What are Bird Dog exercises?
Bird dogs are simple core exercises that improve spine alignment, strengthen the core, and relieve low back pain. Resembling a hound trained to retrieve game, Bird Dog exercises start in the table-top position involving a series of limb raising and strengthening your core, hips, and back muscles. People of all levels can benefit from this exercise, including older adults, and it is useful for preventing injury, aligning your spine and recovering from low back pain.
Benefits of Bird Dog exercises and how it improves incontinence
Bird Dog exercises strengthen muscles in the lower back, pelvic floor, and abdomen; collectively known as your ‘core’. Bracing these muscles while lifting, sneezing, coughing, and performing other exercises and sports, both strengthens and protects the pelvic floor, which can help reduce incontinence problems. Bird Dog exercises also tone the thigh and gluteal muscles, encourage the habit of a neutral spine position and can relieve lower back pain.
They’re also suitable for all levels of fitness. Most people can manage them easily, including older adults. There are a lot of terrific benefits to be gained from these very simple exercises, including:
- Improving and maintaining good bladder and bowel continence
- Improved posture, and reduced lower-back pain
- Improved balance and stability
How to do Bird Dog exercises
Find a place where you have room to comfortable stretch out your arms and legs in a lying position. A carpeted floor or rug is ideal, but even with that, you may want an exercise or yoga mat to ensure your knees and well-padded and comfortable. Layered towels are an alternative option.
- Start in the table-top position, on all fours. Ensure your wrists are directly under your shoulders, and your knees are under your hips. Keep your chin down and your gaze on the floor so your neck and spine are aligned horizontally. If you can, engage or tense your core muscles.
- Once you feel steady and comfortable, simultaneously extend your right arm forward and your left leg back, keeping your shoulders and hips stable. Try not to rotate. And watch out for furniture or curious pets, especially behind you!
- Hold this position for a few seconds, then return to the starting table-top position.
- Next, extend your left arm and right leg, again keeping your trunk as ridged and still as you can. Hold for a few seconds and then return to the starting position – and that’s it!
- Aim to repeat this sequence 10-12 times, ideally two to three times a day. It might take a few weeks to build up to this, which is quite normal. Every day you’ll get that bit better.
Technique is key
To make sure you’re getting the most benefits from the bird dog exercise, you’ll need to use the right techniques which come from practice and paying attention to your body’s position.
It can seem like there’s a lot to focus on to start with but take it one step at a time, and it will all come together. In turn, pay attention to:
- Maintaining horizontal alignment of your back, neck, and hips. Try not to rotate or twist. You can place a plastic cup on your back to make sure it stays flat.
- Not allowing your back or chest sag. If you are feeling fatigued, stop and do some more later.
- Pulling your shoulder blades in and down, as you would if you were focussing on standing up straight, using your best posture
- Moving your limbs slowly in a controlled and deliberate manner
- Not lifting your leg too high. You’ll know it’s too far if it’s arching your back – it needs to stay flat.
- Often when we do something new that requires concentration, we inadvertently hold our breath. Remember to breathe -. normally, deeply, and consistently.
Top tips for Bird Dog Exercises
Persistence pays. While it might seem complicated, there are so many benefits it’s well worth persisting. Perhaps keep a note of how many you do each day to track your progress. Take it at your own pace, start gently, and aim to do a few more every day.
Mix it up. If the weather is favourable, take it outdoors. Head to your balcony or deck or find a flat area of lawn in your garden or local park. Roll out your mat and Bird Dog in nature! If it’s too cold or wet to be outside, play some of your favourite music to keep you motivated.
Watch yourself. If you can, do your exercises in front of a mirror so you can check your technique. Another option is to ask a family member or friend to video you for a few minutes so you can review how you’re going.
Add specific pelvic floor exercises to your routine. Targeting the pelvic floor can improve, and in some cases, correct bladder leakage. While you’re getting into a routine, think about incorporating some easy pelvic floor exercises .
- You’ll find a range of instructional videos in the TENA Exercise Zone
Add Bird Dog exercises to your workout routine
Bird Dog exercises are suitable for most people to perform, are easy and gentle, require nothing more than an exercise mat and deliver significant benefits. As it helps to strengthen important muscles around the pelvic floor it could be useful if you experience incontinence – so why not give them a go?