Piriformis Strengthening Exercises


The piriformis is a small muscle found near the glutes that runs from the outer hip to the pelvic bone. When pain and burning sensations run from the buttocks down the back of the legs, you may have a condition known as piriformis syndrome. This is due to the rare occasion that the sciatic nerve runs through the piriformis muscle. To strengthen the piriformis, perform abduction exercises. This motion causes your legs to move outward.

Standing Rotations

Standing rotations work your piriformis with a subtle range of motion. Stand with your left foot on the floor and right foot slightly elevated. Keeping your knee slightly bent, rotate your whole leg out as far as possible, move it back in and repeat. After doing 10 to 12 reps, switch sides. To increase the resistance, fasten a resistance band around your foot and to a table leg, then perform the exercise.

Seated Abduction

Seated abduction requires the use of a prefabbed resistance loop, or you can tie a regular band around your legs. While sitting in a chair with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, position the loop around your lower thighs right above your knees. Steadily move your legs apart against the resistance and hold the position for a full second. Move your legs back together and repeat 10 to 12 times.

Quadruped Hip Abduction

Quadruped hip abduction is done from an all-fours position, with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Keeping your back straight and knee bent, lift your right leg in the air to your right side until it parallels the floor. Hold this position for a full second, slowly lower your leg and repeat. After doing 10 to 12 reps, switch sides. To increase the challenge, extend your leg out straight to your side and lift it up.

Standing and Lying Abduction

Standing and lying hip abduction is done with body weight or with resistance. From a standing position, lift and lower your left leg laterally in the air as high as possible for a set of reps, then switch sides. To do these lying down, lie on your left side with your legs stacked, then lift and lower your right leg in the air. After doing a set of reps, switch sides. To increase the resistance with both exercises, strap any form of resistance bands around your ankles or fasten ankle weights to your lower legs. Perform 10 to 12 repetitions with any variation.

Targeted Stretches

Stretching exercises can help lengthen a tight piriformis muscle, and they can be done from a couple of positions. A buttock stretch is done from a seated position. Sit upright with your left leg straight, right hand on the floor at your side and right knee bent with your right foot placed next to your left hip. Grasping your left knee with your left hand, gently pull your leg across the front of your stomach and feel the stretch in your buttocks. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and switch sides.

A crossover stretch is performed from a face-up position on your back with your arms at your sides. Slowly raise your left leg straight in air, lower it to your right side as far as possible and hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Lift your leg back up, lower it to the floor and repeat with your other leg.

Explore In Depth

Scapular muscle activity from selected strengthening exercises performed at low and high intensities. September 01, 2012
  • Christoffer H Andersen
  • Mette K Zebis
  • Charlotte Saervoll
  • Emil Sundstrup
  • Markus D Jakobsen
Hip muscle activity during 3 side-lying hip-strengthening exercises in distance runners. December 31, 2012
  • Joseph M. McBeth
  • Jennifer E. Earl-Boehm
  • Stephen C. Cobb
  • Wendy E. Huddleston