The chances are you aren’t going to spend the weekend hunting game, but if you were, you’d want a bird-dog by your side. This is not a terrifying hybrid of the two animals, complete with snarling teeth and powerful wings (although that would probably be good for hunting), but a canny canine that’s bred to sniff out prey. We’re talking pointers, retrievers, setters and spaniels – all animals that boast a superlative ability to find pheasants and, unless you go overboard with the treats, probably a rock-solid core. And no matter how much time you spend doing the bird-dog exercise you’re unlikely to improve your ability to sniff out a pheasant’s roost at 50 paces, but you will gain the core strength.
It’s not only your core strength that the bird-dog improves, because your balance and flexibility are both tested by the move too. The instability you have to accommodate when raising opposing limbs is also beneficial for your core and after a few weeks of bird-dogging (we haven’t checked, but probably not a phrase to Google at work) you should also find yourself more mobile in the hips and shoulders. As a final bonus, the movement also enlists the muscles that support your spine, which makes the bird-dog a great addition to the gym routine for anyone who spends long hours slumped over a desk.
How To Do The Bird-Dog
Start on your hands and knees, much like a regular dog. Stretch your right arm out in front of you, hold for a moment to get your balance, then extend your left leg out behind you. This is the bit that resembles a bird-dog, pointing out the prey for the hunter.
Keep your neck in line with your spine, your hips level and the extended limbs straight. All of this might be tricky the first time out, you might not have the flexibility in your hips and shoulders to straighten your arms and legs entirely, but the balance and mobility will come in time.
From your bird-dog position bring your extended limbs in to meet under your chest, where your elbow and knee should touch. Then extend out again and repeat, aiming for five reps in total before you switch to the opposite limbs. Aim for three sets of this in total.
The bird-dog crunch is an excellent core exercise for beginners, but it can also be toughened up pretty easily once you get to grips with it. One way to do this is instead of crunching back from your extended position immediately you can hold the pose for 10 seconds to really challenge the core.
For bird-dog pros, you can try the movement while lifting the arm and leg on the same side of your body. This is a keen test of balance, and keeping yourself upright will only be possible once you have the killer core of a cocker spaniel.