I have a love/hate relationship with my TFL. The Tensor Fasciae Latae (Fascia Lata) or as I like to call it: “My Latte Muscle.” When I am cross training and focusing on keeping my entire body in good working order, I feel like a rock star. I am unstoppable. But when I need to cut corners, I’ll keep the cardio and remove the more important things, like roller release, gentle stretching and hip strengthening. Then my TFL gets angry.
The TFL sits between your Posterior ASIS (think top of your hip/pelvis) and the insertion of Iliotibial Band (IT band). It’s this pesky little muscle that doesn’t get much attention and when you ignore it for too long, it can make the surrounding muscles unhappy. For me, a burning pain in my hip bone may appear or I’ll bend over to put something into the dishwasher and “snap” my lower back starts to whine! Have you gotten out of your chair after sitting too long and said, “wow my IT band is tight!” Nope! It just might be your cranky Lat(t)ae.
You see, the TFL is not only pesky but sneaky. This muscle is usually the troublemaker when you experience pain and issues “elsewhere”. Issues can arise from a tight or overactive TFL so I am here to suggest that we give this area a bit more love and attention in our workouts.
The Tensor Fasciae Latae assists the Gluteus Medius in Hip Abduction as well as flexion and internal rotation of the hip. An overactive TFL can increase tension on the IT band, making it feel tight. If the TFL is tight, it may restrict your hip mobility causing hip and lower back pain. This muscle also assists in anteriorly tilting your pelvis. Again, if tight, it can lead to excessive arching in your back, leading to lower back pain.
I am going to go out on a limb and state that most people may need to pay more attention to their TFL. Don’t know where to start? Here’s a mini-routine that focuses on strengthening, stretching and release that you can add to your workouts.
Standing TFL/IT Band Stretch
Cross your right leg over the left and do your best to line your feet evenly next to each other. Reach up to the ceiling to lengthen through your spine and torso.
Reach down to the instep of the back foot (left foot). Push out into the left hip to feel the stretch in the hip and down the leg. You may even feel the stretch through your hamstring and calf. Hold for 1 to 2 breaths and repeat on the other side. Alternate between each side 3 to 5 times.
Lie on your side with your hips stacked and your knees and hips slightly bent. Keep your heels together as you lift the top knee. Make sure to keep your hips stacked, as if you were balancing something on the side of your hip. 8 to 15 repetitions, building to 2 to 3 sets. Repeat on the other side.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch with Side Bend
Position yourself into a kneeling lunge with your right leg forward and left knee back. Lean forward into the right leg, pressing the pelvis forward.
Reach the left arm over the head and side bend to the left. Hold for 1 to 2 breaths, release and repeat 3 to 5 times. Repeat on the other side.
Prone Foam Roller TFL Release
This exercise can be performed with either a roller or a small ball. Beware: a smaller, harder ball will increase the intensity. You must be able to relax into the tightness, so if the pressure is too strong go with a roller or softer ball.
Place the roller or ball on the ground then position your body so it’s just below and outside, from your hip bone. Roll around slowly to find a tight spot and then hold on any tight spots until the tension decreases by ½. For example, if the pressure is an “8” (on a scale of 1 to 10), hold until it is about a perceived “4”. You can also lift and lower the leg which will flex and relax the area, helping it to loosen.
Next, move the roller or ball around the front and side of your hip bone and repeat the above release. Remember to breathe and hold the position. Avoid rolling back and forth quickly on the area.
*Using the diagram in this article to locate the TFL may be helpful to find correct position for release.