How to Stretch the Piriformis
Have you ever wondered why the figure four stretch never seems to improve the mobility of your piriformis or hip?
Here is a secret I share with my athletes, it’s because the figure four stretch doesn’t actually stretch that muscle!
So let me share the secret with you!
1st- The piriformis crosses the midline so to check the mobility you will need to check hip adduction.
2nd- In hip flexion the piriformis is an internal rotator, so while maintaining hip adduction add hip external rotation. I like to sometimes do this at the femur to not crank motion through the knee joint.
3rd- It is always good to monitor the pelvis to ensure the motion is staying true to the hip joint.
4th- I love to check and provide a posterior glide during the femur adduction and ER. This helps to add a bit more length to the piriformis and posterior capsule.
5th- once you stack it to the end range, hip adduction, hip external rotation, and posterior glide, have the athlete laterally flex their lumbar spine (hip hike) on the same side. This reciprocally inhibits the piriformis. Hold the hip hike for 6 sec and at the moment of relaxation add ER or more posterior glide. Repeat this hold-relax technique three times. The more you wind them up and reach true end of range the more difficult the side bending will be to do. This relationship is only true when the leg is fixed so be sure to maintain midline with the femur.
You can also do this technique on yourself with the use of a stretch band or yoga strap. The key is to not lose ground on the hip adduction.