Form Fix: Swimming Prep (Or Bird Dog, you choose)

I’m sure the SEO gods hate the title of this post, but all I can say to that is I don’t write for the muthaeffin’ Internet. I write for you guys!

With that said, the Swimming Prep is a Pilates-based exercise, but in strength training circles it’s known as Bird Dog. In others (there are lot of fitness circles), it’s known as “that super hard exercise that makes me realize I have zero balance and life sucks.”

Let’s take a lookski.

The goal of this exercise is to maintain balance & control of the body while moving your limbs in space. Sounds simple enough, right?


In the top (i.e. correct) photo, my spine is neutral, core engaged, hip bones squared down and my knee is directly in line with my hip. Wrist sits directly under the shoulder. These are just the requirements for the set-up of this exercise before you move the arm and leg anywhere.


Basic Tips

  1. Get your set-up right before you begin. This is usually why this exercise goes off the rails for most people. 
  2.  The center photo is subtle b/c half my set-up is correct but I miss the mark by NOT engaging my core (see how it dips?) and there’s a slight arch in the low back. Also, my right hip is slightly raised. Booty is on point though so I give it a C+ 😂
  3. The bottom photo is so wrong, my eyes hurt looking at it. My left hip is lifted to the point where it’s facing the camera instead of the floor. Notice how you can see my belly button? That signifies rotation which we want to avoid. My ribs are flaring too, elbow is hyperextended and my left knee placement on the floor is so off it was hard to balance in this position.


Moral of the story: I get an A+ for awesome pants but an F in control, balance, spine position and ribcage placement in the other photos, among other things.

When to use it?

In Pilates, you’ll aim to master this before attempting the full swimming exercise on the mat. However, it’s nice to revisit because it is challenging and is a great way to teach scapular stability, pelvic stability and anterior core stability. I like to use this as part of my warm-up before I lift to fire up my glutes, scapular stabilizers and yes, the “core”. You can do it too, as long as the movement is controlled and slowed down. We gain nothing by cranking out reps of this exercise so slow your roll!

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