Large muscle groups tend to get the most attention when it comes to exercising -- until one of the smaller muscles gets tight or weak and calls attention to itself. Among these muscles is the tensor fasciae latae -- or TFL -- a small muscle on each side of your pelvis that extends from top of the iliac crest of the pelvis to the iliotibial band on the side of your leg. Excessive twisting and flexion of the hip joint can tighten the TFL. Stretch your TFL in various directions to improve your hip mobility after a workout.
Stretching on the floor places the least amount of stress on your hip. It also helps you explore the way your TFL interacts with your hip and leg muscles without worrying about balance. The supine cross-leg hip rotation targets your TFL and your glutes together. With your back on the floor and your arms out to your sides, cross your right outer ankle over your left thigh near your kneecap with your left foot on the floor. Bend your left knee and bring your left foot close to your glutes. Exhale as you rotate your pelvis to your left until your right foot is on the floor. Keep your shoulders and arms on the floor. Hold the stretch for five to six deep breaths and do the same stretch on the opposite side.
Standing and Kneeling
Standing and kneeling positions provide the best stretches for the TFL because they allow your hip and torso to twist and tilt laterally. Sample stretches include the standing lateral trunk flexion, kneeling hip flexor stretch with lateral flexion and the seated torso twist. If you find one side of your body feels tighter than the other side, perform an extra set on that tighter side.
Self-myofascial release -- or SMR -- with a foam roller can soften the tissues at and around the TFL. It's like giving yourself a deep tissue massage. The foam roller is a cylinder made out of dense styrofoam that can be either 1 or 3 feet long. Position your TFL on top of the roller, place pressure on the muscle that you can tolerate, then gently and slowly rub the TFL back and forth until the tenderness subsides. Do not use this method if you have unhealed wounds, arthritis, joint and muscle diseases or an artificial hip.
Sometimes stiffness in your TFL may not be caused by the tight muscle itself. The TFL is part of the spiral myofascial line in your body that extends from your legs, around your pelvis and back, and ends at the base of your skull, according to massage therapist Thomas Myers, author of "Anatomy Trains." Since the TFL shares many nerves and connective tissues with your pelvis and legs, stiffness and injury from those areas can cause the tightness symptom in the TFL. Stretch your glutes, thighs, calves or lower back before stretching the TFL.
- Photo Credit Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images