The Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL) is one of those muscles that is easily neglected when trying to release the hips. TFL tightness can also be confused with Piriformis tightness due to its location.
Last week I created a video showing you how to release your hip flexors. Just like the hip flexors, the TFL is also another muscle that gets extremely tight and triggers hip and piriformis pain.
- You can watch the video on releasing the deep hip flexors (PSOAS) here. (The link will open in a new tab so you stay on this page!).
I DON’T like to release the TFL. It’s very uncomfortable and painful. But that’s exactly why we need to work on it more…
Probably more than any other hip muscle.
The TFL muscle tends to be overactive. It tightens up quickly and if not released, it can drive the hips out of balance.
The reason why the TFL is an overactive muscle is that It works in all three planes of motion (the sagittal, frontal and transverse planes).
An example of a sagittal plane exercise is the bodyweight squat or the bodyweight lunges.
A frontal plane exercise is for example sidewalks with the band or lateral lunges.
A transverse plane exercise is an exercise where you’re rotating (like throwing a ball).
And the TFL muscle works in all of these planes of motions… which explains why it’s overactive.
It’s also in a corner location of the hip. It’s facing the front and also the side…right on the corner.
Today I want to show you a great TFL release technique you can try at home. You’ll need a simple foam roller of any size.
Functions of the Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL muscle)
The TFL muscle accelerates hip flexion, abduction and internal rotation (again working in all 3 planes of motion: flexion, abduction, and rotation).
It also stabilizes the lumbopelvic-hip-complex. This is why it’s important to make sure it doesn’t get too tight and both sides are working synergically.
TFL Muscle Assessment (find out if it’s overactive)
When this muscle gets overactive, it can cause many muscular imbalances because it affects how you move.
An easy way to see if the TFL muscle is overactive and affecting your hip balance is by performing a 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 internally rotating. Like this:
If it does… your TFL is very overactive. You can also perform a backward lunge and see if your knee moves inwards. Depending on your body mechanics (and whether you were trying to fix your form while performing the squat), it’s easier to try again with a different exercise to be sure.
How To Release The TFL
- 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 gonna HURT! depending on how tight it is.
It’s very likely for it to be extremely tight. So just breathe deeply, and rest there for about 20-30 seconds.
- 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.
If you have a question about the video or if something isn’t clear…please leave a comment below. And if you also found the video helpful, leave me a comment too 🙂