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How to Keep Your TFL Happy – Carol’s Teaching Tip

written by Carol Crincoli, Pure Pilates Director

The Tensor Fasciae Latae (Fascia Lata) or as I like to call it: “My Latte Muscle” has been discussed quite a bit with my clients. Personally, 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 strength training and remove some 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.

Clam Shell

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.

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Katie is a passionate mover who was brought to Pilates through dance. After a professional dance career, Katie discovered her love of teaching-connecting the mind and body, and working with students of all ages and levels. Her appreciation and understanding of everyone’s ever changing body and needs only became greater as her own body went through pre and post natal stages, an experience which has helped Katie navigate problem solving, and bring a freshness to each session making them feel personal and specific to each body’s needs. Her sessions are full of flow and aim to challenge clients with a sense of comfort, and often a little humor, all of which she has brought to Pure Pilates since 2016. Katie thinks the gift of movement and self care is one of the best things one can do for overall wellness, and is thrilled to seek and fulfill milestones and goals with each of her clients. When she’s not at the studio, Katie is taking care of her three little humans- another job that also makes her smile, laugh, and challenges her on the daily.
Eighteen years ago I discovered my love for Pilates. After having my two children, I felt the need to move my body again. At the time I was living in North Carolina, and worked through many different exercise and training programs. I discovered Pilates, and instantly knew it was right for me. Forteen years later, and a move to New Jersey, I decided to share my love of Pilates with other people looking for some way to move their bodies. Pilates has also been a way for me to keep me strong and flexible to continue many activities. My family loves to be active, and I often find when we are all together (mostly vacations) our days consist of activity and movement such as hiking, kayaking, or skiing(more on this later). As I have gotten older I find it even more imperative now that I keep my body strong. Recently I was in a skiing accident that left me with many knee injuries and ultimately having to go into surgery. I found being able to do light Pilates a few weeks after surgery kept me sane and ultimately helped with recovery time. Pilates has not only helped me be able to keep up with my children, but has also provided me with a body that is able to function at peak performance. My approach to Pilates can be described in one, simple word: movement. Movement can help you, both physically and mentally. Movement, and Pilates, is ultimately about self care. Having a built in time to focus on your body and movement can help relieve yourself of feeling tired, anxious, and stressed. Movement awakens you. Even after one session you can leave feeling calmer and energized.
Enjoyment of life through movement is a vital part of Kathy’s philosophy. When not in the studio she leads an active lifestyle trail running, cycling, skiing and hiking. She also loves connecting with people while traveling with family and friends. One of her favorite cycling trips was riding along the coast of northern California. Learning new things and sharing knowledge is also important to Kathy. She has a passion for food, likes to cook for her family and experiment with new recipes. She is currently trying to achieve the perfect pizza. She is also an avid reader of historical fiction and biographies. Her latest endeavor is learning to play golf.
Carol M. Crincoli, owner Pure Pilates studio, has been in the fitness industry since 1990, with experience in corporate and commercial fitness, recreational programming and teaching as an adjunct professor. She began practicing Pilates in 2003 and received Pilates training through the PhysicalMind Institute in New York, NY. She holds certifications from the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as a group exercise instructor, personal trainer and lifestyle and weight management consultant. She was also accepted into the IDEA-PFT Recognition System as an Elite Level Personal Fitness Trainer. She is the only trainer in the NY-metro area for Trent McEntire’s Arcus equipment. Carol graduated from the Boston Conservatory of Music with a BFA in musical theater and a minor in dance. Opening Pure Pilates is the culmination of a lifetime dream, and her mission to "inspire life from the core" is a holistic approach to health and wellness—from exercise and nutrition, to stress management and self-care. Carol is also the inventor of 8th Avenue Rail, an organizing solution for Tower springs.