he Illiotibial band is not a muscle at all, it is in fact muscle fascia. It’s a piece of connective tissue running from the outside of your hip, down to your knee and shin. The ITB is strong, tough and full of elastic energy to recoil like an elastic spring during exercise.
Because the ITB is not actually a muscle, you are in fact working or stretching the muscle around the fascia in order to maintain the strength of the fascia and make it resilient to loading during exercise.
ITB band syndrome (common overuse injury mainly in runners) occurs when the IT band becomes inflamed, and results in pain and swelling on the outside of the knee. If you experience this, you should back off on high impact exercises such as running and replace with lower impact ones such as swimming and cycling.
In order to prevent IT band syndrome, you should train consistently, gradually increasing the load and level of stressors on the body. E.g. going from running 5km one week to 6km the week after will allow the fascia to stay strong. Increasing from 5km to 10km will place a greater demand on the fascia and likely result in injury.
If your IT band is too tight, use exercises to strengthen and loosen the surrounding muscles that help take stress off this tissue.
EXERCISE #1: STEPDOWNS
Your glutes must be strong enough to keep hips level while running. When they are not strong enough, the IT band does most of the work, which causes tightness and inflammation. Step downs strength the abductors, adductors and glutes to prevent this from happening. Start standing on a 2 inch platform or step, stepping down one foot only, while keeping the other on the step at hip level.
EXERCISE #2 SINGLE-LEG BALANCE
Single leg balances strengthen all of the gluteal muscles and quadriceps which helps to level out hips and avoid the IT band taking over.
Stand on one foot with the other leg lifted and extended out in front of you, foot flexed. Try to keep your hips in alignment, and hold steady for 90 seconds
EXERCISE #3 SINGLE-LEG SQUATS
single leg squats work your entire butt and quads to keep those hips level. This realignment will ultimately translate to better running form and less stress on your IT band.
Find a bench or 18″- to 24″-tall box, and stand directly in front of it. Keeping your hips level, bend into your standing leg and take three seconds to lower your butt just above the bench. Take three seconds to rise back up. Perform 15 reps on this side
ROLL ROLL ROLL!!
Using a foam roller on the side quad (vastuslateralis) will help restore the tissue by loosening and deeply massaging the surrounding structures.