WTF is a TFL?
Lately, whether it be in yoga class, casual conversation or brunch with my running group, I’ve been hearing a number of people using the acronym TFL in relation to an injury or some part of their body. I figured that since it was coming up so often I should take some time to find out what it meant and how it could impact my training.
The Hip Bone’s Connected to the Leg Bone
TFL stands for Tensor Fascia Lata and it is one of our hip flexor muscles. For everyday people and athletes alike it’s an important part of our body because it abducts and flexes the thigh; i.e. it takes the knee up, moves the thigh laterally away, and turns the thigh in. The TFL muscle ties into the Iliotibial Tract (ITB) which runs down outside of our legs.
When these muscles and tendons get tight they can cause lateral knee pain and result in other tendons or muscles to try to compensate, which in turn makes these other areas tight and generate other injuries.
The goal is to keep this muscle as flexible as possible as this will decrease the pull it places on the ITB and help to prevent injury.
The TFL is actually fairly easy to stretch. It is recommended that you stretch it 2 – 3 times per day and that each stretch is held for 30 – 45 seconds.
Two TFL stretches are shown in the following video.
Another simple TFL stretch is the yoga pose known as “Thread the Needle” and it is great as a gentle hip opener. In this pose you start by lying on your back with your knees bent. Gently cross your right ankle over your left thigh. Next you reach your hands to your left hamstring. The image below shows a deeper variation where you place your hands on the left shin. The deeper variation should only be down if you can keep your shoulders rooted on the ground.
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