Here’s my favorite exercises for IT band syndrome. The IT band is a piece of connective tissue on the side of the leg. It doesn’t really matter what it does since it’s too thick to physically change it. This is GREAT news, means we can ignore it. And do this instead.
Exercises for IT Band Syndrome
#1 Do Less Exercise
This should be a no brainer but is easy to overlook. You irritated something so STOP irritating it.
- Decrease activity by 50%
- Slowly increase each weak
- Use pain as your guide
Using pain as your guide is fairly straight forward. Don’t exceed 5/10 during the activity make sure YOUR pain isn’t worse the start of your NEXT session
#2 Fix the QUAD
Every knee issue is a quad issue FIRST. Here is my fav way to address the quad. When pain is present, it’s common to have protective spasm in the quad that can limit knee function.
This technique helps to reduce that spasm. I find this to instantly decrease knee pain and improve knee function.
Heavier is better. Too heavy and the quad won’t relax but give it a few reps before you give up. A dumbbell works too.
#3 USE the QUAD
I prefer single leg exercises
- step ups
- split lunges
- single leg squats
Technique matters. Be sure to drive the foot THROUGH the ground for CONSTANT tension on the quad. You should be pushing through the middle of your foot.
You’ll feel this on the inside of your quad (VMO what?!)
#4 Be More Powerful
There are many ways to improve power, I’m just partial to kettlebell swings to develop power endurance.
Often times you’ll feel pain on the outside of the knee doing exercises when you have IT band syndrome. A trick to stop lateral knee pain is to “pretend the knees are headlights and keep then shining forward” This prevents your knees from excessively point out.
You may also need a wider stance
What is the IT Band Syndrome?
The IT band is a thick piece of tissue that runs the entire length of the side of the leg. IT band syndrome is a common overuse injury and often affects runners, but I’ve seen it also affect cyclists or any activity that requires repetitive knee bending.
The first step in recovering from any overuse injury is to reduce the aggravating movement. That’s always going to be person specific based on
- chosen activity
- fitness level
Stretches and hip strengthening exercises are often prescribed. The IT band is really thick so there’s no physical way to stretch it. Targeted hip strength work is also prescribed, usually the glute medius, but I find just doing single leg exercises covers the entire leg and hip, so its more efficient.
Summary for ITB Syndrome
To KNEECAP (see what i did there?), I treat knee issues as quad issues first. This usually fixes the knee issue. I still do hip strengthening exercises and progressions for whatever activity you are trying to get back to. Often times if your goal is just running or biking, you don’t have to go overboard on the strength training since those activities don’t require that much strength.