If you’re planning to take up running or cycling as part of your New Year’s Resolutions, you should know that Iliotibial Band Syndrome (AKA ITBS) is extremely common in these activities. Fortunately, with proper preparation, you can minimise your risk. So, here are the top 5 exercises you could do to prevent this condition.
What is ITBS?
The iliotibial band is a strong band of tissue that runs on the outer side of your leg. It extends from your knee to your hip and assists with knee flexion and extension. Repetitive motion, overly tight leg muscles, and weakness around your hips, quads, and hamstrings can agitate the connective tissue attaching the band to your knee and hip. This agitation results in microscopic tears and inflammation, leading to ITBS.
With ITBS, you might feel pain and see swelling on the outer side of your knee, needle-like stabbing pains running up the outer side of your leg and hear a popping sound when you bend your knee. And worst of all, if the condition is left unaddressed, it can worsen over time.
So, as you can see, it’s not a pleasant condition. But as we mentioned, there are some exercises for ITB syndrome that you can add to your workout routine to avoid it.
Learn more: Will Iliotibial Band Syndrome Go Away?
The best exercises for ITB Syndrome
As ITBS is a repetitive strain injury, you need to build a good support network of muscle to alleviate strain and improve your proprioception. And these are the best exercises for the job.
1. Single leg bridge
A modification of the glute bridge, this exercise targets your hip extensors (glutes and hamstrings).
- Lay on your back on the floor with your knees bent and arms at your sides (a little ways away from your torso).
- Straighten and lift one leg around 15 cm off the floor.
- Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Tighten your glutes and abdominals to support the motion, and squeeze your core muscles as though trying to bring your belly button closer to your spine
- Hold for 2-3 seconds.
- Slowly lower your hips to the floor to return to the starting position.
- Do 15 reps
- Repeat on both sides
2. Straight leg raises
You might remember this one from our knee strengthening article. As a refresher, this exercise targets your hip flexors and quads (as well as your abs).
- Lay flat on your back on the floor
- Bend one leg at a 90-degree angle, placing your foot firmly on the floor
- Keep your other leg straight
- Contract the quads in your straight leg for stability and raise it 10-15 cm off the floor
- Hold for 3-5 secs
- Exhale, gently lowering your leg back to the floor
- Do 10 reps per leg.
3. Side planks
This exercise strengthens your hips and the sides of your core. It also helps improve your sense of balance and coordination, which can help your body improve how it activates your leg muscles.
- Lay on your side on the floor.
- Brace your core and push yourself up onto your elbow, keeping your upper back, hips, knees, and ankles aligned
- Hold the position as long as you can.
- Repeat for the other side.
4. Clam shells
Clam shells might look a bit ridiculous, but they’re great at strengthening and stabilising your hips.
- Lay on your side on the floor, with your legs stacked and your knees bent at a 45-degree angle.
- Prop your head up using your lower arm. Use your top arm for stability.
- Keep your hips stacked throughout. Your upper hip should not be rolling backwards or forward.
- Engage your abdominals by pulling your belly button toward your spine to stabilise your back.
- Keeping your feet touching, raise your upper knee as high as you can without shifting your hips or pelvis. Don’t lift your lower leg off the floor.
- Hold for 1-2 seconds, then return your upper leg to the starting position.
- Do 20 reps.
- Repeat for both sides.
5. Single-leg balance
Balancing on one leg can improve stability throughout your whole leg, from your ankle to your hip. It’s especially great for runners since aligned joints track better, thus reducing stress and strain on ligaments, tendons, and other bits of connective tissue.
- Stand upright with your feet flat on the floor and your spine neutral.
- Pick a spot and stare at it for stability, especially if you’re just starting out or have balance issues.
- Lift one foot off the floor, bending that leg at the knee
- Hold for 20 seconds.
- Do 3-5 reps
- Repeat for both sides.
Other steps to take
These exercises for ITB syndrome are great for helping you avoid it, but they aren’t the only thing to focus on. To minimise your risk further, you’ll need:
- Good shoes. Especially for running, regular sneakers can stress out your joints and irritate your IT band. You’ll need running shoes, ones that sufficiently cushion your heel and support your arches. You can also throw in a pair of sports insoles for good measure to support and improve the roll of your foot.
- Stretch. Incorporate gentle stretches like legs up the wall and quads stretch into your routine to loosen your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
- Rest. Kicking your feet up every once in a while is a great way to reduce your chances of an overuse injury.
- And last but not least, try out our Sports Knee Brace. Its medical-grade compression and patella pad will reduce muscle oscillation (the uncomfortable jolts as your foot hits the ground) and activate key muscles around your knee to improve how the joint tracks. It’ll also warm up your leg muscles, making them looser and less prone to overstretching and overstaining.
To sum up
ITB Syndrome can be an irritating condition to develop and may take you off the track (or off track to meeting your New Year’s Resolutions). Fortunately, you can reduce your risk by building a good muscular support network, stretching your legs, and getting appropriate gear.
Run often? Check our running supports: Running Support Braces
Are you a cyclist? See our cycling support collection Cycling Sleeves
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