How to Stretch the Piriformis Muscle

how to stretch the piriformis muscle
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Those of us who love calisthenics most likely have a strong dislike for sitting at desks for long periods of time.  Staying in such a position does much more long-term damage to our bodies than we know, but at the same time we can definitely feel the short-term effects as well.  Stiffness, soreness, and weakness in the muscles and joints become the norm, and that is something we do not want.  Thankfully, we are able to stretch many of these areas without a problem to help reduce and pain or stiffness.  But the piriformis muscles are tougher to target for stretches, so knowing how to stretch the piriformis muscle is important to maintain its strength and flexibility while also keeping the soreness at bay.

 

But before I demonstrate how to stretch the piriformis muscle, what and where is it?

The Piriformis MusclesHow to Stretch the Piriformis Muscle

Locations:  These narrow muscles extend from the spine to the outer hips.

Functions:  Lateral rotators for the hip, which are essential for basic movements like walking.

Common Problems:  Sciatica is a common problem where the piriformis muscle(s) irritate the sciatic nerve(s) in some people, causing prolonged pain in this area.  Those who do not have this condition still often experience pain because they work at desks or sit in chairs for extended periods of time.

 

 

How to Stretch the Piriformis Muscle – Seated on Floor (“90-90” Stretch)

how to stretch the piriformis muscle

Step 1:  Sit on the mat with your legs bent at 90-degrees and spread at about 90-degrees in front of you.  Place your hands close behind you.

Step 2:  Keeping your knees bent at 90-degrees, move one foot behind you and the other directly in front of your groin.

Step 3:  Grab your front calf or ankle with both hands.

Step 4:  Slowly lower your upper body towards your front leg.  Go as low as you can to feel a comfortable stretch in your hips, but don’t overdo it.

Step 5:  Hold this position for 20-30 seconds before slowly bringing your body back up.

Step 6:  Repeat with the other leg.

 

 

Seated on Floor (Long Adductor)

how to stretch the piriformis muscle

Step 1:  Sit on the mat and spread your legs as far as you comfortably can.  I can’t spread mine as far as I would like yet, but I’ll need to give it time.

Step 2:  Extend your arms on the floor in front of you

Step 3:  Slowly reach as far as you can, lowering your upper body so you can comfortably feel the stretch in your hips and butt.  If you are flexible enough (not me!), you can place your forearms flat on the floor instead of reaching out with your hands.

Step 4:  Hold this position for 20-30 seconds before slowly bringing your body back up.

 

Seated on Floor (Short Adductor)

how to stretch the piriformis muscle

I prefer this over the long adductor stretch.

Step 1:  Sit on the mat and place the soles of your feet together.

Step 2:  Place your hands on your knees.  If you are flexible enough, place your elbows on your knees and grab your ankles with your hands.

Step 3:  Slowly push your knees down towards the floor.  Do this as far as you can to maintain a strong but comfortable stretch in your inner hips.

Step 4 (optional):  Lean your upper body slightly forward for a lower back stretch as well.

Step 5:  Hold this position for 20-30 seconds before slowly bringing your knees back up.

 

 

Seated on Floor (Tricep Dip Combo A)

how to stretch the piriformis muscle

Step 1:  Sit on the mat, legs bent with your feet flat in front of you and hands flat at your sides.

Step 2:  Place your left ankle on your right thigh, just above the knee.

Step 3:  Place your hands behind you and push up for a moderate tricep dip to fully extend your arms.

Step 4:  Lift your butt slightly above the floor.

Step 5:  Slowly move your body forward in the air without sliding your hands or foot.  You should feel the hip stretching the more forward you move.

Step 6:  Hold this position for 20-30 seconds.

Step 7:  Repeat for your other leg.

 

 

Seated on Floor (Tricep Dip Combo B)

how to stretch the piriformis muscle

Step 1:  Kneel on the mat with your hands flat at your sides.

Step 2:  Spread your feet apart so your butt can rest on the mat.

Step 3:  Place your hands behind you and push up for a moderate tricep dip to fully extend your arms.

Step 4:  Slowly lift your butt slightly above your feet.

Step 5:  Slowly push your pelvis forward into the air, feeling a stretch in your hips.

Step 6:  Hold this position for 20-30 seconds.

 

 

How to Stretch the Piriformis Muscle – Lying On Back

how to stretch the piriformis muscle

This stretch is similar to the tricep dip combo A stretch above, only this time you are lying down.

Step 1:  Lie on your back.

Step 2:  Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the mat.  Your arms should be at your sides.

Step 3:  Place your left ankle on your right thigh, just above the knee.

Step 4:  Grab your right thigh with your hands, and slowly lift and pull it towards your face. You should feel the stretch in your hips, lower back and butt.

Step 5:  Hold this position for 20-30 seconds before slowly lowering your foot back down.

Step 6:  Repeat with the other leg.

Alternative:  For Step 3, you don’t have to place your ankle on your opposite thigh if you aren’t flexible.  You can just pull the leg without the support, but I don’t feel as much stretching this way.

 

 

How to Stretch the Piriformis Muscle – Lying On Side

how to stretch the piriformis muscle

This stretch is popular in calisthenics, yoga and pilates.  It can also help relieve piriformis muscle pain when used as a static hold.

Step 1:  Lie on your right side, with your right forearm flat on the floor behind you and left hand on the floor in front.

Step 2:  Extend your legs fully.

Step 3:  Using your upper body as an anchor, slowly lift your left leg as high as you can while keeping it extended.

Step 4:  Hold this position for 10-20 seconds before slowly lowering your leg back down.

Step 5:  Repeat with the other side.

Alternative:  For Step 4, you don’t have to do a static hold.  You can also do between 10-20 slow, steady reps of lifting the leg.  At the top of the rep, hold the position for 1-2 seconds before bring the leg back down.

 

 

Stretch The Pain Away

The more often you sit the more likely you will have aching piriformis muscles.  These are only a few of the options you have to stretch this important muscle, and none of them need any equipment, so you can do them at home or at work.  It is important to do these regularly to prevent the pain from occurring in the first place.  You don’t have to do all of these stretches – just select one or two that you really feel benefit you the most, and stick to those.

 

Do you have any other ideas on how to stretch the piriformis muscle?  Let me know in the comments below, and check out other great stretching posts I’ve written to maximize your strength and flexibility in calisthenics.

Max

Max

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