IT Band issues that just won’t fully seem to go away?
Frustrated that every time you seem to build up the mileage or start lifting heavy that old pain comes back and even starts to aggravate your hips and knees….maybe even your ANKLES?!
If you’ve been struggling with annoying IT Band issues, it’s time you paid attention to this hip flexor muscle…
The TFL or tensor fasciae latae.
Before I go over 3 moves you can include in your prehab routine to prevent the pain and overload, I want to discuss how the TFL can lead to IT Band problems.
So let’s break down what the TFL does…
The TFL contributes to hip abduction (lifting your leg out to the side), hip flexion (bringing your knee up toward your chest) and hip internal rotation (rotating your hip to turn your leg in toward your other leg).
At your pelvis it assists in anteriorly tilting you pelvis, which, if the muscle is tight, can lead to excessive arching of your lower back.
And at the knee it also contributes to tibial external rotation, which is what causes your foot to turn out.
This hip flexor muscle has the power to impact your lower leg because of the tension it creates through your IT Band.
And this is why it’s key we look beyond just the exact point of pain.
When our TFL becomes tight and overactive it can have a far reaching impact.
But most notably it often starts to compensate for an underactive and weak glute medius.
The glute medius is supposed to be our primary hip abductor.
HOWEVER, if the TFL becomes shortened and overactive, it may restrict our glute medius from firing effectively and efficiently and even try to carry more of the load than it should.
This is then what can create tension through the IT Band and accumulate leading to overload and injury.
So how can you tell if your TFL is taking over for your glute medius?
Have you ever done Mini Band Monster Walks or Lateral Raises and really felt your hips burning?
Like you end up rubbing the front outside of your upper thighs instead of the sides of your butt?
That may be because the TFL is trying to take over for your glute medius instead of allowing it to work as it should!
That’s why I wanted to share 3 mobility and stability exercises, and some key form cues to help you relax your TFL if it has become overactive and tight while better activating your glute medius so you can avoid IT Band aches and pains.
3 Moves To Help Prevent IT Band Issues:
Exercise #1: TFL Foam Rolling
It is key we first start with relaxing the overactive and tight muscle. Often otherwise we tend to keep performing improper recruitment patterns during the moves meant to make us better.
For instance during any glute medius abduction activation move, we still tend to let our TFL take over when it is overactive as that muscle does assist in abduction.
So doing all of the “right moves” ultimately doesn’t pay off the way we had hoped.
That’s why before you do activation, you want to foam and relax the TFL.
To roll out your TFL, a ball works best but you can use a roller if a ball applies too much pressure.
To find your TFL, lie on your back with your legs out straight and hands just in front of your hip bones under your pelvis, internally rotate your hip and feel that muscle contract.
You will want to lie on your side with the ball positioned there. Hold and breathe, lifting and lowering your leg as you hold to help the muscle relax and release itself.
Exercise #2: Wall Side Bend
This is a great way to stretch your TFL without even going down on the ground.
It is key when you do this move you engage your glute max to drive your hips into extension, even using a slight posterior pelvic tilt as you do.
Because the TFL can contribute to anterior pelvic tilt, by performing posterior pelvic tilt you are actually stretching the short and tight muscle.
To do the Wall Side Bend, stand with your side to the wall and place your forearm and elbow on the wall at about shoulder height or just below. You will then want to step your leg closet to the wall a foot or two from the wall.
Cross your outside foot in front of you toward the wall to help you balance as you then drop your hip toward the wall.
Do not rotate as you drop your inside hip toward the wall. Squeeze your glute and maintain that posterior pelvic tilt even to make sure you don’t lean forward or flex your hips.
Feel a stretch through your TFL and even IT band. Then relax out of the bend before driving your hip again toward the wall.
Exercise #3: Extended ROM Side Lateral Raise
The Clam is such a common move to use for glute medius activation but one that is so often done incorrectly ultimately perpetuating the issue instead of correcting it.
It is also not the move I like to start with because it is so easy for people to allow the TFL to take over, partly because of the hip flexion.
That’s why I love to use the Extended Side Lying Lateral Raise.
Not only does this move put your TFL under a slight stretch while working the glute medius through an extended range of motion, but it also allows you to work from a hip extended posture.
This can help you make sure you engage your glutes.
To do the Extended ROM Side Lateral Raise, lie on your side on a bench so that your bottom knee is bent and your bottom leg is close to the end.
Prop yourself up on your elbow and position yourself so that your top leg can hang down over the edge and your foot is just a few inches off the ground.
Keep that foot parallel to the ground or even turn your toe to slightly face the ground. This internal rotation of your lower leg can help if you tend to feel your TFL engage with lateral raises. Do not rotate open as you lift.
Then lift that top leg up and kick slightly back, feeling your glute medius, or the side of your butt, working to lift your leg.
By kicking slightly back and extending your hip, you’ll engage that glute max to further inhibit your TFL.
Lower that leg back down and repeat the move. You want to fully lower the leg to work through that extended range of motion
To advance the move when you’re ready, you can hold a plate weight on the outside of your top thigh, or wear ankle weights. But don’t make the move harder or progress if you feel your TFL taking over!
If you don’t have a bench, you can try a variation of this from a modified side plank position. Make sure if you do the side plank position to give you that extended range of motion, that you engage your glutes to keep your hips fully extended.
We have to remember that it’s all connected. And tension in one muscle can alter the way we engage and use other muscles resulting in overload and injury.
If you’ve been suffering with IT Band issues, try including these 3 moves as part of your warm up before your runs, rides or lower body lifting sessions.
Complete even just one round through, working for 45 seconds per move per side. Follow the order of foam rolling, stretching then activating for the best results!
If you need even more quick mobility routines?
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