The bird dog exercise has been instrumental in my recovery and daily training since my low back flared up in July. As a BJJ core exercise, this is a “must” when preparing for your training, as it engages your core and activates the stabilizers of your shoulders and hips. This engagement is essential for the limitless amount of coordination needed as a BJJ athlete.
It’s advocated by Stuart McGill, the preeminent spine biomechanist in the world, as one of the most essential exercises for people with some form of low back pathology. If he says it, I listen!
Basic BJJ Core Protocol and Cues
- This position entails being on all fours
- Shoulders stacked over wrists
- Hips stacked over knees
- Keeping eyes down — envision balancing a glass of water on your neck and on your tailbone
- The goal is to keep these from spilling
- Reach opposite arm and opposite leg
- Your body will have a tendency to want to lift the hip of the lifted leg. This would spill the glass.
- Keep your hips level and you will feel your abdomen tighten in towards your spine and feel your obliques engage
- Put the “boot” on your foot by pushing your heel out to lengthen the back of the leg
- Spread support hand as wide as you can, too
- Hold for ten seconds and then slowly control your movement back to the starting position. Switch sides.
- Always breathe through your nose! I can never stress this one enough because it signals a relaxation effect in your body
Important BJJ Core Points
Remember: above, I mentioned to be sure to keep your arm based in a full extended position. This helps to create sound structural stability through the shoulder joint. Don’t take this cue lightly!
Also, placing weight through all four corners of the hand and actively using your forearm extensors to do so allows you to tap into the strength of your hand. By having this strength displayed in the joint, the shoulder can simply anchor, stabilize, and support your body.
For the leg you’re extending, be sure to put the “boot” on your foot as if you’re bringing your toes closer to your shin. This is done by the engaging the shin muscles, especially the peroneals and tibialis anterior of John Danaher instructional fame. Having strong neuromuscular control here will go a long way in allowing you to play a strong hook-based game.
Final Considerations on BJJ Core Exercises
Much of my low back issue revolves around some asymmetries in my body. We all have them. And doing the opposing arm and leg engagement in the bird dog position begins to teach our body the cross-body stability to hold ourselves in a grounded fashion. It will teach you where you’re weak.
By having this awareness, you have made the first step in making a hidden weakness a strength. For only when we are aware of something can we use it favorably or improve on it. Until then, it’s background noise that we’re unaware of wreaking havoc on our health and performance.
I cover more performance training tidbits at mobillitytraining.com that will help you prepare, recover, and perform better on the mats!