Don't Neglect Your Back Muscles — Get 'Em Fired Up With Standing Bird Dog
Our back muscles are essential to everything from good posture to core stability and of course, a healthy spine. Somehow, though, back exercises are often forgotten sooner than, say, crunches or squats. Luckily, there's one simple move you can do to work the entire back side of the body (while targeting other muscles, too). Here's how to do it, as demonstrated by personal trainer and holistic nutritionist BB Arrington, CPT.
How to do standing bird dog:
- Hold a lighter weight in your left hand, and stand on your left leg.
- Hinge over and extend your right leg behind you like a tail, as you simultaneously bring your left hand with the weight out in front of you.
- Bring your elbow and knee together in the center, then extend back into that long-body position.
- Keep your hips square throughout the exercise. That's one rep. Repeat for 8 to 10 reps, then switch sides. Complete 3 sets on both sides.
Tips & modifications:
- To incorporate your breath into this move, inhale as you extend, and exhale as you round in. (You will feel the greatest challenge in your back when the body is fully extended.)
- As you extend your leg back, point or flex the toes and lift from where the glute meets the hamstring to ensure your leg is solid and active.
- Keep the weight evenly distributed in the standing foot with a micro-bend in your standing knee to help with balance.
- If the standing variation is too much of a challenge at the moment, you can do this move on all fours (for a traditional bird dog).
- If you want to make this move more challenging, you can increase the weight in the hand, and/or incorporate ankle weights.
- As you exhale and round in, hug the core up and in, slightly rounding the spine, to engage your core muscles.
What are the benefits?
There are so many benefits to standing bird dog. For one thing, it targets a bunch of muscles along the back side of the body, from the entire back and spine itself to the glutes and hamstrings. When the core is properly engaged, you're working those muscles too, and the addition of weights gives your arms an extra challenge.
Along with being a strengthening exercise, this move requires balance, stability, and focus, helping to improve all three. As you practice this move and get better at it, you'll find your range of motion and overall mobility increases, as does your balance.
The bottom line is, standing bird dog is one simple move you don't want to miss—especially if you've been neglecting those back muscles.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.