Why the Birddog is such a great exercise and how to use it, program it and progress it in your workouts



The foundation of all core exercises.

The exercise I recommend to pretty much of all of my personal training clients.


This move may have a funny little name, but it is one of the best when it comes to core activation, control, balance, and strength!

((Google birddog – there are some seriously silly pictures that come up!))


When it comes to exercises though, the birddog is a highly effective stability core exercise that targets the deep ab muscles and lumbar extensors  (longissimus, iliocostalis, and multifidi), which play a key role in proper posture and preventing low back pain.


Not only can almost anyone do this exercise because of it’s low-impact nature, but it can be done pretty much anywhere and with no equipment at all!


And there are so many ways to progress the movement to challenge yourself or a client that it is a great option for any fitness level.


I do this move with beginner clients to help them become more aware of their core and strengthen it. I use progressions and different equipment with advanced clients to challenge their core stability.


The Core Exercise (Almost) Everyone Can and Should Do... The Birddog! Read more here... Click To Tweet


How to do the Birddog

1. Start on your hands and knees (on a mat or soft surface) with on your hands directly under your shoulders and knees tucked under your hips

2. Think about pressing your belly button up into your rib cage and keep your head, neck, and back straight

3. Extend one leg and the opposite arm out so that they are parallel to the floor. Hold this position for a few  seconds,

4. Slowly bring your arm and leg back to the ground and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.


Birddog Progressions:

Birddog with arm movements – When the arm and leg are extended, horizontally rotate the extended arm out to your side and then back up next your ear.

Birddog with arm and leg movements – When arm and leg are extended, horizontally rotate the extended arm and leg out to the side and then back to start position.

Birddog with knee and elbow tucks – When arm and leg are extended, tuck extended knee up to the stomach as elbow tucks under the torso to meet the knee.


Watch a video of the Birddog and progressions


Who should NOT do the Birddog 

While most people will benefit from this exercise, if your client has a knee, shoulder, or wrist injury and is in pain when then down on their hands and knees, this may not be the best move for them… at least not right now.

I have many clients who have had knee surgeries and still do this move. You can advise them to put a towel under their knee and see if that helps. But as with any exercise, if it is painful, don’t push it!


At-Home Core Workout

I would say 9 out of 10 people indicate improving core strength as one of their goals. I like to teach my clients how to do the birddog, deadbug, and planks in the gym, and then send them home with homework (or an at-home workout) that they should do on their own and at times when they cannot make a session.


Most people indicate improving #core strength as 1 of their goals - At-home workout here>> Click To Tweet


Below is a sample at-home core workout I put together for one of my clients:


Birddog – 6 reps each side (hold top position for about 5 seconds)

Birddog with knee and elbow tucks – 6 reps each side

Forearm Plank – Hold 30 seconds

Side Planks – Hold 20 seconds

Lying Push Ups (lie prone on a mat, place your hands next to your chest and bend your knees, pull your belly button into your spine and push up – your whole body should raise at the same time) – 6 reps

How to do a push up

To learn more technique tips for exercises like push ups, planks, squats, etc, download your copy of “101 Technique Tips for Personal Trainers” HERE!

Repeat circuit 3x



(Progressions added to the above exercises. Note that different people will progress at different rates – I progressed this client pretty quickly.)

Birddog with arm and leg movements – 6 reps each side

High Plank with arm and leg movements – 6 reps each side

Side Planks with hip drops – 10 each side

Lying Push Ups (lie prone on a mat, hands by armpits, knees bent, then engage abs and push upper body up into a push up keeping knees on mat) – 10 reps

Mountain Climbers – 30 seconds

Repeat circuit 3x


Let’s chat

What is your favorite core exercise? 

Personal Trainers: Do you have a go to exercise that you use with many clients?