Why Your IT Band and a Foam Roller Don’t Mix

When most people pull out a foam roller, the first thing they do is lie on their side and start rolling up and down the outside of their thigh — their IT band. Pain and plenty of cringing is usually (Read: always) involved. But that means it’s working, right?

Nope. As I’m quick to tell my personal training clients who are eager to hop on the foam roller and get to work, “foam rolling is for your muscles, not your connective tissues.” See, the iliotibial band (aka IT band) is anything but a pliable, contracting muscle. It’s actually a tough, fibrous tissue that runs from your hip to your knee, helping to keep your lower body in alignment and moving properly.

DEBUNKING THE MYTH OF FOAM ROLLING YOUR IT BAND

Most exercisers roll out their IT band in an attempt to “relax” a “tight” IT band or otherwise deal with IT band syndrome — typically diagnosed by pain felt on the outside of the knee, where the band attaches to bone.

But here’s the thing, when you roll out your IT band, you don’t actually “relax” it. After all, it doesn’t contract, so it can’t really relax out of any hypothetical over-contraction. However, with enough regular rolling, you can most certainly irritate and inflame the tissue, explains Meghan Callaway, CPT, a Canada-based strength coach.

READ MORE > 7 EXERCISES TO TREAT AND PREVENT IT BAND SYNDROME

Potentially, you could also work the tissue enough to elongate it. For instance, a 2017 study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy suggests the IT band might be able to lengthen up to 2.75% with stretching. (Note, however, that the study looked at stretching rather than foam rolling.)

Before you get excited about lengthening your IT band, don’t. Lengthening the tissue may actually reduce its ability to keep your lower body working as it should and, most important, keep your body safe.

“When you fire the muscles in your hip, they pull on the IT band, which helps to move and control the knee,” explains Janet Hamilton, CSCS, an exercise physiologist at Running Strong in Atlanta. “You want the IT band to be nice and tight, so that when your hip does something, the knee goes: ‘Yes, sir!’ and responds as it should. If it’s loose, that won’t happen, and that’s where you can get into poor biomechanics and performance as well as an increase in injury risk.”

HERE’S HOW TO REALLY FIX IT

“The IT band is often unjustly blamed for many injuries and issues,” says Callaway, explaining that, most of the time, it’s the muscles surrounding the IT band, rather than the IT band itself, that is actually tight. “These muscles include the large gluteal muscle group and the tensor fasciae latae . If these muscles tighten up, and this can be due to many different reasons, they will pull on the IT band, making it seem like it is tight,” she says.

A common reason is weakness and muscle imbalances. “For instance, if your hips are weak, when you walk, run or shift your weight from leg to leg, your pelvis may drop down farther than it should, which causes the muscles to tug on the IT band,” Hamilton says. “Or if your lateral hip muscles are weak, the femur is going to rotate in too far with each step, further pulling on the IT band and causing a feeling of tightness.”

READ MORE > 5 FOAM ROLLING TRICKS FOR RUNNERS

Hence, if you experience IT band pain, it’s best to address any potential muscle imbalances. Hamilton recommends paying special attention to weak glutes (and glute meds, in particular), calves and hamstrings. Focus on strengthening the muscles with exercises such as hip abductions, side planks with lateral leg raises, deadlifts, hamstring curls and eccentric calf raises. Also make sure to strengthen your core with planks, since the core is connected to the glutes and hamstrings, and can contribute to tightness in those muscles.

If you’re set on foam rolling something, stick to rolling your muscles — like your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves. You’ll be better off for it.

3 Ways to Conquer IT Band Pain

The IT band is the cause of a common malady for runners known as IT Band Syndrome. The illiotibial band runs along the outside of your thigh, from the top of your hip (the iliac crest—that bony ridge) down to your knee. I’ll go out on a limb and guess that yours is probably tight unless you’ve been working on it.

What does “working” on your IT band mean? Diligent stretching and breaking up the knots. Use a foam roller to break up any tight spots, but I’ll warn you—if you haven’t done this before, it’s pretty uncomfortable. It might want to make you curl up and cry.

More: How Myofascial Release Can Prevent Injury

How to Use a Foam Roller to Massage the IT Band

Lie down on one side, propping yourself up with one elbow, and position the foam roller just under your hip. Now, move your body forward so that the roller works itself down on the outside of your thigh; stop when you get to your knee.

Roll in a gradual, slow motion, and when you reach your knee, reverse directions back up to your hip. Adjust the amount of tension by applying more or less of your body weight on the roller. If you’re new at this, your IT band will probably be tender, and you might not even need to apply much weight before you feel it.

More: 5 Ways to Cope With Common Running Injuries

When you come to a particularly sore spot, pause and hold it on the roller—this is called applying direct pressure. As you hold the roller on that spot, the pressure will help break up the knot. Only hold it there for about a minute, then do short rolls back and forth over the area to help further release the knot.

You may come across quite a few knots, and you won’t be able to break all of them up in a single self-massage session. Think about foam rolling as maintenance, kind of like you would do for your car. You only want to target a particular muscle or tendon for up to 15 minutes at a time. The best way to go about this is to sneak in short sessions after your run, or while you’re watching TV. Foam roll on a continual basis instead of ignoring it for a while then going crazy on the roller for an hour once a month.

Only roll to the point of discomfort—yes, it will be tender and sore, but you don’t want to go to the point of unbearable pain because you’ll just end up doing more damage than good.

After a few days and weeks of consistent rolling, you’ll see results, and foam rolling across that IT band will become less of a torturous thought.

More: 10 Self-Myofascial Release Exercises for Runners

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The IT band is the bane of many a runner’s life, especially if you end up with IT band syndrome – sharp, stinging or nagging pain on the outside of the knee. But still, it’s not well-understood by many of us. What actually makes your IT band tight? Can – and should – you stretch and foam roll it? In fact, what even is your IT band?! We asked Dr Rebecca Robinson, consultant physician in Sports and Exercise Medicine at Harley Street’s Centre for Health and Human Performance to clear up the mystery.

What is the IT band?

‘The IT band is a tendon-like structure, a thickening of fascia (the layer of connective tissue that surrounds muscles) that runs from the tensor fascia latae (the TFL, the muscle in front of the hip joint) and gluteus medius down the outside of the thigh to the side of the knee,’ Robinson explains. ‘It inserts at the knee joint, then continues down and attaches to the tibia (the larger bone in your lower leg). It’s not really a muscle. It’s not similar to other tendon structures in the body – it has a little less give in it.’

What causes IT band pain if it’s not because the IT band itself is tight?

IT band pain is caused by friction against the lateral femoral epicondyle – the outer edge of the knee joint – which is usually a result of the TFL overworking to compensate for underactive gluteal muscles. Many of us are victim to lazy glutes thanks to hours spent sitting at work every day, but how can you tell if you’re affected?

‘Seeing a physio can be helpful as it can be quite hard to know if you’re engaging the glutes,’ says Robinson. ‘You can do self tests and things like bridging exercises, trying to make sure the glutes are actually working and firing first, but sometime that awareness of what the glutes are doing can be difficult if you’re not used to firing correctly.’ If you visit an experienced physio, they’ll watch you running or doing movements like step-ups to gauge how active your glutes are.

Is it possible to stretch your IT band?

‘This is a contentious point among runners,’ says Robinson. ‘You can’t really stretch the IT band, but you can stretch the muscles around it.’ It’s true – despite what has been believed in the past, research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports has now found that the IT band itself is minimally affected by stretches, though the stretching of the TFL and gluteus maximus can help relieve tension.

Should you foam roll your IT band?

You can, but whether it’ll help or not is a different matter. ‘If your IT band is already irritated, foam rolling it directly can actually make it worse. People can be a bit overenthusiastic with foam rolling and that can traumatise the IT band.’ Still, that doesn’t mean foam rolling is a waste of time when it comes to treating IT band symptoms. ‘You can ease out some of the muscles that connect around it – the TFL, glutes and the vastus lateralis (the outer quad muscle, which sits beneath the IT band) with rolling though. Runners should also focus on stretching and reconditioning.’

What kind of cross-training can I do with IT band syndrome?

If you’ve got IT band syndrome, running will be painful and, chances are, not very enjoyable. Robinson recommends that sufferers stop running temporarily to give their bodies a chance to heal. ‘It’s possible to cross-train and maintain fitness effectively with aqua running as it’s non-weight bearing. Pay attention to good form as if you were running on land.’

‘Cycling can be useful too, but ensure a good bike fit. Remember both runners and cyclists can get IT band syndrome, so if you start cycling and you’ve got tight muscles then going hard on the bike may make things worse,’ warns Robinson. ‘If any activities aggravate your symptoms, don’t be afraid of total rest.’

Of course, you’ll want to get back to running as soon as possible, so it’s important to get to the bottom of your IT band troubles. Robinson suggests seeking expert advice: ‘A good sports medicine or physio assessment can identify whether running form, weak and/or tight glutes or tightness in the pelvic/thigh muscles are contributing factors to your IT band pain and show you how to address these. Invest some of your time off running in the gym, to address any underlying weaknesses. Also, remember that even if you’re not training as normal, good nutrition and getting enough sleep will support your recovery from injury faster.’

There are a variety of different foam roller exercises that one can do, and choosing the correct stretch or exercise is ultimately dependent upon the muscle group that you want to work. Our list is by no means comprehensive, but it should provide a good foundation for those new to foam rolling, as well as a few warnings. We’ve broken down the some of the best foam roller exercises for beginners based upon the main muscle groups being worked.

Foam Roller Exercises by Muscle Group

  • Gluteus Maximus
  • Gluteus Medius
  • Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL)
  • Hip Flexor
  • Adductors
  • Iliotibial (IT) Bands
  • Calves
  • Quadriceps
  • Upper Back
  • Latissimus

Gluteus Maximus

Foam rolling your glutes is a quick and easy process. First you need to sit down on top of your foam roller, which is preferably on top of a yoga mat for a little extra padding. For support, you’ll place both hands onto the yoga mat behind you. Slightly bend both knees to about a 45 degree angle, keeping your feet on the ground. Now, using your right hand, place your left ankle onto your right knee. Then place your right hand onto your right thigh. You’re now in position! Slowly roll your left buttocks on the foam roller, and maintain the pressure for 20-30 seconds. That’s it! Switch sides once complete. Here’s a video showing the whole process:

Gluteus Medius

While you’re getting the gluteus maximus, it’s really easy to also hit the gluteus medius muscle. It’s the same basic positioning: sitting on top of your foam roller, with your hands behind you for support. This time, put one leg out straight, with the other bend 90 degrees to support your weight. Lean slightly to the side of the leg that’s out straight, isolating that gluteus muscle, and roll gently. Lean even more to that side to really isolate the gluteus medius muscle. An excellent example can be seen in the following video.

Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL)

The tensor fasciae latae (TFL) muscles are in the front sides of your hips. Foam rolling these muscles will give a deep and effective sports massage, alleviating soreness and improving performance. It might be one of the slightly stranger looking stretches on a foam roller, but I guarantee you’ll enjoy the relief that this stretch give you!

To foam roll your TFL, start by laying face-down, with your foam roller just underneath the front of one hip. Your other leg should be cocked slightly to the side, similar to a spiderman pushup. You should use your forearms to help bear some of the weight, and keep your core tight throughout the stretch. Next, roll along the front and slightly outside part of your upper thigh, right below your pelvis. That’s it! Roll slowly, and hold for 20-30 second before repeating on the other side. Here’s a great video showing the proper form:

Hip Flexor

Sore hip flexors can be a real nuisance to athletes, especially runners. Nothing is worse than trying to run with sore or tight hip flexors, every step becomes a pain. Relief is in sight though, as long as you have a foam roller. Foam rolling the hip flexor is fairly similar to the TFL; however, the TFL stretch is higher on the hip, whereas the hip flexor stretch is a little lower, underneath the actual hips.

First, lie face down on top of your roller, with the roller at the top of your right hip flexor. Put your arms on the ground in front of you for support, then cant your left leg out to the side with a 90 degree bend. Extend your right leg behind you, with the right foot extended, toes pointing out and flat against the ground. Now slowly roll back and forth, with a little right-to-left movement as well, until you find a trigger point. Continue for 20-30 seconds, focusing on any trigger point for about 10 seconds, then switch sides. The video below shows the proper form, and also highlights a few common mistakes:

Adductors

The adductors are a group of muscles on the inside of the thigh. They originate in the hip, going down to the femur, and are primarily responsible for squeezing the thighs together, while also aiding in rotation and flexion of the thigh. A strained adductor muscle is sometimes called a groin strain, and can vary in severity from a dull ache to sharp pain. Adductors can become strained after intense physical exercise, but foam rolling your adductors is a great way to work out those knots and kinks.

Amongst the various foam roller exercises, getting the adductors can be a little awkward and difficult at first. What we’ve described below is a fairly basic adductor exercise. The position for this exercise is very similar to foam rolling the hip flexor, we’re going to use the “spiderman pushup”-esque pose, or another way to look at it, what your body might look like if you’re doing a low crawl.

To begin, place your foam roller on the ground, and lie atop it (face down) with one leg canted to the side. The foam roller should be under the thigh of the canted leg. Now, using the hand opposite the canted leg for support, gently roll the roller from your pelvis down to your knee, then back. Again, this sounds fairly difficult and is a little awkward to describe…watching a video is much easier. Check out the video below for proper form.

Iliotibial (IT) Bands

The iliotibial bands, or IT bands, can often become tight and sore, especially in runners. This is called IT Band Syndrome. Many websites, friends, and even some sports physiologists will say that you can use a foam roller on your IT bands to alleviate these symptoms. However, this is simply not true. Foam rolling the IT bands can actually be the cause of your pain! If you have sore IT bands, please check out Don’t Foam Roll Your IT Bands, as well as this excellent video below.

Calves

Tight calves used to be a pretty common problem for me, especially after running. Making matters worse, once calves become tight, the thigh muscles have to work harder to compensate, which can stress the patellar tendon and cause knee pain. Luckily, foam rolling the calves is one of the easiest foam roller exercises that you can do!

There are multiple variations for foam rolling the calves, including doing it one leg at a time or both legs simultaneously. We’ll discuss the single leg method, which is what’s depicted in the excellent Mayo Clinic video below.

To start, place your foam roller in the ground and sit down behind it, with your calves on top of the roller. Place your hands behind you, then using them as support, gently lift your buttocks off the ground so that your weight it supported by your hands and the foam roller under your calves. Now gently roll back and forth, looking for areas that are more tender. If one leg has more tightness than the other, you can focus on this leg more. To increase the weight and pressure (and thus the myofascial release), cross your legs at the ankles so that the sore leg is still in contact with the roller, but underneath the good leg.

Quadriceps

The quadriceps, or quads, are a group of four muscles in the front of the thigh. They influence movement of the knee, and can become sore after running, jumping, or weight training. Sore quads can, over time, lead to movement issues and even ACL issues.

Like other foam roller exercises, there are a few variations for foam rolling your quads. The most basic goes like this. Set your roller on the ground, and lay face down on top of it, with the roller located perpendicular to, and underneath, your quads. Bend your arms, and place your weight onto your forearms. It should look like you’re doing a plank, with the weight distributed between your forearms and the foam roller under your quads. For the two-leg variation, just simply start rolling back and forth, so that the roller goes from your pelvis to just above your knee. If you want to really focus on each quad, you can lift one leg at a time from the roller. Here’s a quick video showing the proper technique.

Upper Back

Upper back issues are common in a massive number of people around the world, and especially those who are sedentary or have to sit for extended periods of time. Foam rolling your back is one of the easiest foam roller exercises, and one of the most intuitive. To begin, place the foam roller on the ground and lie down on top of it, with the roller underneath your shoulder blades. Bend your legs 90 degrees, keeping your feet on the ground. Place your hands behind your head, then lift with your feet so that your weight is supported by your feet and the roller. Keeping your back straight, and core tight, slowly roll up and down on the foam roller. Don’t let the roller go past your shoulders, to avoid putting too much pressure on your neck. An excellent demonstration can be seen below.

Latissimus

The latissimus dorsi muscle, or the lats for short, is a large triangle shaped muscle in your back. The lats are what allow us to do pullups, and also swim. Even if you don’t do those two activities though, you might notice that you have tight lats. For example, when reaching into tall cupboards or loading your suitcase into the overhead compartment before a flight. If you think your lats are tight, there are some foam roller exercises that might help alleviate some of that tightness.

To foam roll your lats, you’re going to lie on your side, with the foam roller under your armpit. The bottom arm should be extended out, forming a line with the rest of your body. Now, start rolling your lats very slightly. This is a small motion, don’t let the roller go too far down your side. The video below gives some excellent notes on form for this exercise.

Don’t Foam Roll Your IT Band. Do This Instead.

Read More >>

Have you ever foam rolled your IT band to relieve knee pain, hip pain or general discomfort in your upper leg? If so, you’re not alone. Foam rolling the IT band is one of the most frequently recommended techniques to improve recovery and alleviate pain in the upper thigh.

However, if you look closely at the anatomy of the IT band, you will realize that rolling it may actually make your problem worse.

Here’s everything you need to know about the potential issues with foam rolling your IT band, and what to do instead.

What is the IT Band?

The IT Band, or iliotibial band, is a thick tendon that runs along the outside of the thigh from the hip to the knee. Your glutes and TFL connect to the IT Band, and together help to move the hip and stabilize the knee.

The most common injury to the IT band is known as IT band syndrome, which is inflammation that results in minor to severe knee or thigh pain. IT band syndrome is typically caused by overuse from running, cycling or other repetitive activities; however, squatting with poor form can also be a culprit.

IT band syndrome is typically treated with rest, cold therapy, stretching and foam rolling. Foam rolling the IT band involves slowly rolling the side of your thigh, starting just above the knee and working your way up to the hip. This can be quite painful at first, but the idea is to break up adhesions and improve the length of the IT band to reduce pain.

Why Foam Rolling Your IT Band Doesn’t Work

Foam rolling works by helping a muscle relax and move more easily with the fascia, or connective tissue, that surrounds it.

What it doesn’t do is “break up knots” or muscle adhesions. People will say this is what’s taking place, but numerous physical therapy studies indicate otherwise. Also, actually breaking up a muscle adhesion would require far more force than what a roller can produce—and inflicting that much force may not be healthy for the tissue anyway.

For more details on how this works, check out our comprehensive article on foam rolling.

Problem is, the IT band isn’t a muscle. You can’t help it relax because it doesn’t contract. It’s a totally different structure.

To make matters worse, a nerve runs through the IT band. Most IT band-related pain is the result of inflammation that puts pressure on that nerve. To fix this issue, you need to relieve the pressure. But foam rolling only adds to it.

“Most IT band issues that center around the knee or hip are mostly compression type injuries, so why would we want to add more compression to an already compressed area to create healing?,” asks Dr. Matt Stevens, physical therapist and owner of Pure Physio (Strongsville, Ohio). “It’s counterproductive.”

How to Relieve IT Band Issues

To fix IT band syndrome or other IT band issues, you need to reconsider your approach. We often fall into the trap of focusing our efforts on the painful area. Though that is well intentioned, it often doesn’t address the source of the pain.

Instead, Stevens advises to foam roll the muscles that surround the IT band, particularly the quads, hamstrings and glutes. The IT band may be forced to compensate and pick up the slack if these muscles aren’t functioning properly. The result is an overworked and inflamed IT band—one that’s more likely to cause problems.

Foam rolling the areas around the IT band helps the muscles and tendons in the thighs work like a well-oiled machine.

Here are the three foam rolling exercises that Stevens recommends. You can perform them daily before or after a workout, or for general maintenance and recovery. Spend about one minute on each muscle.

Foam Roll Quads

How to: Start with one quad on a roller just above your knee and slowly work your way up to the top of your thigh. Keep your knee slightly bent to create some length in the muscle. Focus on the inside, middle and outside portion of the muscle.

Foam Roll Hamstrings

How to: Start with one hamstring on a roller just above your knee and slowly work up toward your hip, focusing on the inside, middle and outside of the muscle.

Foam Roll Glutes

How to: Sit with your right hip on the foam roller and cross your right ankle over your left knee. Slowly roll over your glute, focusing on tender areas.

I foam roll my IT Band and it feels great. What gives?

If you count yourself among the people who swear by foam rolling their IT Band, more power to you. If it doesn’t bother you and you experience improvement, feel free to continue your routine.

However, if you have stubborn pain that simply doesn’t go away, it may be time to reevaluate your approach.

RELATED:

  • The Surprising Fix for Knee Pain
  • 4 Hip Flexor Stretches to Relieve Tight Hips
  • Why Strengthening This Muscle May Fix Knee Pain

Your IT Band is Not the Enemy (But Maybe Your Foam Roller Is)

Foam rollers seem to be all the rage these days and often for good reason. They’ve been demonstrated to restore lost range of motion at certain joints and many of us swear by their ability to help massage away soreness and speed recovery.

Chances are high that if you’ve ever used a roller, you’ve used it to roll out your iliotibial band (IT band), and likely at the recommendation of a trainer or one of your runner friends. It’s okay. We’ve all been there.

But now do me a favor. Stop abusing your IT band. It is your friend, and you haven’t been treating it like one.

Initially, the logic behind rolling your IT band seems fairly sound. Foam rollers increase range of motion and reduce pain. My IT bands are tight and my knees hurt. Therefore I should apply the roller to my IT bands to solve these problems, right? Unfortunately, more often than not the answer to this question is a resounding “no.” It’s quite possible you’re actually doing more harm than help and further stretching an already abused and over-elongated piece of tissue.

In order to understand why rolling your IT band isn’t always a good idea, you first need to understand the anatomy of your hips and thighs and the issues that most commonly lead to IT band pain in the first place.

Kinesiology Lesson Time

On the sides of our hips we have a couple of muscles responsible for the motion known as hip abduction, the movement of your leg away from the centerline of your body. Basically, if you’re standing up and you lift your leg out to the side without rotating your foot or leaning your upper body in the opposite direction (which would be cheating) you’ve just abducted your hip. Congratulation, that’s step one in understanding the problem.

Step two is understanding what hip abduction is mainly responsible for. It is meant to allow for dynamic stabilization of your knee during movement, particularly walking and running. Our knees have a tendency to shift medially, or laterally, during movement and our bodies use hip abduction as a way to mitigate this issue.

Step three is understanding the muscles that produce this motion. Your IT band is attached to a smallish muscle called your tensor fascia latae (TFL), which is meant to stabilize your knee and assist in abduction, but the prime mover is actually your gluteus medius, one of the muscles in your buttocks (found, perhaps unsurprisingly on the upper part of the lateral aspect of your glutes). I would say that in 90% of the cases that present with IT band issues it is the gluteus medius (or glute med if you want to speak in sophisticated PT lingo) that is actually the culprit behind the pain.

When the Glute Med Goes on Vacation

The issue is often that the glute med either isn’t firing correctly or just straight up isn’t firing at all. The human body is an incredible machine and will adapt to just about any demand placed on it. When one of your primary movers is too weak to perform the movement on it’s own, some of the stabilizers and assistive muscles will kick in to help. While this isn’t such a big deal if it happens once or twice as a result of absolute fatigue of the prime mover, when your body becomes neurologically programmed to always initiate movement with the smaller assistive muscles, then you’re setting yourself up for an injury.

What typically happens is something like the following scenario. Our glute med isn’t firing correctly for any number of reasons. Generally speaking, the glute med is one of the weakest muscles I test on a regular basis, even in monster athletes. When the glute med is weak, it can’t do much to stabilize your knee so the TFL kicks in. Now your TFL isn’t quite as big or powerful as the glute med so it can’t dynamically stabilize your knee nearly as well. It is, however, attached to this big thick piece of tissue (your IT band) that it can tighten up to help stabilize the knee statically. The problem with this is that you’re now statically using a structure to achieve dynamic stabilization. That’s kind of like responding to the shocks on your car being too loose by tightening them up so much that they can’t move.

As a result of this compensation an enormous and unnatural stress is placed on the IT band, which leads to tightness, inflammation, pain, and (frequently) foam rolling. The problem then is that we are attempting to treat an over-stretched, inflamed tissue by further stretching and beating the heck out of it. While it may feel nice for a little while after your leg goes numb, you aren’t really doing anything to affect any kind of permanent change and in some cases you may be pushing the issue further.

How to Test for Glute Med Weakness

The truth is that glut med weakness is an incredibly common issue. If you have IT band pain and want to test for glute med weakness in yourself you’ll probably need a friend to help. Lay down on your side in a straight line and make sure your hips are stacked on top of one another. Now with your legs out straight bring your top leg, whichever it may be, back a bit so that your toe is touching the heel of your bottom foot. Now flex your ankle and try to raise your leg.

Many people have trouble even performing this leg lift without rolling backwards (which allows you to cheat with your hip flexors), turning the foot outwards (which allows you to cheat with your external rotators) or letting the leg shift forwards (which lets you use your hip flexors again). So if you’re able to do this you’re already ahead of roughly 50% of the population.

Now have your friend attempt to push your leg down gently at first and then with slightly increasing force. If you can maintain the height of your leg without your body position shifting, then congratulations, your hip abduction is actually quite strong. For most of us, we will either resort to cheating or simply be unable to maintain the leg raise.

The nice thing about this issue is that it can be fixed rather easily. The same leg lift you used as a test can be used as an initial exercise to reteach your glute med to fire. You simply need to pay close attention to avoid cheating and make sure you feel the muscle pulling from the upper region of the lateral aspect of your buttock (where the glute med is located). If you start to feel the pull on the front of your hip, then take a break and adjust your position because you’re cheating.

As with most movement disorders the true solution is mindfulness of your body position and mindfulness of your movements. Weak hip abduction is an insidious because it can cause all sorts of issues. Luckily, it’s rather easy to identify and deal with. Get your glutes firing again and maintain mindfulness of their proper use while working out. Yeah, it really is that simple. Now get out there and get moving.

You might also enjoy these related articles:

  • How to Enhance Your Gluteal Muscles
  • What is a Foam Roller, How Do I Use it, and Why Does it Hurt?
  • Yoga for Strength Athletes – Mobilize Your IT Band and Posterior Chain
  • Explore the Breaking Muscle Home Page

Photo 1 courtesy of CrossFit LA.

Photo 2 by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo 3 courtesy of .

Chances are you already know all about the benefits of foam rolling for your daily runs. But if you just use a foam roller to rehab injured muscles, you’re not getting the most out of it.

Foam rollers—which come in a variety of densities and sizes—can also be a valuable part of a healthy runner’s warmup and cooldown routine, says Michael Clark, Ph.D., a physical therapist and CEO of the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

Related Story

Foam rolling improves circulation, which gets the body ready for a workout and helps it recover afterward. And because rolling breaks down knots that limit range of motion, it preps your muscles for stretching. Staying loose and limber is especially important for those demanding long runs and speed workouts you’ve been doing to train for your spring races.
To get started, here’s a quick guide on how to use a foam roller to warm up before your run and cool down after.

Pro tip: Roll slowly and when you find a tender spot, focus in on it by rolling back and forth until you feel it soften or release.

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Warmup

Rolling increases blood flow and releases muscle tightness that can interfere with proper running form.

1. Calves

How to do it: Start sitting on the floor with legs extended out in front of you. Place the roller under left calf. Rest right foot on the floor or cross right ankle over left for extra pressure. Use your hands to press hips off floor, then roll from the ankle to below the knee. Rotate left leg in, then out. Repeat on right calf.

2. Iliotibial Band

How to do it: Lie on left side with the foam roller near left hip. Cross right leg over left and rest right foot on the floor with the knee bent. Using your forearm, roll along your outer thigh from outer hip to just above the knee. Increase the pressure by stacking your legs. Repeat on right side.

3. Piriformis

How to do it: Start by sitting on the roller with left knee bent, foot on floor. Cross right ankle over left knee. Lean onto your left side and roll forward and back along your left outer hip and glute, using your left leg to control the pressure. Rotate hips left and right to find the trigger points and knots, then concentrate there for 60 seconds. Repeat on right side.

Here, IronStrength creator Jordan Metzl, M.D., shows you more ways to actively recover from a run:

Cooldown

Rolling flushes out toxins to help recovery. (And with this foam roller workout, you can accelerate recovery.)

1. Hamstrings

How to do it: Sit on the floor and place the roller under your thighs. Use your hands to lift your hips then roll from the knees to the glutes. To increase the pressure, cross right leg over left and roll one leg at time, turning left leg in and out. Repeat on right leg.

2. Adductors

How to do it: Lie facedown on a mat on your forearms, shoulders over elbows with right leg extended out to the side, knee bent. Place the roller on your inner right thigh area and use your forearms and left leg to shift your weight back and forth to roll the inner right thigh. Roll from knee to hip then repeat on left leg.

3. Quadriceps

How to do it: Lie facedown on the mat on forearms with a roller placed under the front of your thighs. Use your forearms to shift back and forth to slowly roll up and down from the bottom of your hip to the top of your knee. For added pressure, lift left leg and roll one leg at a time. Repeat on left leg.

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To ITB foam roll or not to ITB foam roll

To ITB foam roll or not to ITB foam roll

Thanks to Daina Clark (senior podiatrist and Bootcamp Instructor) for this great article.
Do you have pain on the outside of your knee when you run or ride? It could be your ITB is the cause; read on to learn why it happens, how to deal with it and what to do to stop the pain from coming back.
The Iliotibial band (ITB) is a thick, dense fibrous band of tissue that runs down the side of your thigh from the hip to the knee. The ITB basically acts as a tendon for the tensor fascia lata (TFL) a small muscle of the lateral hip and nearly three quarters of the gluteus maximus tendon, the biggest muscle in the body, blends into the ITB. The ITB’s main function is to stabilise the pelvis over the knee and to control inward movement of the knee.
Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is the most common injury of the outside of the knee in runners, with an incidence estimated to be between 5% and 14%. It is also the major cause of lateral knee pain in bike riders. And in the old days the way we treated it was to jump on a foam roller and inflict as much pain as possible to ourselves as we tried to “stretch” the ITB and roll out the ‘adhesions’ in the tissue. The thing is that as you self-inflicted some major pain with the roller your knee pain often didn’t get any better. The reason is possibly because the ITB is a non- contractile tissue that cannot physically change length and by compression the ITB with a foam roller you are actually making your knee pain worse…..
Early research into ITBS suggested that it was a frictional condition that caused inflammation where the ITB attaches to the lateral femoral condyle ( think outside bone of the knee) but recently this theory has been challenged with suggestion that ITBS is more likely caused by excessive compression of the layer of fat between the ITB and the bone. So that last thing we want to do to a tissue that is painful because of a compression issue is to compress it further. You might be better off addressing the tightness in the TFL with a massage ball instead.
If you are experiencing lateral knee pain on the bike check that your saddle is not too high or set too far back behind the bottom bracket causing reaching at the bottom of the pedal stroke which can increase compression of the ITB on the bone. Also check that your cleat position is not causing an increase internal rotation at the bottom of the pedal stroke by being angled aggressively inwards.
For both runners and riders focusing on strengthening your hips, think crack a walnut, is paramount. A great glute strengthening exercise program for the adventure racer could include the single leg half squat, Romanian single leg deadlift, rear lunge focusing on maintaining an upright torso and the single leg hip bridge. A 15 minute strength routine, completed twice weekly with 2 sets of 15 on each will get you some buns of steel and bomb proof future ITB pain. And remember the old adage of not increasing training load too quickly is also vitally important.
So there you go, my advice if you’ve got lateral knee pain is to ditch the ITB roller, stretch the TFL and start strengthening those glutes to get back to training and racing pain free.
Train Smart. Ride and Run strong
Daina Clark (Senior Podiatrist and Bootcamp Instructor)

July 21, 2015 CATEGORY: Biking, Running

It band foam rollers

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