Effective TFL Release Technique For Tight Hips

TFL muscle release technique (video)

Today I want to show you a great way to release the TFL muscle without stretching. The TFL stands for Tensor Fascia Latae and it has a tendency to get extremely tight and overactive. This chronic tightness causes hip instability, pain, and dysfunction including piriformis syndrome pain.

If you keep stretching your hips or piriformis muscle and you’re still not getting relief, you may be dealing with chronic TFL tightness. This post will show you how to properly release the TFL with a foam roller at home.

Make sure you also check out my video post on how to release the hip flexors, specifically the PSOAS. The PSOAS gets extremely tight along with the TFL and they both can drive the hips out of balance and trigger a lot of pain.

The TFL Muscle Location and Functions

Before we release the TFL, we need to learn where its located and how to properly place the foam roller to effectively release the trigger points.

The TFL is located on the side of the hip. It’s facing the front and also the side…right on the corner. The TFL muscle accelerates hip flexion, abduction and internal rotation (again working in all 3 planes of motion: flexion, abduction, and rotation).

TFL muscle release
Location and functions of the TFL muscle
  • An example of a sagittal plane exercise is the bodyweight squat or the bodyweight lunges. Front and Back.
  • A frontal plane exercise is for example sidewalks with the band or lateral lunges. So any movement side to side.
  • A transverse plane exercise is an exercise where you’re rotating (like throwing a ball). 

Thet TFL quickly acts up to move the hips in all these 3 directions (and as a result, it can inhibit the glutes from engaging when needed). So when you’re squatting, lunging, or performing side-to-side walks, the TFL is engaged in all these movement patterns.

The TFL also stabilizes the lumbo-pelvic-hip-complex. This is why it’s important to release the TFL muscle and avoid overactivity. You want to maintain muscle balance at all times to avoid dysfunction.

Below you’ll find a very effective TFL release technique you can try at home. You’ll need a simple foam roller. A longer foam roller would be perfect but a medium one can get the job done as well.

I also want to share with you a quick test you can do just to see if the muscle is very overactive.

TFL Muscle Overactivity Assessment

If you’re curious, there is an easy way to see if the TFL muscle is overactive and affecting your hip balance. You can find out by performing a simple squat test…

How to perform the squat test: Make sure you’re facing a mirror. You can also film yourself. Just don’t look down when you’re performing the test. Your cervical spine will flex, you’ll start rounding your back, and your posture will change. Plus you won’t be able to see everything that’s happening.

It’s easy to just film yourself (so you can re-watch multiple times). It’s very surprising to see all the flawed movement patterns we engage in that we’re not aware of). We’re all work in progress.

Anyway. go ahead and perform a bodyweight squat. you don’t have to go very low. But, do not try to fix anything. Just squat as you’d normally do.

What to look for: Notice if one or both your knees are caving in and rotating inwards… Like this:

squat tight TFL
A closer look at how the right knee is coming inward as I’m squatting down. This is an indication of TFL tightness.

If one or both of your knees cave in, your TFL on either or both sides is very overactive. You can also perform a backward lunge and see if your knee moves inwards.

Why is this test important?

You’re always transferring force from one leg to another…walking up and down the stairs, standing on one leg to put your pants on, or getting in and out of your car to name a few scenarios. So think of how this can affect other joints and muscle up and down the kinetic chain (hips, and ankles)

Effective TFL Release Tutorial

Full disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. I only mention products I personally have used…and if you purchase using my affiliate link, I get a small commission. You won’t pay more. And thank you for supporting this blog!

To perform self-myofascial release, you’ll need a high-quality foam roller. Here’s the brand I use!

TFL Release Instructions:

  • Start by finding the two bony landmarks on your hip: The greater trochanter of the femur (the hip bones) and the iliac crest (higher bone).
  • From the top of the iliac crest to the greater trochanter of the femur is a very small space. The TFL muscle is not on the side… it’s on that front corner.

So how to reach the front corner to release the TFL?

  • Now start by lying on the roller on your side. Then, you’re going to take your bent knee and drop it until it touches the floor. Right there! you’re lined up perfectly on the muscle

It’s very likely the muscle is extremely tight. So just breathe deeply, and rest there for about 20-30 seconds. Look for any tender spots (up and down) to release.

IMPORTANT: You should not be feeling any shooting pain or experiencing any numbness. We only want to release the muscle. So if you’re experiencing any of these things, take a break now.

  • If it’s extremely tight that you can’t even rest on it for a few seconds. I suggest you bend the straight knee to give the muscle break, so it’s not pulled very tight. This will allow you to apply more pressure and feel the release.

And of course, when you’re done, move to the other hip. When you’re done, don’t forget to also release the PSOAS muscle, another big hip flexors that drive the hips out of balance and can trigger a lot of pain.

Recommended Programs: The Back Pain Bootcamp.

I hope this post was helpful. Leave me a comment below!

To read more about the TFL muscle location, functions, insertion, and nerves involved, click here.

  • Diane Kennedy says:

    The TFL is not a muscle. It is facia. Your recommended are very helpful. Thanks!

    • Coach Sofia says:

      Hi Diane, the Tensor Fascia Latae is a muscle enclosed in layers of fascia but it’s a muscle that flexes, abducts and also internally rotates the hip. So it tends to get very tight and overactive. I’m so glad the video was helpful 🙂

  • Carolynn Parker says:

    I have bursitis in both hips after hip replacement. I can’t walk an eighth of a mile. Only hurts/burns when I walk. Any suggestions?

  • Nardo says:

    Thank you for sharing Sofia!. I have done the exercise; and felt the difference right away!.

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