5 Best IT Band Exercises

Here my favorite 5 exercises to strengthen the IT Band.  They are not all specifically IT band exercises, but they are for the overall health of the IT.  These 5 exercises are my top 5 for keeping the IT band healthy.  Most articles on the IT band always reference runners. The truth is anyone with an athletic hobby that has a lot of repetitive movement should be incorporating these exercises.

  1. Foam Roller.  I know you have heard of this.  But it is so important to include a foam roller stretch in your routine.  Lay on the roller (the are various types) by placing your body in a side plank.  You can place your weight on your forearm or your hands.  Gently roll up and down the foam/plastic roller.  Make sure you roll through a full range – ideally from the knee to the hip.  Monitor the pain, since this stretch is not your typical relaxing stretch.
  2. Side Leg Lifts: Place a resistance band- like SPRI’s xering or a theraband around your ankle.  While laying on your left side, lift the right leg up to a 45 degree angle.  Control the lifting and lowering of the leg.  Do about 20-30 reps per side
  3. Scorpions:  Lay on your stomach and chest with your arms extended out to the side.  Lift your right leg (using your gluts) and touch the ground on the left side of the body.  When you do this, your hips will lift off the ground.  Be careful with your lower back.  Try to keep your chest on the ground.  10-15 per side
  4. Single Leg Squats:  There are several types of single leg squats.  On this one, keep your back straight and make sure your knee does not buckle inward.  Make sure the knee stays aligned over the toe. 10-15 per side
  5. Crab Walks with the Tube:  Place the SPRI xering or theraband around your ankles. Stand upright with the knees slightly bent.  Take even steps to the side and make sure that the band does not snap your leg back.  Control the movement in both directions. 10-15 in each direction

 Where is the IT Band?

The IT Band is a thick band that runs across the outside of the hip and extends down towards the outside of the thigh.  It then inserts below the knee joint.  The top of the IT band actually shoots off the butt muscle (the glutteal medius to be exact).  It extends fairly straight down the side of the leg and then ends at the knee cap, with some of the fibers connecting to the knee cap and the hamstrings (actually crossing over where they connect at the knee).

Why does the IT Band Get Injured?

An IT band injury is not like a sprained/strained hamstring.  Since it is a tendon, not muscle, it often becomes chronic tendonitis.  When it is tight, it gets pulled out of place.  Perhaps pulling the knee cap inward or outward.   This misalignment can cause a lot of potential injuries.  This happens because of so many things, but a common cause is weakness in the inner thighs (adductors) and the butt muscles (gluts).  Of course there are so many detailed biomechanical explanations that can be provided for a muscle imbalance that exist at the glut, hip and pelvis that negatively impacts the IT Band.  Each person’s specific cause is best determined by a physical therapist or sports medicine professional.

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