Step-by-Step: How to do the Bird-Dog Exercise to Strengthen the Multifidi Muscles / Lumbar Spine
The bird-dog is a simple exercise that can be easily performed by people who are recovering from a back injury or looking to strengthen the back and abdominal muscles simultaneously.
If you’ve recently experienced a low back injury and have seen a Chiropractor or physiotherapist, it’s quite possible they have prescribed this exercise to you already. That’s because there’s a group of muscles near the lumbar spine called the multifidi that act to stabilize the lumbar spine and this exercise helps strengthen those muscles.
Dr. Keith Belliveau, Chiropractor at Revelation Health Centre in Calgary, is passionate about helping his patients improve and maintain their health both inside and outside of the clinic. Here he explains step-by-step how to do the bird-dog exercise at home or anywhere with the space that permits:
Bird-Dog Exercise Tutorial:
- Get into position on your hands and knees looking forward with head aligned with your spine
- Reach your right arm outwards at shoulder width while extending your left leg outwards at hip width
- Keep your shoulders and hips square without arching your back and hold for 5 seconds
- Return your right arm and left leg to starting position and alternate with your left arm and right leg
Do 5 to 10 repetitions per side for 1 to 3 sets
“Hey guys. This is going to be a rehabilitation exercise for the lumbar spine. So, there’s a group of muscles deep in our lumbar spine called the multifidi, and they actually will support that lumbar spine through motion.
Whether through its deconditioning or injury, sometimes these muscles can turn off and that can predispose you to a lumbar spine injury. So, if I recommended these exercises to you, that’s because I think you’d really benefit from them. Or if you’ve injured your low back and you feel like its slightly unstable, this is a great idea.
So, you’re going to go very simply, hands and knees, and there’s going to be progressions to this. So, the easiest is going to be on arm up at a time, one arm up at a time. Your goal through all of these progressions is going to be zero shifting your body from side-to-side and no unlevelling of your body side-to-side.
So next after that is going to be one leg at a time. Lift your leg straight back, and down. The torso, the pelvis shouldn’t move at all, just the leg. Now the final one is going to be opposite arm and leg together. So again, no translation side-to-side, no unlevelling at the hips when you do this and you’ll feel those multifidi strengthen and that lumbar spine become more stable.”
– Dr. Keith Belliveau, Chiropractor
Stretching Videos & Healthy Lifestyle Guides
- Cox® Technique for Spinal Pain Management in Calgary
- How to: Low Back Stretch for Lumbar Spine [Video]
- How to: Cat-Cow Yoga Stretch for Spinal Flexibility & Mobility [Video]
- How to: Thoracic Spinal Rotation Stretch [Video]
- How to: Shoulder Dips for Lower Trap Stretch [Video]
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