Could ONE muscle be the culprit to your IT Band issues?

I have executed well over a thousand one-on-one training sessions with runners of all abilites. Seeing good and bad, it has become very evident to me that the number one culprit in biomechanical and gait disfunction, IT band issues, knee pain, and over all lack of run stability is a poor firing glut meduis. This is your smaller glut muscle that is located to the side of your gluts. This is a very important muscle for runners because it helps your lateral stability when on one foot, running. This muscle tends to go dormant through time due to various reason. When this happens and the muscle is not being used very well, you will over work your hip flexors, low back, and place a lot of stress on the quad, which can lead to IT touble.

How many times have you ended a long run and your hip flexors are so worked? Or, have you noticed that you can stretch the heck out of your hip flexors, without much progress? This is because they are being over worked and stretching will not hold until you deal with the problem, poor glut medius activity.

Needless to say, this I feel is the most important muscle for running economy, effieciency, and long term run health. Now let me back up and say that it is my belief this all originates from a lack of foot strength, leading to excessive, unhealthy pronation, which keeps the knee unstable, ultimately not firing your glut medius. OK...that is a mouth full. But I think you get the idea, foot strength lays the foundation, but from my experience, most runners need to activate the glut medius for proper running performance.

Here is a great way to do it.

Position a flex band around both knees, and then balance on one leg. From this position, perform 3/4 depth, one leg squats. Work up to doing 2-3 X 20-30 reps. These will burn and if you did not understand where your glut medius was before, you will after. To add a performance challenge, perform these on a BOSU, as demonstrated in the images below. These are great to do PRIOR to a run, activating your muscles before you head out.

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Comment by Gary Reynolds on September 14, 2013 at 2:18am

Great post Eric. I've been doing a lot of leg and core strength exercises to try and get rid of my persistent IT Band issue. I don't have this particular exercise in my arsenal yet, so will add it starting today!

Comment by Ted Carr AKA Ted Carb on April 24, 2012 at 5:46pm

You think this would also help with Patellar Tracking?

Comment by Sean Murphy on April 17, 2012 at 12:51pm

Quick note on a lesson learned: Do this exercise regularly. Last Spring I was doing some great long distance runs (up to 30 miles) with no IT Band issues and had a successful Bellingham Marathon. Then during the winter I slacked off on these exercise and bam at mile 15 on a long run day the pain came back! At least I knew what to do this time. I went back at it and am doing 20+ mile runs without any issues again. 

Comment by Leslie on January 24, 2012 at 8:07pm

Last fall I had terrible IT band issues that benched me for 10 weeks.  I googled "born to run coach" as I couldn't remember Eric's name and here I am.  Eric was kind enough to point me in the right direction.  I started the squats and did other exercises you can view on the website.  I have also been going to BodyPump, a fun and intense strength training program, at the gym.  Concurrently I eased back into running, working on an improved form.  My IT pain is gone except for a minor nag here and there.  I feel that the strength training has truly helped.  Hopefully I'll continue to see improvement in my speed.  Goal: Rock 'N Roll Half in the Spring.  Thanks, Eric!  

Comment by Sean Murphy on December 11, 2010 at 5:28pm

Hi all, 

I ran the Seattle Half Marathon 2 weekends ago and at mile 11 felt that twinge in my left knee. I knew what was coming and sure enough I was walk / running / walk running to the finish line. I had the same issue at mile 17 at the Belingham marathon in Sept. I had done lots of roller work and I've stretched my gluts. I was getting pretty annoyed and then found this sites via Eric's name in BTR and boy am I glad. 

The day after the last race I started to do the FB lunges and the 1/4 lunge with the band in this article. I felt the burn and kept doing it every 2-3 days. I would also work my gluts with bridge yoga poses. I also did the foot strengthening exercises and ditched my stability shoes. 

Yesterday I decided to test things out and ran 17 miles with no IT band issues at all. I was a very happy runner lat night.  Really happy. My ankles don't hurt like they used to either after a long run. I only had some pain in the hip flexors. 

Eric's other comment on the "Topic 'To lean or not to lean...' post states an: "emphasis on leading from the hips and imagining squeezing a penny between your butt. This engauges the gluts, specifically your glut medius, which promotes your lateral stability when loading one leg. This is huge and plays a big part in preventing IT Band issues." This imagery worked for me really well yesterday - with a slight squeeze on the gluts I could feel the stability come in line and prevented pelvic tilt and from my hips from swaying. 

I'm going to keep working on these exercises. Glad to have found this community - Sean

Comment by Martin Varallo on November 24, 2010 at 7:36am
I too would like to understand this exercise more clearly... Do you push your legs apart pushing against the band or is it to stop your legs from going too far apart.

Comment by Ann Margaret McKillop on November 23, 2010 at 8:48am
Eric, what does the band do? And I have the same question as Shawn about the 3/4 depth. Thanks!
Comment by Shawn on November 8, 2010 at 3:32pm
Can you clarify what is meant by 3/4 depth? (To me the picture seems to indicate what I would call a 1/4 depth squat.)

Thanks for the great running resources!

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