Release Your IT Band with the Foam Roller

It Band releaseThe knee joint is a curious structure and, whether you’ve heard of it or not, the IT band plays a vital role in your knee’s health. On the front of your knee, there are insertion points for four quadriceps. The back of your knee has the insertions for three hamstrings. Three adductor muscles and the gracilis help keep your inner thighs strong. Then, on the outside of your knee, there is the iliotibial band (IT band).

The IT band is a tendon (not a muscle), yet it plays a crucial role in your knee’s movements by balancing all the other muscles that are important to your knee. Because of this, you want to roll mindfully. Take care of your IT band. If rolling feels too intense or painful, stop immediately. Here’s how to safely release your IT band with the foam roller.

Release Your IT Band

  1. You can breathe regularly as you practice this exercise. Or, if you want to make this muscle release exercise more Pilates-esque, practice Pilates breathing as you inhale and exhale.
  2. Begin with your foam roller beneath your right hip. Straighten your right leg, and make sure that your leg is in parallel with the outside edge of your foot along the floor. Slightly bend your left leg for support. You can place your left foot in front or behind your right leg. Make sure that your body is in a straight line from the top of your head through your right heel. Use your right arm and left hand for support throughout this exercise.
  3. Inhale and exhale as you allow yourself to roll (slowly) down toward your knee. Then, roll back up to your starting point. The IT band can feel junky in a number of places, but it’s not likely to feel junky in all places. Take your time to try to relax into tight spots. If something causes you pain or you feel your body start to tense, move immediately on to the next spot or completely get off the roller and stop. The IT band is a tendon, not a muscle, so you really don’t want to overstretch it.
  4. Once you feel like you have sufficiently rolled the right leg, switch sides and roll the left.

Finding a Foam Roller

If you want to order a foam roller, I recommend the OPTP brand foam roller. Their foam rollers are firm and don’t dent or bend easily. It’s crucial for your foam roller to be firm and stay the same shape throughout its use.

Foam rollers are a great tool to elevate your Pilates mat work, but they’re also wonderful self-massage tools. Here’s a link to some foam roller stretches.

Release Your IT Band Video

Here is a video for visual learners.

Where were you tightest:  at the top, at the bottom, or in the middle? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.