leg, and prefer to place it in a warm up.
  3. FMT Bird Dog – We call it the “FMT” band for functional movement tubing but it’s known as the Gray Cook Band. Adding resistance to both the arm lifting and reaching while simultaneously extending the opposite hip reinforces lumbar, pelvic and core stability to the max!
  4. Sandbag Bird Dog Pull Through – all the benefits mentioned above with some lat activation. This is another great primer before deadlifting or pulling sessions.
  5. Sandbag Bird Dog Diagonal Pull Through – the change of direction pulling low to high and high to low challenges the posterior (backside) of the shoulder more than the version above and requires a bit more attention and intent. By pulling the sandbag further in front of you at an angle you’re creating a longer lever and challenging stability more.
  6. ANCORE Bird Dog Vertical Row – we like to use this variation at the top of a vertical (overhead) or landmine pressing day or to improve someone’s potential shoulder mobility.
  7. KB Wall Assisted Bird Dog Row – by pushing the extended leg foot into the wall, we reinforce core engagement while rowing horizontally. This is a super challenging drill and throws everyone off the first time they try it. Start light and partner it with your Kettlebell Goblet Squats.
  8. KB Bench Supported Bird Dog Row – now the extended leg is hovering and the stability required between shoulder, core and opposite hip to move weight under control is highly challenged. This is an advance exercise we pair with Double Kettlebell Front Squats.

If you can do this last variation, bravo!

If your knees don’t like the ground, add something soft underneath them to see if that helps. If not, Dan John has a great variation you can read about here.

If you try these out please let us know what you think of them and whether or not you found this helpful.