Knee Elevated Bird Dog - Core & Back Exercise
How to Do the Knee Elevated Bird Dog - Core & Back Exercise | In-Depth Guide [VISUAL LEARNERS]
Proper Form & Common Mistakes | Home Strength Training
VIDEO TUTORIALS HEREWRITTEN TUTORIAL + IMAGES BELOW
MAIN MUSCLES WORKED IN the Knee Elevated bird dog
BACK EXTENSOR MUSCLES
Which consist of: Erector spinae, Multifidi; Quadratus Lumborum, Obliques
OTHER MUSCLES WORKED (fyi, tons!):
- Latissimus Dorsi
- Transverse Abdominis
- Rectus Abdominis
HOW Knee Elevated Bird Dogs SHAPE OUR BODY
Upright posture, strong, graceful movement - having a strong core makes it easier to move the arms and the legs with control and power.
WHAT WE'RE DOING TODAY
ALL WE'RE DOING:
From your hands and knees, lift one arm and the opposite leg up. Like you're a highway sign pointing in opposite directions. Hold.
This Bird Dog variation is an easy and effective core & back-strengthening exercise that also targets the very small and deep spinal muscles (multifidi) that play a big role in keeping your spine stable. It involves having the "standing" knee elevated a little bit, rather than on the ground.
Frequently people who have a history of back pain will have trouble activating these muscles. The elevated bird dog is commonly used to retrain these muscles.
The same hands and knees position is used, with a neutral spine. The non-working knee and shin are lying on an elevated surface - around one inch high. The arm and leg movement will not be alternating, all of the reps will be done on one side. In this position, the muscles of the back will have to actively hold the side of the pelvis level as the leg and arm moves out. This will keep the multifidi muscles active during the entire set.
PROPER FORM: Knee Elevated Bird Dogs
EQUIPMENT, SETS & REPS
Elevated surface: A folded blanket or a piece of foam
SUGGESTED STARTING WEIGHT FOR WOMEN:
SETS & REPS:
5-8 reps on each side with great form.
Slow control, focus on form not speed or number of reps. Hold 8 - 10 seconds when the arm and leg are lifted. These are endurance muscles that work at a low level all day long.
BODY POSITION FOR THE Knee-Elevated Bird Dog Core Exercise
Place the elevated surface on the floor on the side of your non working leg.
LEGS: Non-working knee and shin on elevated surface. Hips bent with thighs perpendicular to the floor. Knees directly under hips. Working leg knee and shin on the floor.
FEET: Toes pointed or ankles bent.
ARMS: Straight down, elbows soft. Keep the space between your earlobe and the top of your shoulder. Hands directly under shoulders. Fingers facing forward.
BODY STANCE: Lift your pelvis up (the working side) to level out your low back and pelvis. Neutral spine (includes neck). Lengthen your spine - imagine reaching out through the top of your head and through your tailbone.
HOW TO DO
HOW TO DO Knee Elevated Bird Dogs
CUE: Imagine a teacup filled with hot tea balancing on your low back. As your arm and leg slide out and lift, the teacup should remain level to prevent spilling.
With slow control, slide one arm and the opposite leg out from under you and lift up until they are parallel to the floor*.
Keep your arm in line with your shoulder and your leg in line with your hip. Feel one line of energy from your hand to your toes.
Make a fist with your hand and pull your shoulder blade down your back to activate your latissimus dorsi muscle.
* The height that your arm and leg is lifted to is dependent on your ability to maintain a neutral spine, lower than torso level is ok as you work on getting stronger.
Hold for 8 -10 seconds. Bring your arm and leg back in, with control. The working arm does not have to touch down in between reps. Complete all of the reps on one side. Switch sides.
HOW TO SAFELY GET OUT OF THE EXERCISE
Put both hands and knees on the floor, move into tall kneeling and step forward with one foot in the lunge position, push up with your legs to standing.
WHAT TO AVOID WITH THE Knee Elevated Bird Dog
Guess what? Good news! Many avoids are the same for most movements. Once you learn the basics, there's really only a few extra avoids for each individual movement.
1. Avoid Moving Torso
AVOID: Moving the torso
- Moving through the spine will not work the muscles as intended and may irritate the joints of the spine.
WHAT TO DO:
- The goal of the exercise is to keep the spine in neutral as you move the arm and leg.
2. Avoid Lifting Too High
AVOID: Lifting the leg or arm too high.
- This will cause back to arch.
- Exercising with the back arched can lead to irritation of the spinal joints and can cause damage over time
- Working with the back in extension will not achieve the goal of the exercise. The goal is to strengthen the muscles in a neutral spine position.
- There is no benefit to lifting the leg or arm higher, it decreases the muscle activity of the arm and leg.
WHAT TO DO:
- Only lift as high as the leg and shoulder can move from their joints.
3. Avoid Bending Working Arm or Leg
AVOID: Letting the working arm or leg bend
WHAT TO DO:
- Keep the limbs stretched and energized.
- This helps activate the core muscles.
4. Avoid Locking Elbow Joint
AVOID: Avoid locking or hyperextending your elbow (on the supporting side)
- This puts too much force through the joint and may result in long-term damage over time.
WHAT TO DO:
- Keep the support elbow slightly bent throughout the movement.
5. Avoid Dropping Into Shoulders
AVOID: Dropping into the shoulder.
- Stresses the shoulder joints, increases the lumbar curve.
- Keep the shoulders back and sternum lifted.
WHAT TO DO:
- Press down into the floor with the support hand.
- Lengthen the spine (includes neck) and energize the arm that is reaching out.
- This will activate the muscles of the core
6. Avoid Leaning to One Side
AVOID: Leaning your body to the side when the limb slides out or comes back in.
- Decreases the work of the back extensors.
WHAT TO DO?
- Keep hips and shoulders level to the ground.
7. Avoid Lifting Out to Side
AVOID: Avoid letting the lifted leg/arm move outwards.
- Letting the leg /arm drift inward will decrease the demand on the back extensors.
- When the leg/arm lifts up off of the floor the pelvis/upper back will attempt to rotate down towards the floor, it is the job of the back extensors to hold the pelvis and shoulders level.
WHAT TO DO:
- Keep the leg aligned with the hip.
WHAT & WHY
BENEFITS OF TRAINING THE back extensor MUSCLEs
You might be thinking, hey, I'm a human. I'm not a bird. I'm not dog. And I definitely ain't a bird-dog. But stick with me ladies, the exercise with the odd name has a very cool point to it..
The bird dog is used for exercising the muscles of the core, especially targeting the muscles that prevent your spine from bending forward. That rounded slumping back look has never been attractive has it? And I certainly don't need to look any shorter.
This exercise also works the muscles that move and stabilize the shoulders and hips. The movement is done on your hands and knees with your spine held very still in a neutral position.
One arm and the opposite leg are lifted up. Lifting the limbs will throw your body off balance and you will need to work to keep control. This requires a lot of concentration, coordination, and muscle control.
THE COOL THING ABOUT IT:
There's lot of body parts remaining still. Which gives us the sense of chillness, peacefulness. This is an ultimate anti-hiit-get-your-knees-high-in-the-air exercise.
The bird dog is good for learning to move through the shoulder and hip joints while keeping your spine very still.
WHAT'S HARD ABOUT IT:
Turns out, unbeknownst to me before, it's actually very difficult to not move - to keep your torso still while lifting an arm and leg up. So at first, we might feel like losers when we see how shaky we are. You might even start wishing I'd ask you to hop up and give me 20 jumping jacks instead. But stick with it. You will improve in no time and you will feel SO good to see your ability to control your body movement improve.
In order to stabilize the low back when you lift the arm and opposite leg, you need to use the latissimus dorsi muscle that helps to connect the upper body to the lower body. To do this, once the arm is lifted up into place, pull the shoulder blade down the back to activate the connection between the upper and lower body.
TO GET THE TRUE BENEFIT: HOLD THE POSITION
The other important part of this exercise is to hold the position at the end range with good control - the exercise trains the muscle for endurance - the ability to work for a long time. That is how the core muscles function most of the time, so it's practical to train the core in this way.
This is a goal to work up to, first concentrating on being able to get into the position with good form, and then slowly being able to increase the time that you hold the position.
This is really important for training the body to move in ways that protect the spine, hips and shoulders from injury and damage over time.
BACK PAIN ANYONE?
The Bird Dog is commonly used for the treatment and prevention of back pain. There are two training techniques that are commonly used to increase the endurance of the stabilizing muscles:
1) Get into the position and hold the position still for a set number of seconds, or until you are not able to hold good form;
2) Hold the position very stable and move the arms and/or legs for a set number of reps.
Learning to get into the position and holding it stable is the first goal. Once that is mastered, adding movement of the arms and legs is the progression.
WHY DO WE EVEN CARE?
TRAINS CORE MUSCLES FOR ENDURANCE SO YOU DON'T FALL OVER
The back extensors work with the other core muscles to hold you upright and stable. The muscles work constantly but at low levels - meaning that the muscles are not producing a lot of force, but they are always active just to keep you from falling over - all the time, both in standing and sitting. They become more active when you lean forward. The muscles need to work to stop you from falling forward.
TRAINS BACKS MUSCLES TO WORK IN THE SAME WAY THEY WORK WHILE WALKING
It's probly going to sound weird to say that being on your hands knees can translate over into how we walk upright, but stick with me!
In the Bird Dog, one arm and the opposite leg is lifted. This activates the back muscles in a diagonal pattern. This is the same way that the muscles are used during walking, called “reciprocal arm and leg movement” - as one leg extends back the opposite arm moves forwards. Which is what we're doing in the Bird Dog.
Well why don't we just walk around then instead of doing this whole rigamorole on our hands and knees huh Rayzel? Well, it has to do with gravity. By getting down on our hands and knees, our back muscles will now be working against gravity much more to lift our arms and legs, which is what will really challenge these muscles.
HELPS US USE OUR ARMS & LEGS WITHOUT INJURING OUR SPINE
Training the muscles of the back to hold the spine in a good position while you move your arms and legs will improve your ability to use your arms and legs with less risk of injuring your spine.
I'm cool with being able to not hurt my back, you?
IMPROVES OUR SENSE OF SELF
Not the psyche-type sense of self, although I'm super into that too, but this sort of exercise, helps us improve our sense of where our body is in space.
Exercises that involve weight bearing through the joints will stimulate the receptors in the joints that tell the brain where the body is in space - these are called proprioceptors. This is part of training coordination and balance.
In the hands and knees position, the joints and muscles need to make tiny adjustments to keep the arm and hip stable - this is all coordinated through the communication between the joints, brain and muscles. As the working arm and leg move, the brain will send information to the muscles to make tiny adjustments in order to stay balanced on the stabilizing arm and leg.
When you do exercises that focus on very deliberate, stable and controlled movement you are strengthening the connections between the brain and the muscles.
EVERYDAY LIFE &
HOW WE USE OUR Back extensor MUSCLES IN EVERYDAY LIFE
1. THE MUSCLES ON THE BACK OF THE TORSO WORK TOGETHER TO HOLD THE SPINE STILL DURING ALL UPRIGHT ACTIVITIES
2. THE BACK EXTENSORS WORK TO PREVENT THE BODY FROM FALLING FORWARD ANYTIME THE BODY MOVES FORWARD FROM BEING PERFECTLY UPRIGHT
- Forward head posture
- Leaning forward
3. BACK STABILIZERS WORK TO PREVENT ANY MOVEMENT OF THE SPINE OUT OF NEUTRAL AND INTO FLEXION
- Reaching - when the arm moves forward
- When lifting one leg or arm - this will cause the spine to want to rotate
- Especially when leaning over or on hands and knees because of the downward pull of gravity
SPIFFILICIOUS FACTS ABOUT MUSCLES & MOVES
The erector spinae muscle is a large group of muscles that run the entire length of the spine - from the base of the skull down to the sacrum. The muscle is divided into different smaller groups based on the attachments - iliocostalis, spinalis, and longissimus.
There are more muscles that lie under the erector spinae that are also back extensors: semispinalis, multifidi, rotatores, interspinalis and intertransversarii. All of the muscles can help to extend the spine to increase the lumbar and cervical curve and stabilize the spine.
They are assisted by many layers of very strong ligaments, and the vertebral discs. The muscles will be most active when you are bent forward with the hips flexed 90 degrees, as you lean over further the muscles become less capable of preventing spinal flexion. In this position, we rely on the ligaments and discs of the spine to control movement.
ALLLL MUSCLES & WHEN
ALL MUSCLES WORKING & WHEN DURING THE Knee Elevated Bird Dog
In the quadruped position: the muscles of the core - extensor spinae, deep spinal extensors (semispinalis, multifidi, rotatores, interspinalis and intertransversarii), quadratus lumborum, obliques, rectus abdominis, and transverse abdominis all contribute to holding the spine in neutral - at rest with the hands and knees this is minimal, as the leg and arm are lifting this will increase. Pelvic floor can help if you work on activating it. The multifidi will work to level the pelvis level.
The arm and shoulder blade muscles (deltoids, biceps, triceps, teres major, muscles of the forearm, scapular muscles, rotator cuff muscles latissimus dorsi) work to hold the upper body still.
The arm slides out: the biceps and anterior deltoid lift the arm out overhead. The trapezius and serratus anterior rotate the scapula (shoulder blade will rotate upward. As the arm lifts up, gravity will pull down on that side of the upper back - the back extensors will need to work harder to keep the upper back level. As the arm reaches forward the shoulder blade pulls down the back to activate the lats which help to stabilize the spine.
The leg slides out: the gluteus maximus and hamstrings take the leg back towards neutral (from flexion). As the leg is removed from the floor the pelvis on that side is pulled towards the floor by gravity. The back extensors and hip abductors and external rotators (of the support leg) will need to work to maintain a level low back and pelvis.
The muscle activity of the core is mostly isometric to maintain a neutral spine against the downward pull of gravity. The type of muscle contraction will vary depending on form and movement. Maintaining a neutral spine in the quadruped position requires a combination of isometric but also some eccentric activity as gravity pulls downward. Making corrections to your form may require concentric contractions. For example, if you tend to sag the stomach down (increase the lumbar curve) then the rectus abdominis will need to contract concentrically to correct the position. If your pelvis drops down on one side then the gluteus medius and minimis on the other side, along with the obliques and quadratus lumborum will act concentrically to correct the position and isometrically to hold the position. If you compensate by activating the rectus abdominis and round the back, then the back extensors will work concentrically to correct the position.