We get it, runners — those Illiotibial (IT) band areas can feel pretty stiff. Speedsters ask us for IT band stretches all the time.
Here’s the thing — you can’t “stretch” your IT bands the way you might think, which is because they’re not muscles and they’re not meant to be like rubber bands. The thick band of connective tissue that extends from the knee to the hip along the outside of your leg is key for stabilizing your knees. However, because you’re so forward-oriented (and fast!), the sides of your body can easily become tight because they’re not as involved in your stride as your front and back. Instead, muscles around the top of the IT band/hip/glute/low back/side waist often get stuck together, kind of like Velcro.
Ugh, what to do?! Fear not. While you can’t stretch those pesky bands, you can stretch the tissues around them and “unstick” your sides, which will feel like relief, and help to keep your body more balanced in general — which is critical for injury prevention. So get out of your usual plane of movement post-run by hitting up some of our fave side bends.
Hold each pose for 5 – 7 deep breaths before switching sides.
High Lunge Side Bend
- Set up a low lunge by stepping your right foot between your hands, making sure the knee is directly over the ankle, and set your back knee to the floor.
- Lift your torso upright and put your hands on your right thigh.
- Back up until your hips are directly over your left knee, so you’re backing out of the lunge a bit so that you feel less stretch in your left hip flexors.
- Once you feel balanced, bring your right hand to your right hip and reach your left arm overhead.
- Reach higher through your left hand, lengthening your left side waist.
- Side bend your torso toward your right.
Pigeon Side Bend
- From all fours, bend your right knee and bring it toward your right wrist.
- Keep your right foot flexed and lower your right hip toward the floor — if your booty doesn’t easily reach the floor, put something under it (pillow, sweatshirt, ball, etc.) so that you have something to rest on.
- Straighten your left leg behind you so that the leg extends straight back from the hip.
- Slowly lower your torso toward the ground and walk your hands as far to the left as you can, bending your torso to the left.
- If this is making you go “ughhhhh” (of if your knee hurts) hit up pinwheel instead.
Reclined Side Bend
- Lie on your back and reach your arms overhead to set up a full body stretch.
- Grab your right wrist and bend your torso way over to the left.
- Cross your right ankle over your left and take your legs over to the left, too.
- Make as big of and “arch” shape on the floor as you can.
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