When it comes to learning how to use your core, nothing beats going back to basics with the bird dog. This simple exercise, also known as quadruped, is a staple in every physical therapist's and personal trainer's tool bag for teaching core stability by engaging the abdominals and back muscles simultaneously. It's easier to feel your abs working on all fours than lying on your back since you're working against gravity. This exercise is also safe if you are recovering from a back injury.
- Begin on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
- Pull your abs in to your spine. Keeping your back and pelvis still and stable, reach your right arm forward and left leg back. Don't allow the pelvis to rock side to side as you move your leg behind you. Focus on not letting the rib cage sag toward the floor. Reach through your left heel to engage the muscles in the back of the leg and your butt.
- Return to the starting position, placing your hand and knee on the floor. Repeat on the other side to complete one rep.
- Do five to 10 reps.
There are many variation of this exercise, but this version teaches basic stability. For quality control, you can test your stability by placing a small paper cup on your pelvis (my physical therapist put water in the cup to really motivate me), and if the cup falls you know your pelvis is wobbling and you need to focus on engaging your lower abs more.