Q: Should I roll my IT band with a foam roller?
The IT band (short for iliotibial band, which runs from the crest of your lateral hip to just below the knee joint), is comprised of fascia, a non-contractile connective tissue. However, your IT band does not change length the same way your muscles do. Instead, it provides a stable platform for your lower leg when walking and running. The most common site of IT band pain is at the lateral knee, but it can also irritate the lateral hip.
According to Dr. Dane Delozier, the IT band does not respond well to stretching or hammering on it with foam. Not only will attempting to stretch your IT band hurt like hell but because this structure is not dynamic like muscle tissue, it’s useless to attempt to lengthen it.
According to the good doctor, instead of hammering on that tissue, we should be addressing the root cause: the way we move.
And here are THREE things that we SHOULD be doing, instead of trying to stretch out your IT band with a foam roller:
- Do the Quick Squat Drop, instead of rolling your IT band with a foam roller!
In this drill, using a band around your knees will encourage your gluteal tissue to activate and assist in shock control.
Perform the drill by starting from a standing posture with legs slightly bent. In your head count down 3,2,1 and then “drop” into a squatted position as fast as you can and pause at the bottom of the motion for 2 seconds. You may find performing a slight bounce at the beginning can help with the quickness of descent. There should be no pause when your feet hit the ground.
2. Do the Single-Leg Quick Squat, instead of rolling your IT band with a foam roller!
The single-leg quick squat is exactly like the double leg quick squat except using only 1 leg. This increases the demand and works on the gluteal muscles, trunk, quad, and calf.
Plus, as we progress with single leg drills, the exercises themselves begin to mimic the landing phase of running.
Again, it is important to perform this exercise in front of a mirror to ensure proper lower leg alignment at the pelvis and the knee. Also, it is important to keep your knee behind your toes to avoid overloading the quadriceps muscle.
This is a great time to practice proper arm swing. If you are performing the single-leg squat drop on the left leg, then be sure to land with the right arm forward in a 90-degree position (like in running). As you gain confidence and control with this exercise, add a dumbbell to the hand opposite the landing leg.
3. Do the Single-Leg Split Squat Jump, instead of rolling your IT band with a foam roller!
Since single leg activity requires a higher level of motor control at the core, hips, and knees we add back in a bit of support. Use a bench or chair to support the non-jumping leg. A flat bench helps to provide a visual cue to help you align your pelvis on the horizontal AND it gives you a cue to "sit back" during the drill.
The movement faults for this drill are to let your knees move forward of your toes, to let your pelvis drop, to keep an upright torso, and to side bend laterally upon landing.
If you are unable to control these faults with the jumping action, just start without jumping and work your way up; be sure to coordinate your arm motions to mimic running. You can also add weight to this exercise to increase the difficulty.
Remember, get into the landing position "quickly" without arresting your motion upon landing.
And there you have it! Instead of rolling your IT band with a foam roller, you should be practicing your shock resistance using the three moves above!