Show Some TLC to Your TFL (Tensor Fasciae Latae)

By Caitlin O’Brien, Fitness Specialist

Of the following activities, do you perform at least one of them? 

  • Walking
  • Horseback riding
  • Skiing
  • Standing

What do these four things have in common? The tensor fasciae latae is used considerably during these movements. 

The tensor fasciae latae (TFL) is a muscle that attaches at the top of your iliotibial (IT) band and is a vital muscle that helps stabilize the hip and knee. If we’re getting really technical, it assists with internal rotation, flexion, and abduction of the hip. (Think of kicking your leg out to the side, pointing your toes inward and raising your knee up to hip height.) 

Seeing that this muscle is a vital part of our mobility, it’s necessary to show some TLC by stretching it so we can continue to do things like ski, stand, walk, or horseback ride. 

Most people stretch the IT band by foam rolling, and although that is needed, the TFL needs extra attention. Since the IT band is made of connective tissue, there will be minimal improvements in flexibility, so your best bet is to stretch or release tension from the TFL. 

How to find your TFL

1. First, lay on your back with your legs extended long. 

2. Next, locate your hip bones on either side. 

3. Place your hands by your side, next to your hip bones.

4. Flexing one foot at a time, rotate your toes inward. You should feel a muscle fill up into your hand – Ta-Da! You have just found your TFL! 

How to stretch your TFL

Once you’ve located your TFL, place a foam roller right on the muscle or, preferably, a lacrosse ball. Keep in mind, a lacrosse ball does target your muscles much quicker, but if you’ve never used one to loosen the tissues in your body, the pressure will feel more intense than using a foam roller. So, ease into it. 

Whichever tool you choose to take, press into the TFL for about 30 seconds, take a few deep breaths, and release. Repeat up to five times. As always, if you are unsure about a move, talk to a personal trainer or professional. 

Anschutz Health and Wellness Center