‘Bird dog’ is a great core exercise that also works the deep stabilising muscles in the neck and at the shoulder blades. It is an exercise that should be mastered at a basic level before introducing a roller. There are also many beneficial mini movements within the basic bird dog kneeling exercise as well- such as shoulder blade protraction/retraction in weight-bearing and pelvic tilting.
- On the floor, in kneeling with hands lined up directly under your shoulders. Elbows straight but not hyperextended, i.e. elbow creases facing inwards.
- Your hips should be directly over your knees, lumbar spine in a neutral position.
- Keep your neck lengthened, chin slightly tucked and eyes looking to the floor.
- Spread fingers and push hands gently into the floor to turn on the shoulder blades muscles a little.
- Engage your deep tummy muscles gently as well.
- Take a breath in and as you breathe out raise your right arm out in front of your right shoulder. Pause. Then breathe in and return your hand to the floor. Make sure you turn on this right shoulder blade muscle again.
- Breathe out, lift the left hand out in front of your left shoulder. Pause. Breathe in and return as above.
- Breathe out, slowly extend the right leg so that you straighten the knee but keep your big toe in contact with the floor. Pause. Breathe in and return the right knee to the floor, directly under the right hip.
- Repeat with the left leg.
- Continue until you have done x 4-6 reps (both arm and both leg extensions=1 rep).
- The aim of this exercise is to maintain your neutral back position while your limbs are moving. As you do the leg extensions try to minimise any dropping of your pelvis by sliding your foot out till your knee straightens and then slide back. Don’t rush.
- There are many variations- you could repeat 4-6 x leg extensions on one side then go to 4-6x on othe leg , skipping the arm movements.
- Make sure knees remain hip width apart; there is always a tendency to move them closer together.
- Try not to drop the head but ensure the neck is lengthened throughout.
- Knees should not hurt, use a thick mat on the floor if they do.
- If wrists are uncomfortable, try tenting your fingers or using a half roller (semi-circular shape). Alternatively, you could use a very small cushion or sandbag or bag of rice to elevate wrist.