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June 14, 2022 5 min read

Some of the more well-known muscles in the  lower body are the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. These muscles help you walk, run, stand, squat, jump, and can provide stability when not being directly used.

A smaller, potentially less popular muscle located at the top of your thighs in between your iliotibial band is the tensor fasciae latae.

This muscle can get tight easily, and it can affect your hip joint stability and function. The big muscles get a lot of love during strengthening and stretching, but it’s important not to neglect the small muscles.

Function of the Tensor Fasciae Latae

Although small, the TFL muscle plays a big role in the movement of the hip and the knee, as well as the stability of the pelvis.

This muscle works along with the gluteal muscles, the gluteus medius, maximus, and minimus, to perform hip flexion, hip abduction, and internal rotation. Since they work in conjunction, if the glutes are weak, then the TFL may compensate and cause an imbalance and ice versa.

The TFL is connected to the deep fascia and the superficial fascia of the IT band, which helps contribute to pelvic stability and posture. The IT band is attached to the tibia, so the TFL muscle also aids in knee flexion and lateral rotation. This band is made up of connective tissue that runs along the outside of your leg from your hip down to your knee joint.

Often considered a secondary hip flexor, the TFL muscle should be strengthened and stretched to help improve function and avoid injuries.

If this muscle is tight or overused, it can lead to IT Band Syndrome (ITBS). This is especially common in runners and is caused by an irritated or swollen IT band, which can then rub against the thigh bone. The most common symptom is hip and knee pain that can get worse with more movement. ITBS could result in needed physical therapy, corticosteroid injections, or in more severe cases, surgery.

Why Should You Stretch?

Whether you’re active all day, or you sit at a desk for eight hours, stretching your muscles is an important factor of staying healthy and mobile. Muscle tightness can result in a  limited range of motion and muscle imbalances,  both of which leave you at a higher risk for injury.

There are different types of stretching techniques, such as static, dynamic, ballistic, and loosening muscles with a foam roller.

A tight TFL can lead to issues in and outside the gym.

Some signs of TFL tightness can be an anterior pelvic tilt, poor posture, back pain, hip pain or instability, or limited range of motion. You can also tell by your movement if your TFL is tight or overactive. When performing a squat or a lunge, if your knees cave inward, this can be a sign that your TFL is experiencing overuse.

Stretching the TFL muscles is extremely important for your short-term and long-term quality of life. Excessive stress on a joint can lead to degeneration or conditions like osteoarthritis. Greater TFL activity has been associated with unilateral hip osteoarthritis, which can cause pain and stiffness and affect your ability to do simple tasks like walking.

Keeping your body flexible can help improve your physical performance and daily life, and not forgetting to stretch the smaller muscles can make a difference.

Stretching your TFL muscles can help improve your range of motion in your hips and help reduce low back pain.

Tensor Fasciae Latae Stretches

Knowing how to effectively stretch your TFL muscle can be important for maintaining hip mobility and reducing pain in the hips, knees, and lower back. There are a lot of stretches out there, but some can be more effective than others. When it comes to keeping a healthy, balanced body, you want the best TFL stretches possible.

Below are three of the best TFL stretches actually worth doing. Anyone from beginners to more advanced athletes can benefit from them.

Standing TFL Stretch

Since your TFL muscles are responsible for hip flexion and abduction, this stretch will involve hip extension and adduction. This is a static stretch, meaning you stay in one position to stretch the muscle to a lengthened position. It can be easily modified to increase or decrease the intensity of the stretch, however, it may be more difficult for individuals with less knee stability, poor balance, or pain when standing.

If neither of those apply, the standing TFL stretch can help improve range of motion and can be just as effective as a side-lying stretch.

How to do the Standing TFL Stretch: 

  • Start by standing upright and have a wall nearby if you feel you may need more support.
  • Cross your right leg over your left hip, so your feet are staggered.
  • Push your hips forward and to the same side as your rear leg.
  • If you need the wall for support, lean your left hand against it, otherwise you can lean your body to the side of your rear leg.

TFL Foam Roll Stretch

Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release technique that involves rolling a tight muscle or trigger point across a foam roller, lacrosse ball, barbell, or other tool for the purpose of reducing tightness, soreness, and improving flexibility.

Using a foam roller after exercise can help increase joint range of motion, reduce muscle soreness, and improve muscle performance.

Depending on the tightness of the TFL, you may consider using a tool with a firmer surface, such as a barbell, to help release the tension. However, if the pain is too extreme, you can use a softer foam roller.

How to do the TFL Foam Roll Stretch: 

  • Lie on your side with the foam roller or other tool placed outside and below your hip bone.
  • Slowly roll your hip over the tool until you find a trigger point. If you’re unsure of what a trigger point is, it will likely feel uncomfortable and maybe painful when you hit it.
  • Place pressure on the foam roller when you find the trigger point and hold for anywhere between 20-60 seconds.
  • You can even lift and lower your top leg while holding to help flex and relax the muscle.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Iron Cross Stretch

The iron cross stretch is great to perform as part of your dynamic warm-up as it can help improve mobility and flexibility of the hips. It’s beneficial for tight IT bands, and individuals suffering from ITBS may find this stretch to be helpful, provided it’s approved by the doctor.

This stretch may not be for beginners, but it can be modified for those with less flexibility. The goal is to rotate your hips without rotating your upper body, so some may find it more difficult than others. You can use an elevated surface to place your crossed over leg on if needed.

The iron cross can stretch the TFL muscles, but it can also stretch the glutes, and since these muscles work together, keeping them equally strong and limber is important for helping prevent muscle imbalances.

How to do the Iron Cross Stretch: 

  • Lie flat on your back with your arms abducted from your sides and fully extended.
  • While keeping your shoulders, arms, lower back on the ground, slowly bring your right leg across your body.
  • Hold this position for 20-30 seconds and switch sides.

Wrapping Up

Stretching is crucial for your body to remain functional and injury-free. You may be guilty of only stretching when you’re sore, but stretching properly before and after a workout can help muscle recovery and performance.

A solid stretching routine with a recovery aid like  ADABOLIC  can help accelerate recovery time to get you back in the gym maximizing your performance.

A small muscle like the tensor fasciae latae may be overlooked all too often because we might not understand its importance, or we simply forget to stretch it. Using these exercises can effectively stretch your TFL and help improve your lifts, overall performance, and everyday life.