Remember that during the winter we said that you could work on exercises that complement your good weather regimen? Do you suffer from iliotibial (IT) band syndrome? You might be doing the wrong type of exercise to alleviate the problem. Here are two indoor exercises designed to be the best workout routines to help you when you can get back on the track or back on the treadmill without succumbing to that annoying knee pain.
Many runners tend to suffer from iliotibial (IT) band syndrome. This is an overuse injury causing pain on the outside of the knee. It’s usually blamed on a tight IT band, which leads people to stretch and foam roll the wide strip of tendon on the outside of their thigh in hopes of loosening it. But that may do little good. Canadian researchers reveal that strengthening, not stretching exercises, could be the best workout to deal with the problem.
In a small pilot study, nine people suffering from IT band syndrome underwent a 6-week rehabilitation program that focused on exercises strengthening hip muscles like the gluteus maximus (your butt muscle) and gluteus medius (a muscle that helps you lift your thigh out to the side). At the end of the study, all nine of the runners were able to run pain-free. The length of their IT bands remained unchanged despite efforts to stretch it, but these were the best workout as everyone’s hip strength increased. (Push harder, get stronger, and bulletproof your entire body with The Athlete’s Book of Home Remedies.)
“The IT band is like a chunk of leather, and it will never stretch,” says study author Reed Ferber, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Calgary and director of the Running Injury Clinic. “By foam rolling and stretching, you only minimize the symptoms.”
So what do your hips have to do with your knee pain? The gluteus maximus and gluteus medius attach to your IT band, Ferber explains. When these muscles contract, they pull on the IT band and keep your hips and knees aligned. However, if these muscles aren’t strong, your hips and knees can twist. This triggers the IT band to rub over underlying tissue and cause pain on the outside of your knee, he says.
To fix the underlying problem, you need to strengthen your hips. That’s why Ferber recommends performing these two best workout exercises to prevent and treat IT band syndrome.
DO THIS: Do 1 set of 10 reps of each exercise on day 1. On days 2 and 3, perform two sets of each exercise. Every day after that, do three sets. Perform the exercises well before or after a run. Foam rolling the IT band is still beneficial because it reduces the symptoms, so Ferber suggests using it in combination with the strengthening exercises. (The IT band is one of the most sensitive areas that you can roll over. Treat it correctly with The Best Injury-Prevention Workout You’re Not Doing.)
After doing these exercises for around six weeks along with the foam rolling exercises you are probably doing, you should have developed the weaker muscles and addressed the IT band problem.