As a coach, I believe in developing basic fundamental movements that every single person should learn how to do. Over the years of coaching, I’ve seen the general population have trouble with the essential movement patterns needed to function in everyday life. Sometimes I will have a new client come in for an assessment, and as we are going through each test in the back of my head I’m asking myself:
“How does this person move day to day without pain?”
I believe that the world we live in today is no longer designed for the sophisticated machinery that we possess that we call our bodies. We sit all day, type on computers, text on phones, barely exercise, have everything delivered to us, and to sugarcoat it, we’re basically doomed for destruction. Okay, maybe that wasn’t sugarcoating it, but it’s true.
I’ve yet to see an average person come to me with no mobility restrictions or some sort of pain they are dealing with on an everyday basis. The typical scenario when someone is in pain is they go see a physiotherapist or chiropractor to only place a band-aid on poor function and movement. This process does help but doesn’t prevent the situation on the whole as you’re only doing half the work, and the half you’re working on is what the therapist is doing.
There’s a giant gap between the rehabilitation world and the strength and conditioning world when it comes to the general population to rehab from an injury. Sure, there are plenty of physios and chiros out there that prescribe exercise, but 99.9% of patients don’t go home and actually do the exercises prescribed to them, and if they do, they butcher the exercises given to them.
Why? Well, there’s a couple reasons:
1. Clinicians are not coaches
Physio’s and Chiro’s bread and butter is treatment whereas coaches is coaching! When a coach spends the majority of their time learning exercise and how to communicate to a client how to execute it, you’d think they would have a better chance of getting the message across
2. The patient doesn’t have body awareness
On average, at least for me, it takes anywhere from 3 months to one year with a client training consistently with me to really understand how they move. Motor control is a massive player in the game of fitness, and if you don’t have it, you’re leaving a lot of good stuff on the table.
For example, the bird dog! Fantastic exercise, probably the most popular rehabilitation exercise out in the world, but it’s also the most butchered exercise in the world.
The Bird Dog has been a staple core and spinal stabilization exercise for well over a decade. Made famous by low-back pioneers and brilliant functional training experts such as Dr. Stuart McGill, Gray Cook, and Mike Boyle, the Bird Dog has been shown to be an effective movement to reinforce proper spinal alignment and core recruitment. Adequate execution can produce a variety of benefits, including improvements in core musculature innervation, rotary stability, spinal alignment, reduced low-back pain, postural control, shoulder stability, hip alignment, shoulder mobility and spinal stabilization. Also, the opposite arm and leg movement pattern improve the ability to integrate a strong pillar of core strength while simultaneously coordinating upper and lower-body movements which translates to many athletic movements and sports.
I spend a lot of time hammering this exercise out as it provides a lot of value to human movement, pain management, and performance down the road. I want my clients and everyone out there to learn how to do the bird dog exercise and not just go through the motions.
Here’s how I coach it:
Here are some key takeaways you should focus on:
1. Tension and Relaxation
Being exposed to two worlds of Dr. Stuart McGill who is an advocate of bracing to protect the spine and Physiotherapist Dianne Lee who encourages against bracing as it doesn’t do justice for the pelvic floor. I tend to fall in the spectrum around the middle. When I coach the bird dog, I tell my clients to think about a speedometer in a car. As your rev your engine it goes slow in the beginning, then you’re redlining it at the end as you put your foot on the gas. Same goes for the bird dog, start off with no tension as you start, then as you begin to reach and kick out the opposite leg start ramping up the tension. As you reach and kick to full extension, you should have maximal tension. Then, as you return, you relax and return to no tension.
2. Creating Tension
It’s one thing to ask the client to create tension, but if they don’t have the kinaesthetic awareness how to do so, the exercise’s value drops drastically. The coaching cues I use in the video above seem to help many clients that have trouble with the bird dog exercise.
Create tension by:
– Creating a fist with the reaching hand and squeezing it hard
– Kicking the opposite leg back like you’re trying to donkey kick someone behind you
– The supporting hand on the ground is pushing down and rotating clockwise to engage the lats
– Breathing with your diaphragm to engage your “core” musculature in stabilizing the spine
With these simple changes to a classic exercise, you’ll be able to get the benefit of the exercise. I firmly believe that every exercise out in the world of fitness and health no matter how simple or advanced there’s always a better way to coach it for someone else to finally understand. It’s the job of the coach to figure out the best delivery method is to ensure the success of their client or patient.