Move of the Week: Bear Dog

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! It’s time to get back into gear with your Move of the Week!

THE MOVE: Bear Dog

MOVEMENT PATTERN AND MUSCLES WORKED: Core stability; abs.

WHY DO IT: This week’s move is not a breed of dog, nor a ferocious animal of any sort. It is, however, a progression on a core exercise known as the bird dog, made popular by industry experts like Mike Boyle, Stuart McGill, and the folks over at FMS.

If you don’t know what a bird dog is, watch the video above, and just imagine doing the same exact motion on your knees. You’ll definitely find that to be easier than today’s move, in which you are on your toes.

In the Bear Dog, your goal is to maintain your spinal alignment while you extend your left arm and right leg simultaneously, and vice-versa. In order to do so, you must resist extension and rotation of your core, and this is much, much harder than it sounds.

Today’s move is great for challenging core stability in a dynamic context, and you won’t be able to fully extend your arm and leg without the proper core stabilization. Dan does a great job making this look easy, but you can see that even he does not fully extend his arm and leg–he knows his limits, and you should too.

In fact, people who find the bird dog rather tame (like yours truly) may be in for a surprise with the Bear Dog. On my toes, I could barely lift my opposite hand and leg at the same time, let alone extend them without wobbling like crazy. If you master this move however, there is a good chance that you’ll be more proficient in other movements, too, such as crawling and sprinting. In these movements and many others, a solid core integrates with the arms and legs in a diagonal fashion to produce motion, and a proper bear dog can help with that.

HOW TO DO IT: In order to get this move right, you first want to set up on your hands and your toes, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. For some people, this will be hard enough as it is.

To test the waters, lift your hand and the opposite foot off the floor while maintaining a tabletop position; make sure your torso stays parallel to the floor. If you can do this, progress by extending your hand forward and your opposite foot backward until you can no longer maintain the tabletop position. Finish the rep by slowly bringing your extended limbs back to center. Repeat for reps on both sides.

The Bear Dog is a challenging exercise. Perhaps you couldn’t extend your arm and leg. Perhaps you couldn’t lift you hand and your foot off the floor. Or perhaps you couldn’t even maintain the quadruped position. All of these are normal; some of you might just have more work to do when it comes to resisting rotation and extension of the core.

If you have trouble with the quadruped position or lifting off your opposite hand and foot, I’d recommend practicing that step before moving further up the chain. Furthermore, when it come to extending your limbs, go only as far as your core stability will take you. From there, slowly work your hand and your foot further away from your core. Practice makes perfect.

I like to use the Bear Dog at the beginning or end of a workout for 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps/side. If you’re looking to challenge your core stability, try this out and let us know what you think on Twitter or Instagram @halevylife !

by Jeremy Lau

Jeremy Lau

Jeremy Lau Halevy Life Staff CoachJeremy Lau is a Senior Staff Coach at Halevy Life.

Jeremy graduated cum laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BSc. in Biomedical Engineering and is currently pursuing his M.Ed. in Exercise Physiology at Columbia University. In addition to his academic accolades, Jeremy is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).

Prior to joining the team at Halevy Life, Jeremy completed a coaching internship at Cressey Sports Performance, where he coached both amateur and professional athletes, among whom were many professional MLB baseball players.

As an athlete, Jeremy has played baseball competitively for most of his life.