Tune Up Fitness® Tune Up Fitness Blog » Tensor Fasciae Latae: Not Your New Coffee Drink

Tensor Fasciae Latae: Not Your New Coffee Drink

In Yoga Tune Up®, we take the body apart muscle by muscle in order to put it back together again in a healthier, more balanced way.  What this part by part method can teach us is that every part of us needs individual attention: one part out of whack can cause a chain reaction throughout the body.  Take the hip flexors for example.  Their main job anatomically is to bring the front side of your thigh closer to your belly.  That means they are working when you walk up stairs, do a Warrior Pose, dance the Can-Can or do a Ninja Kick.  They get shorted whenever we are sitting whether we are at work, driving, watching TV or reading Yoga Tune Up® Blogs.  If your hip flexors are shortened because of the kind of work that you ask them to do, you may have an anteriorly tilted pelvis, which means that if you imagined that your hips are a bowl full water, the front lip of that bowl is tipped forward and down so that the water pours out onto your feet.  To take that one step further, if the front lip is tipped forward and down, then the back edge must be lifted, so the muscles in your low back may be tight and painful as well.

The TFL assists in hip flexion and can end up pretty tight as a result.

Now that we have zoomed out to look at the bigger picture, let us refine our view in true Yoga Tune Up® fashion.  One of the hip flexors that can be tight is called the Tensor Fasciae Latae.  If your find the boney protrusion on the front of your hips and place your heel of the hand on that, and then reach your fingers towards the seam of your pants diagonally, you will be right over your TFL.

The Tensor Fasciae Latae may sound like the newest specialty beverage at the local coffee shop, but it is in fact a muscle of the lower extremity.  It attaches from the Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (the front of your hip that you were just poking) to the Iliotibial band, otherwise known as the often sore strip of fascia right under the athletic stripe on your workout pants.  When activated, the TFL flexes, abducts, and medially rotates the thigh at the hip joint.  The TFL works when you are walking, standing, balancing on one leg, but not so much when you are lying in savasana.  If your TFL is weak, it increases the likelihood that you walk like a duck with your feet turned out, and if it is tight, chances are good that you feel a lot of tension down the side of your thigh through the iliotibial band.  Because it is a hip flexor and most humans in this part of the world spend most of their time sitting, chances are good that it is somewhat shortened.  Add to that the fact that many of the activities we do to make up for our sedentary life styles include a lot of hip flexion, (running, power walking, kick boxing, remember step classes(!) and even yoga), it’s a pretty good bet that your TFL needs a little TLC. Here are three Yoga Tune Up® poses that get at that overworked under-appreciated coffee beverage, uh, make that, muscle.

  1. Abductor Lifts static or Dynamic
  2. Triangle in Parallel
  3. Bridge Lifts Minivini

I’ll be including a video clip of the Bridge Lifts with my blog on Friday!

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About This Author

Bo's interest in the body was peaked in her theater classes in college. She found peoples unconscious expression of themselves through their movement patterns and habitual postures fascinating. She began exploring the human body through dance and yoga during that time. Yoga Tune Up® provides a clear and specific road map to explore, understand, heal and strengthen the body. Bo continues down the path of exploring the inner workings of the body by teaching and practicing YTU and massage therapy.

Tensor Fasciae Latae: Not Your New Coffee Drink

  1. Connie says:

    TFL indeeds needs a lot of TLC as it often takes on the slack off from our already weakened. gluteal medius.
    Thanks for the three helpful poses you presented.

  2. Erin Kintzing says:

    Great article on the TFL– a constantly unknown and misunderstood muscle. I am curious about weak TFLs causing the “duck walk” pattern– since the TFL helps to medially rotate the femur bone in the hip, I understand that a weak TFL could cause this gait pattern. I’ve wondered, is there a way to strengthen the TFL to correct this pattern without the hip having to be in flexion? I love your idea of Triangle in Parallel as a way to bring awareness to the muscle and give it a gentle stretch.

  3. Poirsha says:

    This was an awesome blog with vivid and helpful descriptions. I am currently in the tune up training and learning the muscles and their actions, have been very challenging! The more exposure I have to hearing about the muscles and their functions, the more my brain can have reference points that I can draw from! I like the catchy title…I do not think I will ever think of this muscle without thinking of coffee! Thank You!

  4. Joann Burnham says:

    Thank You for the clear concise and accessible description of TFL. Now that I think of it as a coffee drink I will never forget its name and location:) Great to know that a weak TFL can cause the duck walk I see so often and really great to know with a little TLC to the TFL it can be corrected.

  5. Anastasia Polito says:

    I feel that the Glute maximus is the boss, the glute medius is the boss’s son or daughter and the TFL is the janitor in the workplace. This muscle has an important job and needs regular TLC and gratitude. Thanks for the blog Bo!

  6. bre burk says:

    Great clear explanation of the TFL! I often see with clients with undiagnosed hip and knee pain, complaining that they have been rolling their IT band on foam rollers for years with no change. Thanks for providing the list of YTU stretches, can’t wait to introduce these!

  7. Eva Roig says:

    Merci pour les indications précises pour localiser ce muscle. Je vais maintenant pouvoir y accorder plus d’attention.

  8. Those poor hip flexors! Boy do we tend to overuse them! Thank you for your clear explanations and suggestions.

  9. Marie-Pierre Gauthier says:

    Quelle bonne explication sur un des fléchisseurs des hanches, Tenseur Fascia Latea.
    Maintenant plutôt que d’essayer d’étirer ma bandelette, j’opterais plutôt de prendre soin de mes TFL.

    Merci!

  10. Natalie K. says:

    As a spinner, my TFL’s require a lot of attention 😉 but with the use of the balls and different Yoga Tune Up exercises they are always released and feel great. Thank you so much for this article.

  11. Tim says:

    Thanks Bo,
    I remember that when I was a teenage a friend of mine told me that I had a sway back, I always thought that my lumbar spine was overly curved, but now I think it just might be caused by a shortened TFL. I’m going to start practicing the three TYU poses you recommended and see what happens.

  12. Marie streich says:

    Great article, I will have to start rolling this area out in my classes, because as you said athletes and desk jockeys alike both need to bring more attention to this area.

  13. Alison Miller says:

    Thank you for doing such a great job outing the TFL. As a runner, I often have tight TFLs that lead to lateral knee pain. Once I discovered my TFL and used my tune up balls over the this little muscle, the lateral knee pain disappeared as well as my ITB tightness. Thanks for outlining the poses to help provide a little more TLC for my TFL!

  14. jaclyn says:

    you made an important point that the muscles are first divided but after the connections of tensions are made to see how certain imbalances are effecting other areas in the body- thanks!

  15. I’m drinking all this tensor fascia latae up (yes, pun intended). I’m a runner and have cursed my IT band for far too long…now I’m realizing that the real issue is my TFL. Now I’m reading as many things as possible about helping this overly used muscle in my body. Rolling on the ball is excruciating, but it’s good work. As my teacher quote yet another teacher: “our power is in our weakness.” Thanks for the post!

  16. Becky Battle says:

    Excellent description of mapping out the TFL and explaining in a way the student can find it. The actions were excellent and again students would understand its function as those are explained.

  17. Samara Andrade Samara Andrade says:

    Thanks Bo, this is a fantastic description and mapping of the TFL on the body as well as one of the best descriptions about how we not only underuse and shorten in day to day sitting life but also looks critically about what we do to compensate athletically also require a lot of hip flexion. Love the three poses you outlined, I also always enjoy adding some TLC to the TFL with YTU therapy balls as well as integrating Praserita Lunges and Moon Rise mini-vini

  18. alexandra breault says:

    Belle explication merci, je cherchais justement les raisons de la marche des pieds en canard . Merci !

  19. alison says:

    I love the description anatomically! Plus the reasons why it may be tight or loose. This is an area that loves my YogaTuneUp balls whether I’ve had a more active week or week with more “sitting”.

  20. Kerstin says:

    Rolling the TFL with the Yoga Therapy Balls is always a unique experience, and generally not quite as pleasant as drinking a latte. However, rolling the TFL does have more health benefits than that coffee drink, so giving that weak, shortened guy some love will definitely pay off in a way that a latte never will. Especially if it means not walking like a duck and ruining ones knees in the process.

  21. Eileen says:

    I really enjoyed reading this blog post since I am someone chained to a desk most days of the week. One way to save your low back and hips is to rig a standing desk. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Just standing for periods of the day, and really, taking brief walks, is great for your low back, hips and attitude.

  22. Alexandra Lariviere Alexandra L says:

    Great explanation and landmarking. I had greatly underestimated the importance of this muscle. I’ve had problems with knees and ”tight hips” for years. This article made it easy to understand the link between my anterior tilt and my knees.

  23. Kim says:

    This article was affirming of all the work I’ve done for my TFL using Yoga Tune Up Methods. Abductor lifts used to be challenging for me! I appreciate that you pointed out that most of our exercise activities are highly focused on hip flexion! This is something I can take to my students in addition to the great “visual” description on how to find your TFL.

  24. Lynn says:

    I am quite weak at abductor lifts, say hello to TFL!

  25. Eleanor says:

    Attempting to release the IT band, as many do, through foam rolling, is a task that will be greatly enhanced by also addressing the muscle that is pulling on it!! TFL… Yoga Tune up balls are the way to go!!

  26. Emily says:

    Absolutely love this breakdown of the hip flexor group. Such good verbiage to share with clients so they understand why we need to focus our ball rolling and strengthening exercises on this small but important site on the body. Thanks for sharing!

  27. Victoria Ryder-Burbidge says:

    This is an interesting little muscle. So many people really focus on rolling the IT band but the most effective work will be in the TFL. That is where greater change can occur. Thanks for the three movements that focus on this muscle. I will definitely look at adding them to my next class.

  28. Nell Guzman says:

    As a runner, I know per experience that repetitive uphill and downhill running when having overpronated feet will increased inflammation in the TFL. I found helpful to release trigger points by using the YTU therapy balls, de-activating active trigger points in the iliosoas and TFL. Yoga Tune Up poses like the ones you mentioned (ex. Triangle in Parallel) will help lengthen the TFL and release tension.

  29. Mary says:

    I have tight IT bands with facia build up. Thanks for the simple ideas which should make a difference.

  30. Ela Garcia says:

    This article was a particular surprise. I feel like the older we get, we are busier, more stressed and we forget to take care of the basic things. Our diet and body. Even just something as simple as your posture or the way you walk or stand. In this article I was surprised that duck walk could be symptomatic of a person with a tight TFL. It was very interesting to learn about this because as a dancer my entire life I always thought that being able to have easy movement with my feet turned outward was a good thing. I guess that now I am learning more about the body and what is really proper for it, I keep getting surprised about the misguided ideas I had or maybe the lack in proper knowledge. This was a good read!

  31. Cindy Runzer says:

    The first time I ever used the therapy balls to roll out my TFL, the sensation was something else. I never imagined ‘that spot’ could be so tight. Knowing that it inserts into the IT tract and can affect the the knee was an important discovery for me. I enjoyed reading your post.

  32. Thanks for the great tip on how students can palpate the TFL! I’m using that in my next class!

  33. Emma says:

    I really enjoyed this article! As a yoga teacher I recently learned about the TFL and it is my new fascination! My boyfriend walks like a duck, and it was interesting to read that the TFL maybe the culprit.

  34. Bev Hotchkiss says:

    Great article on the new coffee, I mean under worked muscle, tensor fascia lata. I have just started the Level 1 training and I was a little confused about this muscle and I think because the word fascia is included in it…so I when I would hear it I wasn’t quite sure if it was a muscle or part of the fascia. I am glad that you explained that its attachment site is the Anterior superior. But I am confused. Is it that its other point of insertion is the illiotibial tract that runs down the entire outside of the thigh and ends at the knee?

  35. Rachel says:

    Thank you for being so clear and concise in landmarking the TFL on the body. I never knew that a weak TFL could cause that “duck walk” with feet pointing outwards and hips in external rotation, which leaves me to wonder if when I was a ballet dancer if my TFL was actually weak since I constantly walked like a duck.

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