Technique Tuesday — Pinwheel vs. Pigeon


This is what most of our days sound like: Us: How are your bodies feeling today? What’s sore?

Athletes: My butt!

Sound familiar? We get it — no matter what your sport, working out can leave you with sore, tight glutes and limited hip mobility. Our fave ways to mitigate that booty lock feeling? Athletes, meet pinwheel and pigeon.

While this pair of poses is more passive, the resulting stretches are anything but subtle. They restore balance to your hips — more specifically, a group of small, deep muscles known as the “deep 6” (including the infamous piriformis) which, when stiff, can make you feel like you have a sore butt. This group of muscles rotates your thigh bone in your hip joint, and reminding these little guys how to be long (as well as strong) is critical for hip mobility — and can ultimately help prevent knee injuries and other ailments.

Try it: Pinwheel vs. Pigeon

STEP ONE: Get ready!

What’s the difference between these two hip-relief powerhouses? Good question. Below, we explain the differences, and two former UW Husky soccer players Alex Klein (left) and Ben Fisk (right, and just drafted to the MLS New York Red Bulls — BOOM!) show us how it’s done.

These stretches are ideal post-workout, and we recommend testing the waters with pinwheel before moving onto pigeon. Hold the pose for 8 – 10 deep breaths before switching sides.

CAUTION: If you have a serious knee injury or experience knee pain, skip these poses and hit us up for an alternative.

STEP 2: Come on down!

Pinwheel

Why:

  • Less aggressive than pigeon so can be a great way to loosen up before moving into pigeon
  • Preferable if you have a knee sensitivity
  • You get to work on internal rotation with one hip, while you work on external rotation of the other

How:

  • Sit down and bend your knees, staggering the right leg in front of the left so that it makes a “pinwheel” shape, with a little bit of space between your right foot and your left knee
  • Keep both feet flexed
  • Sit up tall and turn your torso toward your right thigh, and lie down on top of it
  • When you think you’ve found your resting point, try to lengthen your spine even more, as if you’re pulling your ribs further away from your hips

Pigeon

Why:

  • Slightly more aggressive than pinwheel and provides a deeper stretch
  • That more intense stretch is a great op to focus on your breathing and relaxing into the stretch, rather than clenching your teeth and (mentally) fleeing the scene — a great practice in mental focus

How:

  • From pinwheel, sit upright and straighten your back leg OR From all fours, bend your right knee and bring it toward your right wrist
  • Keep your right foot flexed and lower your hip to the ground — if your hip doesn’t easily reach the ground, put something under that glute (such as a pillow, sweatshirt, or ball) so that you have something to rest on
  • Straighten your left leg out behind you so that the leg extends straight back from the hip
  • Slowly lower your torso toward the ground and try to find somewhere for your forehead to rest (try stacking your palms), allowing your shoulders and neck to relax
  • Try to lengthen your spine as much as possible, pulling your ribs away from your hips.
  • If your right knee hurts or feels uncomfortable, come onto your back and set up a figure 4 stretch, by putting both feet on the ground and crossing your right ankle over your left knee and pulling the legs toward you

If you're still confused... here's the rear view. (pigeon on the left, pinwheel on the right)

Remember that, like anything, consistency is key when it comes to stretching. Spending a few minutes with pinwheel, pigeon, or both daily will have a significant impact on your recovery and injury prevention — and as a result make a positive impact on your performance.

Nice work, Alex and Ben!

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