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TFL myofascial release for functional hips and maximum performance

Tensor fasciae latae, also know as TFL, is a muscle on the outside top of your thighs, starting at the top of your hip and inserting into the IT band (illiotibial band) that you may be more familiar with. The Latin name roughly translated means “the muscle that stretches the band on the side.”

TFL assist your glutes in the hip extension (when you run and push off from the ground). It also assist in flexing the hip and knee (raising your knee up while running), and stabilizes the hips during walking, running and sideways movements.

The TFL muscle can be easily overworked, if your gluteus muscles are weak or inhibited --- meaning that they don’t work correctly your hipflexors are too tight. In our modern life style, we sit too much and our hipflexors are generally too tight.

For many athletes, the glutes are inhibited and don’t work correctly. The kinetic chain doesn’t work as it is supposed to during the aggressive movements on the tennis court and that’s why we can feel knee, ankle, hip or lower back pains. With further overload, this can lead to more serious overuse injuries.

When the TFL muscle works too much to help all the other weak muscles, it becomes eventually overworked and short and/or tight. Trigger points will build and they can cause a lot of discomfort and referred pain in the entire lower leg.

To recreate functional balance in your hip area, you need to:

1a) stretch your hip-flexors and quadriceps

1b) myofascial release for your hipflexors

2) strengthen your glutes

3) myofascial release for the TFL

For the majority of body parts, you can use a foam roller or a foam ball for the myofascial release. These tools are often not good enough for the thick little muscle such as TFL. There are other more firm rollers, such as The Grid or Rumble Roller, but they are too big for the TFL. Because the trigger points often are very deep, the best tool is the softball or lacrosse ball. Tennis ball can work too, but not as well as the firmer ball versions.

Lie down on your side and place the softball under your hip. Gently sink all your body weight into the ball (it’s painful!) and breathe. Then slowly move around and search for painful spots. When you find one, hold that position for a few seconds until the pain subsides. Then move on another area. Move along the muscle (up and down along your body) and across the muscle (back and forward your hips)

This can be one of the more painful experiences in your post-training recovery. It is very important to keep your hips functional because you use them in each step you take on the tennis court and during your stroke production. The healthier your muscle tissue is, the less pain you will experience. That’s a good motivation to do it!

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