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.
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:
You can pick up a foam roller on Amazon via this link!
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:
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!