Here are three IT Band exercises that we have found helpful for fixing Iliotibial band problems
1) Side-lying Hip Abduction
Side-lying Hip Abduction exercises are similar to the Clam Shell Exercises but these IT Band exercises are done with the knee straight instead of bent as in in the Clam Shell. Start the exercise laying on your side and slowly lift up the top leg. Hold for several seconds once you reach the top position and hold this position for several seconds before you slowly lower the top leg back down to the starting position.
Hip Abduction Exercise
2) Single Leg Squats
Single Leg Squats are another IT band exercise that helps with IT Band Syndrome by helping to strengthen the muscles that stabilize the hip. Stand on one leg and slowly perform the squat while trying to keep the knee straight. If you have knee pain with going too low into the single leg squat, then simply focus on performing a shorter range of motion for the squat with only 6 to 8 inches of downward movement. Also focus on trying not to lean too far forward since this forward lean can put too much tension on the knee.
3) Scorpion Exercises
The Scorpion exercise also helps strength the gluteal muscles that stabilize the hip and pelvis which is often one of the problems in people suffering with IT band syndrome. To perform the scorpion exercise, lay flat on the floor face down with both arms extended to the side. Slowly lift your left leg trying to keep the knee straight or slightly flexed. Even though it appears that the Scorpion exercise is simply swing one leg from side-to-side, there is much more to this exercise than first appears.
The key to this IT Band exercise is to focus on firing and contracting the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus muscles (the buttock muscles). Once you’ve lifted the left leg up, bend the left knee and try to reach the left leg over and behind your back while keeping the arms and chest flat against the ground. You should feel the contraction of the glutes throughout the exercise.
Dirty Dogs Exercise for Iliotibial Band Pain – Another IT Band Exercise
There are several other IT band exercises we like to incorporate into our treatment plans for athletes suffering with Iliotibial Band Syndrome. We also like the variations of these IT band exercises because they contract the buttock muscles in different positions and angles. Even though some athletes like runners don’t have a lot of lateral movement in their sport, we believe that adding some lateral and rotation movements to the exercises can help prevent future injuries.
The Dirty Dogs exercise is a variation of the Donkey Kick exercise that focuses on strengthening the gluteus muscles. The main difference between the Donkey Kick and the Dirty Dog is that the Dirty Dog strength exercise is done by internal and external rotation of the hip. In comparison, the Donkey Kick is flexion and extension of the hip. Be sure to do both exercises slowly and concentrate on contracting the gluteus muscles.
To do the “dirty dog” exercise, simply lift one leg out to the side. Focus on contracting and firing the gluteal muscles and also be sure to hold the leg at the top position for several seconds and continue to engage the gluteus muscles. One key concept with this exercise is to keep the knee flexed to about 90 degrees flexion. Keeping the knee bent can help with focusing on firing and contracting the gluteal muscles. We noticed that some people have a hard time figuring out how to do this exercise correctly because they are not used to using their gluteus muscles in this manner.
Remember to add these exercises as part of a daily exercise and strengthening routine and you’ll soon see marked improvement of your IT band pain.
If you need help, check out the Youtube video below for an example of this IT Band exercise.
The single leg pelvic bridge is another great exercise to help strengthen the gluteus and help with IT band syndrome. If you feel that you are using too much hamstring, try doing the sing leg pelvic bridge just on the heel instead of the entire foot flat on the floor. Pushing from just the heel will help isolate the gluteus muscles instead of the hamstrings.
The key to the single-leg pelvic bridge exercise is to really focus on firing or activating the gluteal muscles. In many of the cases we see, the athletes are very “hamstring dominant”, meaning that they rely on the hamstrings or the back of the thighs to do the majority of the work and do not fire the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius muscles, which are better at stabilizing the hip and pelvic. Keeping a strong and stable hip and pelvic can decrease the rotational stress on the iliotibial band and on the knee, ankle and foot.
Donkey kicks are another easy strength exercise that is also one of our favorite strength exercises for the pelvic, hip and leg. The Donkey kick targets the gluteus muscles of the hip and will help with iliotibial band issues. The trick key with Donkey Kicks to get the best gluteal muscle activation is to keep the knee bent in order to relax the hamstrings and focus the contraction on the gluteus muscles. Try this exercise in two different ways to see the difference that bending the knee makes in regards to firing the glut medius and glut maximus.
In the first position, kick the leg straight back, extending from the hip and the knee and hold the leg parallel to the floor. You should feel the hamstring muscle and the rest of the muscles in the back of the thigh contract and fire. In most cases, this muscle firing pattern is typical of most runners and other athletes that struggle with Iliotibial Band Syndrome.
Now return the leg back to the starting position (back to your hands and knees position). In the second variation of the Donkey Kick, keep the knee bent at 90 degrees as you extend from the hip. Think of trying to push your heel and foot up towards the ceiling instead of directly behind you. With the knee now flexed, you should feel a stronger contraction of the gluteal muscles.
Check out the video below for one example of Donkey Kicks, and feel free to leave a comment!
In most cases of iliotibial band syndrome there is some weakness of the core abdominal and hip muscles that lead to biomechanics problems and increased stress on the iliotibial band, lead to IT band pain and discomfort.
The “clam shell” exercise strengthens the external rotators of the hips, which help stabilize the pelvic when standing or running. Using a stretch band or stretch cord for the clam shell exercise can increase the firing and activation of the gluteus muscles. Its important to do the clam shell exercise in a slow and controlled manner, focusing on activating the gluteus muscles. Many athletes try to do this hip exercise too quickly and don’t focus on the proper technique. When performing the clam shell exercise, try to use a three to four second count in each direction. if you are using a stretch or thera-band, be sure to hold the leg in the externally rotated position for several seconds before starting the downward (internal rotation) movement.
If you don’t have a stretch cord or stretch band, use a large towel wrapped loosely around the thighs (but tight enough that it provides resistance when you take the top leg into full external rotation)
Enjoy the video below of the Clam Shell exercise for helping with IT Band Syndrome.