FUNctional Fitness: Figure Eight

Benefits of figure eights include weight shifting, proprioception, core strength, balance, and coordination.  I prescribe this exercise often because it is useful for the injured dog that is in the process of recovery, as well as the healthy dog to strengthen the core and prevent injury.  Also, figure eights are a good exercise for warm up or cool down, as it incorporates some active stretching.

Figure eight is a functional exercise because it strengthens the muscles that are required for turning.  Turning in both directions is important for the agility dog, who needs to be able to turn and look toward the next piece of equipment on the course; the geriatric dog, who may get “stuck” in a corner when he finds it difficult to back up or is too stiff to turn in either direction; or the pet dog, who likes to play a game of fetch.

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Viva doing a Figure 8.  Notice how the dog is bending as she is coming around the corner.

Weight Shifting and Balance

When people think of balance work, they usually think of having the dog stand on an unstable surface.  This is a good way to improve balance, but the dog tends to be standing still.  Figure 8s also influence balance, but they do so while your dog is moving.

Figure 8s cause weight shifting to the limbs that are on the inside of the pattern.  This means that as your dog weaves around in a figure eight pattern, he is shifting weight from the left side to the right side and back again.

Proprioception

Proprioception is defined as awareness of the position of one’s body.  Some injuries cause a loss of proprioception.  Improving proprioception in the healthy athlete can prevent injury.

Figure eights improve proprioception by using a pattern that requires variation in gait length.  The limbs on the outside of the pattern take a longer stride than the limbs on the inside of the pattern.  Your dog needs to know where his feet are to keep from stumbling.

Core Strength

Core strength involves strengthening the muscles that are present from the shoulders to the hips.  These muscles support the spine and allow it to side bend, flex (arch like a Halloween cat), extend (flatten back out), and rotate.

Dogs will contract those core muscles as they bend to turn a tight turn. Dogs will also benefit from the stretch that occurs in the core muscles that are on the outside of the pattern.

Coordination

Coordination is defined as the ability to use different parts of the body together smoothly and efficiently.  Balance, core strength, and proprioception all affect coordination.

 

If you want to offer a greater challenge for your dog, you can add an unstable surface.  Below are some ideas:

 

8 Comments

  1. We do figure eights between my legs and on a wobble board too. On the treadmill is impressive! That’s one piece of equipment we don’t have! Oh, and we do sends to wrap around a pole in pole directions — part of our agility foundation toolbox!

  2. I guess we are short enough to try figure eights, maybe we will see if we can master them.

  3. Hi Y’all!

    Oh my Human would be riding me on laying on her back if she tried to get me to do that! BOL! A 100 lb Chessie just doesn’t fit between a human person’s legs and leave them standin’. My Human does do something similar with me and that is tight figure eights and quarter, half and full turns in place, exercises for rally obedience.

    Y’all come on by,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  4. Great exercises – a little harder to do with my 80lb Lab, but the core work is so important – this would be fun for them.

    • But your lab could do figure 8s around cones, or trees, or your friends and family and get the same benefits. Add distractions, and it’s good training for obedience or rally. Have fun with it!
      Have a good holiday weekend!

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