Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL) Stretch for Runners

TFL Stretch - Standing tensor fascia latae stretch for runners

How to Stretch the Tensor Fascia Latae Muscle

To stretch the tensor fascia latae (TFL) muscle, you need to find a position that combines the movements of hip extension and adduction. In a standing position, cross one leg behind the other and push your hips towards the same side as the rear leg.

You might find it easier to use a wall to lean against, as demonstrated in the video below. This will allow you to further push your hips to the side, increasing the amount of hip adduction you can create, and thus how much of a stretch you can provide for the tensor fascia latae muscle.

When performing this standing TFL stretch, try consciously clenching your butt – engaging your glutes. This should result in you pushing your hips forward a little more, and creating more hip extension. This will increase the stretch further still.

Glute Activation & Hip Mobility Routine >>
Free Download [PDF]

What Does the Tensor Fascia Latae Muscle Do?

The tensor fascia latae muscle is situated at the front of the outer part of the hip. It is often described as being roughly where the “coin pocket” of a regular pair of jeans would be!

The role of TFL is mainly to create medial rotation of the hip, but also able to create hip abduction and hip flexion. In combination with the gluteal muscles, tensor fascia latae provides lateral stability around the hip, as well as creating lateral stability around the knee through its attachment to the iliotibial band.

Common Problems Caused By TFL Tightness

It’s the tensor fascia latae muscle’s attachment to the iliotibial band that creates a problem when TFL gets overly tight. Tightness in tensor fascia latae will create added tension through the iliotibial band (ITB).

This increased tension in the ITB can create pain and irritation in the outer region of the knee, known as ITB syndrome.

Why Does the Tensor Fascia Latae Muscle Get Tight?

The tensor fascia latae muscle can get tight due to overuse, weakness, or in compensation for other muscles like the gluteus medius being unable to meet the demands placed upon them during activities like running.

As described in the video above; often weakness of the glute medius muscle can result in a lack of lateral stability around the weight-bearing hip during running and walking. This often creates a “hip drop” in your running technique.

In such situations, tensor fascia latae will often have to work harder in an attempt to provide this lateral stability, and may eventually become tight and overused.

How to Foam Roll the TFL Muscle

Thankfully there are plenty of options for dealing with tightness in the tensor fascia latae muscles. You can stretch your TFL muscles using the stretching technique shown the video at the top of this page, or alternatively perform self-massage techniques such as foam rolling for the muscle.

Here’s a video demonstrating foam rolling techniques such as TFL release in the context of self-treating ITB syndrome:

Exercises to Prevent TFL Muscle Tightness

Of course, the big question has to be not only what you can do about tensor fascia latae tightness, but also how you can prevent TFL tightness from coming back.

It’s important to identify weaknesses around the hips that may be causing TFL to become overused and tight. Usually, in runners, the root of the problem is weak or inhibited glutes, but occasionally weakness through the hip flexors (iliopsoas and rectus femoris) is to blame.

To strengthen glute medius, for example, exercises such as the following are a great place to start:

Here’s a good guide to developing strength stability and mobility around the hips:

Glute Activation & Hip Mobility Routine >>
Free Download [PDF]

Of course, you also need to look beyond muscle imbalances. Chances are, if you’re a runner dealing with problems caused by TFL muscle tightness, you’ve probably recently increased your training load, in preparation for an upcoming marathon or half marathon.

Often as runners, when we ramp-up our training load too fast ahead of an event, we push our bodies beyond what our current levels of strength-endurance allow. This results in excessive fatigue through the major running muscle groups, and increased chances of synergistic dominance becoming a negative issue.

This often results in tightness through synergist muscles like tensor fascia latae.

So take a look at your marathon training plan, rather than simply doing regular TFL streches as a tempoary band-aid for the bigger problem.

Best of luck with your training!

Read Next >>
How to Engage Your Glutes Before Running
Last updated on September 26th, 2019.
Join our free Facebook Group
Transform Your Running >>

17 Comments

  1. I appreciate all the great info that you post and do have a question but it is related to the content of this video; I was wondering what the title of the song that begins to play at the end of the video – it sounds like something I would enjoy running to! Cheers…

    1. Hi Lee, TFL is a medial rotator of the hip, so tightness could affect this. In my experience tight adductors often come with poor Glute Med function. Is TFL affected in the same way? I’m not sure… sorry!

  2. This is a great video! I started running at the beginning of this year and have had nothing but niggles from the TFL area but this stretch is really good. Thank you. Will look forward to your video about why I might be having TFL issues though!

  3. This is absolutely the problem I’m having. I’m a former triathlete (torn rotator cuff took me out of swimming for a while). I am now focusing on long distance cycling (400 mile event coming up soon). I work an office job, sitting 8-9 hours a day. I try to get up every hour to move around. But after work, I’m jumping on my bike to ride a couple of hours, then on the weekends i’m riding 80-100 mile rides on Saturday. MyTFL is VERY tight and hip hurts. It becomes even more aggravated when i run short distances. I’ll work on this exercise and see if it helps. I’m doing Cryo therapy for recovery and seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis to make sure hip alignment is good. As I get closer to my 400 mile ride and up my training hours, this hip is really becoming an issue.

  4. Hi James.
    I have had back and pelvis issues on my left side the last couple of week but got them looked at and was pain free until my next run when I felt a tightening on my right hip area going down and into my quad so much I could harldy walk after I finished and was limping.I also got it looked at and took a week off.Decided to do a run last night and I’m back to square one today,can hardly walk.I’m sure its my TFL but any advice would be appreciated,recovery time etc.I wouldn’t be able to run as its painful.I had a marathon planned for October but unfortunately I’m not up to where I should be mileage wise.I have a half marathon Sept 12th and would love to be pain free for that. I love your advice and videos.kind regards. S.☺

  5. What a very nice recommendation. I have been suffering all summer long with this IT band syndrome. First the right knee (started using foam roller and problem gone). But now the issue is left knee. After 3 months of rest and doing other types of exercises i started 3 weeks ago with new running technics. Also with a KT Tape, so this weekend I tried for 15 ks and at 12 ks the pain came again in the left knee.
    How long do you recommend to rest-stretch and therapy and start again? Or by doing your stretching technics before running might help me improve at once?

  6. Hi James – I pulled my TFL earlier this summer and I’m finally getting back to running, though not much and when I do, the area is still a little senstive. Is this still a good stretch for me to do given I pulled the muscle – could I re-injure it?

    Thanks, Erin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

TRANSFORM YOUR RUNNING FACEBOOK GROUP 🏃🏻💨 JOIN NOW