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Fast Fitness - Better Posterior Hip, Iliotibial, and Piriform Stretch

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Here is Friday Fast Fitness - Quickly improve a common stretch for the back and side of the hip.

Note step 2 and 3 which slides the supporting leg sideways. That change makes it different from the usual ankle over knee stretch:

  1. Lie face up. Bend one knee to put one foot on the floor or bed, comfortably close to your backside. Other ankle crosses knee.
  2. Notice which direction the raised foot is facing. Slide the other foot (the one on the floor or bed) and knee in that direction. Reader David demonstrates. In the left photo, the raised foot faces left. Move the whole leg on the floor to the left. Feel the stretch increase in the raised leg.
  3. Switch sides. Right photo shows raised foot facing right. Slide supporting foot and knee sideways to the right.

The way this stretch is usually done, without moving the bottom foot, does not stretch the piriform (or pyriformis) muscles much, even though it is often called a piraform stretch. The piriform muscles are external rotators (turn the leg outward). Adding more external rotation with the usual "ankle over knee" does not stretch the piraforms. Changing the bottom foot position with this different stretch adds adduction, which means "moving toward from midline." A second movement action of the pyriform muscles is abduction (moving away from midline), so this new method lengthens it, and can truthfully be called a piraform stretch. Future articles will cover more on piriform.

Don't make this stretch hurt or send pain down the leg. The point is to relax and loosen the area, not tighten, constrict, and impinge. Breathe.

This is another 'ooh' stretch. As soon as you do it right, it feels good and you say ooh.

Thank you to David's wife for photos
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About the Author


M.Ed, PhD, FAWM

Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.

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