Sunday, December 2, 2012

Don't foam roll your IT Band!!!

It's been entirely too long since I've updated with anything.  I've been working hard on a number of different projects.  Among them has been studying for and earning my NASM-CPT, so I now can offer personal training as an additional way to help you achieve your performance, health and wellness goals!

But, on to the task at hand...why on earth would I suggest not to foam roll your IT band?  So many people's IT bands give them all kinds of grief, and many professionals in fitness and therapies will instruct clients to foam roll their IT band.  It hurts, and since no pain means no gain, it must be doing some good, right?  Maybe so, but probably not so much for the IT band - probably mostly for the vastus lateralis (member of the quadriceps group), which resides largely underneath the IT band.  In the meantime, the foam rolling is managing to mash the IT band into that vastus lateralis and help them get even more stuck together than they already are.

Here's what's going on there...

The IT band, itself, is pretty much just tendon.  It doesn't do any contracting - it just transfers the contractile forces of the muscles that feed into it.  So foam rolling it will not prompt much release of tension that's on the IT band.  The trick is to focus on the muscles that pull on the IT band and give it its tension.  Those main muscles are the tensor fascia latae (TFL) and gluteus medius, with a little help from gluteus maximus.  As those muscles tighten, and pull on the IT band, the IT band is pulled taught against the aforementioned vastus lateralis quadricep muscle, and those two can eventually get stuck together by way of their connective tissue (fascia) becoming intertwined.  Getting the IT band unstuck from the underlying muscle and fascia, and getting the glutes and TFL to release has proven to be highly effective for my clients with IT band issues.  So, if you are having IT band issues, and if foam rolling directly on the IT band hasn't been helping, then use these 2 quick videos as a visual guide for how to get that foam roller into your TFL and Glutes effectively (I've selected brief videos that provide a good visual, moreso than videos that contain a lot of information).

If you run or cycle a lot, there's a chance that you do or will have some IT band discomfort at some point.  If you are alive, there's a reasonable chance that you have some imbalance in your TFL/Glutes, so foam rolling these makes sense for you, too.  Include it into some of your self care regime, but don't waste your time directly on the IT band, if the IT band is your target!  Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.