‘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 structuresin 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 theScandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sportshas 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.
The quadriceps muscle earns its name from the “four heads” it is composed of: vastus medialis, rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, and vastus lateralis. These four muscles work together to create an extremely powerful knee extensor. The rectus femoris is unique in that it is the only muscle in the quadriceps that originates from the pelvis, specifically the illium. This actually makes the rectus femoris both a knee extensor and a hip flexor. GHD sit-ups, when done properly, make good use of the rectus femoris.
The quads are essential for human movement, standing, walking, running, kicking, jumping, squats, lunges, deadlifts, cleans, jerks, and snatches all require the use of the quads.
Learning to foam roll calves has gained popularity over the years as a tool to relieve tense muscles and work out adhesions in the lower leg. As a form of self-myofascial release, this useful and inexpensive device can be done just about anywhere.