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How to Do the Bird Dog Exercise for Back Pain

Learn how to do The Bird Dog exercise from physical therapist Eric Sampson in this Howcast video.


Hi. I'd like to spend a few minutes talking about an exercise called the bird dog.

The bird dog is something that's used frequently in the gym setting, but it's also used frequently here in the physical therapy setting. It's a great exercise for mutual strengthening of the spine. Mutual strengthening is often something needed towards the end of a rehab stay in a physical therapy setting. It's a good strengthening exercise. It also puts the spine in what we call a mutual position, which is great for a balance of forces on the tissue.

So I'd like you to come on up to all fours. This is called quadruped and just want to realign. Just put your hands a little more on your knees. Your shoulders there. Perfect. The key here is to try to force a neutral position through here so you want to roll that down a little and hold that. And now you just kind of pretend there's a glass of water on your back and at the same time you're going to extend your opposite arm and leg. So I want you to do that for me. And you're just going to hold.

By doing this exercise, she's working exclusively on some core muscles in the center here as well as the back. But also getting a lot of work for her gluts and her scapular muscles as well. Switch. Come back the other way. The key that I find with these exercise when it's done right is to make sure that the knee's fully, fully extending and not bending at all. When the knee's extended, it allows the patient to use their hip and their back more as opposed to their hamstring muscle. So come on down and switch again.

I like using this exercise a lot sort of after I do some things facing down on the table, such as a swimming exercise, because the patient does have to go from a flex position to an extended position. A little more challenging than just being extended the whole time. Last one. I often teach this for patients to do as sort of repetitions in nature. Also sustaining the load. You can hold it for 30 seconds to a minute as a goal or you can just do repetitions, like 30 repetitions or so.

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