How to Foam Roll Your IT Band

foam rolling calf muscles
How to Foam Roll Your IT Band. miljko/Getty

Rolling your iliotibial (IT) band on a foam roller is an excellent way to keep your IT band from getting too tight. It’s especially beneficial if you’ve been prone to IT band issues such as ITBS in the past. You’re essentially doing a self-massage and working out knots (adhesions) along the IT band, which runs along the outside of your thigh, from the top of your hip down to your knee.

If you’re new to foam rolling your IT band, I have to warn you – it can be uncomfortable.

  If you don’t feel at least a little bit of discomfort, you’re probably doing it a bit too easy and not getting the full benefits of the rolling.

Here’s what to do

1. Start by lying on your side. While supporting your body weight with your legs and arms, position the foam roller under the upper, outside portion of your thigh, near your hip.

2. Now, use your legs and arms to move your body and roll the length of your IT band, right down to just above your knee. You may feel more tenderness in certain areas, and you can adjust the amount of tension by using your arms and legs to ease pressure off. If you’re brand-new to foam rolling and you have a lot of knots, you may find that you need very little pressure to feel it working.

3. Roll in a gradual, slow motion back towards the upper portion of your IT band, and continue back and forth like that for a few passes.

4. Don’t forget to maintain steady breathing as you’re rolling.

If you come across a tight spot, pause and linger on the roller.  Applying direct pressure like that will help break up the knot. But be careful not to overdo it. You should only hold it in one spot for no more than a minute. You can continue to do short rolls over that section to try to release the knot.

 

5. Once you’ve finished one leg, do the same thing on your other leg. Some runners make the mistakes of only rolling the leg where they’re feeling ITBS symptoms and then end up developing the problem in the other leg.

Foam Rolling Tips

  • Although it’s normal to feel some discomfort and soreness, make sure you don’t roll to the point of unbearable pain. If it’s too painful, just move on to a different section.
  • You’re not going to get rid of every knot in a single session. You should limit your foam rolling to no more than 15 minutes. Pushing to the point of extreme discomfort or spending too much time rolling can actually do more harm than good. It’s better to work in short sessions of foam rolling after you exercise several times a week.
  • Don’t expect to see results overnight when you first start rolling. But after few days of consistent rolling, you'll begin to notice a difference and rolling your IT band won’t be as uncomfortable as when you first started.
  • Many gyms have foam rollers, so you can use one there and ask a trainer to give you a quick demo. If you're interested in buying your own for home rolling, the Trigger Point Grid Foam Roller is a favorite among runners.​

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