Paleo Fitness Core Skill Drill: The Bird Dog
The bird dog is an easy drill to help prime the core and to wake up any sleepy musculature. In fact, you’d benefit from throwing a few sets of the bird dog into your daily warm-up routine.
This movement helps reset reflexive core stability; specifically, it trains the core on how to prevent extension of the spine (overarching your low back or flaring your rib cage out), a common problem seen in planks and overhead presses.
The rudimentary purpose of your core is to protect the spine. The core is a sort of protective mechanism, designed primarily to stabilize and support the spine. Secondarily, its purpose is to mobilize the spine. Unfortunately, most people train only the secondary function — through endless amounts of sit-ups and crunches — and neglect stability work entirely.
Really, a functional core operates at an unconscious level. That is, you shouldn’t have to think about stabilizing your spine; it should just be executed automatically.
Here are the steps to the bird dog skill drill:
Get down on all fours, knees under hips, and hands under shoulders; be sure your back is flat.
A neutral spinal position (no excessive curvature) allows for the most efficient transmission of force through the spine. You’re not only keeping your back safe with a neutral spine but also performing better.
Slowly start to extend your arm and opposite leg, until your leg is kicked out fully behind you (toes pointed down and knee locked) and your arm is reaching out with your bicep up next to your ear.
Imagine that you’re trying to create as much distance as possible between your reaching hand and heel. If at any time you lose your neutral spine position (your low back overarches or your rib cage flares out), stop, reset, and try again.
Slowly return to the starting position, switch sides, and repeat.
Try to stay as relaxed as possible when performing the bird dog. The goal is to get your body to respond automatically (reflexively) to stabilize your position, which you can’t achieve if you’re tensing too tightly.