For years I had issues with my right knee. I was told I needed surgery on more than one occasion in order to solve my problem, but I knew there was a better way. That’s when I discovered what I call the “lateral leg connection.” You see, it wasn’t that I needed surgery, it was that the muscles and fascia on the side of my leg were weak and tight, respectively. We tend to focus on and train the “mirror muscles.” These are the ones we can see in the mirror at the gym or studio and in my case, the quadriceps. I knew enough as a runner that I needed to train the muscles on the back of my thigh, the hamstrings. But what about those stabilizing muscles on the side? Huh? What are those?!
The much underappreciated tensor fascia latae (TFL) and gluteus medius are key to hip and leg stability. If these muscles get ignored, the IT (iliotibial) band can get very tight very quick. The IT band is a thick band of fascia that originates from the TFL, the muscle coming off of the side of your hip, and inserts just below the knee. If the hip muscles are weak and the IT band tight, the IT band can pull the patella (knee cap) to the side, causing it to track improperly (patellofemoral syndrome) resulting in pain, degradation of the cartilage under the knee cap and in some cases, surgery. You can keep your knees, hips and IT band happy by using your Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls to perform self myofascial release in these areas, and tone your TFL and gluteus medius by performing the Yoga Tune Up® pose Abductor Lifts (shown below!). This pose, along with a regular yoga and running regime, keep me pain free!
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I never thought of this before, my right knee has always given me trouble. I lift weights and run I’m very active but I am definitely going to start focusing on my adductors and abductors!
thank you for drawing the correlation between TFL, glute med and IT band… now there is more of a reason to keep the TFL and glute med strong
This is so so true…i hear of so much knee pain (dancers, gymnasts, runners) that is a result of weak hip muscles and tight facia. The mal-tracking as a result of tight IT band for example is fascinating to me. I am so interested to learn more about this.
When we train, we too often think of strengthening only the muscles used and we forget to reinforce the antagonists too. The good health of the joints and the mobility depend a lot on a good muscular balance.
This is really a great article especially for exercise enthusiasts as they are very focus on the looks and shapes of the the outer tight, the outer hips that they become overused and we forget the inner thighs, our blind spots, so they are underused, and that’ s when we get injuries on our hips/knees without us knowing the cause. Our hip and leg stabilizers are ignored and forgotten.
I completed my First Ironman Triathlon in 2007 and could have saved myself so much knee pain if I had this magnificent knowledge back then about the instability issues – Thank you for sharing
After completing a number of marathons and triathlons, I was diagnosed with patellofemoral syndrome and told not to run anymore. Surgery was recommended. Instead of being cut open, I turned to crossfit and yoga and began strengthening my hips and legs. My knees are no longer a problem. I can run again and even do pistol squats!! I will continue to do my adductor lifts! Thank you for your blog post!
This is great. I’ve had the odd right knee issue and never thought how it might be coming form my hip! I will be definitely adding this one to my weekly regime .
I will definitely try to train the stabilizing muscles on the side of my legs! I’ve had knee problems for a few years now, stopped running and worked with physios, osteos, chiros, etc., without much results. I’m surprised nobody thought about that. I’ll study lateral leg connection; you piqued my curiosity! Thank you for your article!
Thank you Robyn! Miss your classes! In the past foam rolling has help to relieve my patella femoral syndrome, now I can add these to strengthen the tfl and glute medius!
I did my first ever adductor lifts today. although they were super challenging, I look forward to making them a part of my daily routine. I am starting to get that uh-oh feeling in my knees and know that these adductor lifts will help strengthen and stabilize my knees.
The lateral leg connection is something I am becoming familiar with. I have weak ankles from a career of ankle rolling through basketball and volleyball. I have had them reconstructed which helped with the stability of my ankles but also limits the lateral movement of my ankle joints. This immobility seemed to have moved up to. Through trying to the adductor lifts, I am realizing that there is barley any strength in my hips and I am compensating and creating pain in my knee because of it. This is a fantastic exercise, even if you only move a couple of inches!
Thank you for your post and video!
I have had knee pain for years that I contributed to a combination genetics and sports, afraid that some day I would have to get surgery I have tried massage, kinesio taping, acupuncture, stretching and at times just resting and giving up my activities only for the pain to come back. I recently discovered YTU and have been using the balls the past few weeks to roll through my adductors but now I see that its my ABDuctors that need may need the attention! Great article and demonstration. Thanks!
Intérressant de voir que cette posture peut diminuer les tensions dans les genous et de les renforcirs en même temps.
Thanks for making the relationship between weak/ignored TFL and gluteus & the tightness of IT band! It took a while for me to learn how to engage my gluteus, the abductor lifts has definitely helped. Although it is not my favourite, but that just means I need to do it more:)
thanks for this great blog and demo. I have a few students I’d like to share this with. Just need to practice a while myself.
I like your description of why these exercises may help runners.
Thank you for this. I am always looking for ways to improve my performance as a runner (and my L knee has not felt quite right since I fell down on it late last year and I’ve been looking for ways to help heal it) so this article is very timely.
J’ai souvent des douleurs aux genoux et c’est intéressant de voir une des causes qui peut amener des problèmes aux genoux. C’est bon un article qui nous rappel que nos parties du corps sont connectés et il ne faut pas s’arrêter seulement aux muscles à proximité de nos douleurs. On voit très bien dans cette situation qu’il est important de s’informer et d’en apprendre davantage sur le fonctionnement de notre corps afin d’éviter des opérations non désirées ou il n’y a pas de retour en arrière après cette intervention chirurgicale qui va probablement venir débalancer l’équilibre de notre corps.
This is a wonderful reminder that it really is all connected; weak hip muscles and tight IT bands can lead to problems further down the leg. I feel like this is probably more common than not – that people with knee issues may need to look more closely at the relationship of the entire leg and not just the knee joint. I’ve rarely had knee pain and nothing prolonged so thank you for sharing so I can remember this when dealing with students who face this issue.
I found this at the perfect time because I’ve been suffering some from uncomfortable tightness (more than usual) in my outer right rip. What feels like gluteus medius/minimus and piriformis muscles. Yesterday, I did some abduction/strengthening of the TFL and am feeling much less tight in the piriformis. It’s possible that my piriformis/glute med/glute min have been overcompensating and I need to balance/strengthen my TFL — would you agree with this possibility? In love, Shannon
Wow! What an excellent article and great video demonstration. This YTU movement was never a favourite of mine, but you brought new light to the benefits of it. I look forward to sharing it with participants who struggle with It band / knee pain to see if it helps.
Before I read this article, I knew that I had weak medial glutes/abductors and cranky knees, but it never occurred to me that the two issues could be connected. Now, I’m curious to see whether adding these abductor lifts to my self-care routine will also help my cranky knees…
Such a clear demo of how to do this important pose for strengthening glute med. Thank you!
Uhohhh maybe that pop on the side of my left knee when I adduct in Bridge pose is the tight IT/TFL and not the Sartorius. again stay tuned.
So well put..thank you!!! Adductor lifts are going to be part of my daily practice from now…
Thank you for sharing. Its amazing how such small muscles on the lateral side of your body can have such a big impact on the IT band and knees. Looking forward to adding abductor liftsto my hip routine.
Excellent post about the YTU Adductor Lifts as related to knee pain. The adductors are the under appreciated muscle group of the legs. When so much attention goes to the quads and hamstrings, it is so intelligent to address the gluteals and adductors for the optimal knee tracking alignment. Very grateful for the YTU Therapy Balls and YTU poses to address this skillfully.
I had hip surgery and most of my therapy was related to streghtning the entire hip capsule, and the muscle around it. Creating congruency and all the muscles. I still use these exercise as part of my maintanance and fitness. I will try the abductor lifts as well. Thank you for another tecnique to implement into my fitness and self care.
Thank you for this article. I knew the TFL and IT band are common problem areas for people but I had’t made the relationship between tight IT band and patellofemoral syndrome. Thanks for the info!
Thank you so much Robyn, my knees and hips were suffering after being in my steel toes all week. This a technique that a lot of paramedics I work with will really benefit from. You have such great cueing in your video I really appreciated learning from you tonight! Keep up the good work!
These lifts have helped my knees in ways i cannot explain. Thanks for all the added info! One of my favorite mini vini’s. I love the “mirror muscle” theory, makes complete sense.
This is a great article and I appreciate you putting your own video in the mix. Visuals add so much to the blog.
I have a client with knee issues and we are currently working with abductor lifts – in the water and on dry land.
Adding the lateral body into my strength training regimen this year has made a huge difference to my own posture and overall structural health.
Thanks for a great blog.
Knee surgery is so common in later stage of life, but no guarantee that your knee pain will be go away. This is much safer and healthier way to approach your symptoms and you will get connect to your own body.
Thanks for the article and video! I just tried these adductor lifts for the first time today- they are SO HARD! I have had knee pain for a very large portion of my life and even underwent ACL reconstruction surgery. I have been reluctant to jump back into high impact sports, but I feel as though this pose might help me as it has helped you!
It is also nice to see that you are a runner and pain free 🙂
Abductor lifts have also become part of my regular practice. These are intense but have made such a difference in my propioception around my outer hip area. I feel so strong in this area now it is empowering! After YTU training i have learned that i need to find that balance with my abductors and adductors, so i know i need to do more adductor slides in addition to my practice of abductor lifts.
Great addition with the video about ABdcutor lifts! What a gift to have the YTU balls to release the areas that are tight, stuck in congestion, then apply the therapeutic exercise of ABductor lifts to strengthen the entire hip region.
Hi, I have recently undergone surgery for a large calcification on my left glute med muscle (trochanter side), it had become very very painful and restrictive.
I have been a group exercise teacher for 20 years plus loved running, cycling etc. I have had numerous problems with my left leg, ITB problems, condile of the outer knee problems and back problems. I am really focused on strenghtneing this muscle up and have started hot yoga, pilates and swimming. I still (3 months after surgery) have A LOT of tightness and pain (especially in the morning) and hope this goes away, I cannot slepp on my left side yet. When they removed the calcification they had to split the tendon and reconstruct. I am always worried this will be damaged now. Any tips from anyone who has had similar, or knows moe would be great as the Drs are like “ah just get on with your life you may have to put up with the pain” but being so active I cant stand the thought the limp will be back and the exercise compromised.
Any help would be appreciated 🙂
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Thank you! I can so relate to this especially the knee pain. The adductor Lifts totally work! I also like to use the YTU balls to massage out the pain under my knee as well. This was a great reminder! Thank you
Interesting and something I really relate too!
After strengthening those synergist muscles, a good stretch is needed. An excellent example of this is the Leg Stretch #3 in the YTU L1 TT Manual. Make sure to depress the pelvic bone on the side that is being lengthened (the top leg) and that the foot against the wall is internally rotated 90 degrees. To feel a deeper stretch, add a yoga block on the side of the hip of the leg that is closed chain and use a yoga strap around the heel if needed. To incease flexibility in non-flexible students AND in flexible ones, add a PNF component to the stretch. For example, as a PT (personal trainer), I do one on one so I get my clients to press their heel into the side of my calf and from there, I get them to keep pressing as they try to abduct. None of them like this ..but they will soon realize that I like making my clients realize where their body has pain. Again, proprioception. They can’t miss this one; it burns!
This article, by my friend Robyn whom I met in an Anusara teacher training, is as brilliant and insightful as she is herself. So many surgeries can be avoided through alternative approaches. By think outside the box and focusing on her lateral flexers (TFL and gluteus medius) Robyn demonstrates how to release tension on IT band and heal the knees.
Great article Robyn! I know someone who has tight IT bands, and knee pain from little cartilage left under the knees. Wish I’d known about this sooner!
Great example of adductor lifts Robyn. It’s amazing that you went from needing surgery to bring pain free. I consider this a major success story!!! You prevented putting your body through the trauma of unneeded surgery. A little proprioception goes a long way! I have had a few conversations this week at my gym regarding knee pain. I am super stoaked to see the results my friends who are beginning some poses to bring strength, awareness and release of tension in their adductors and abductors. Thank you for sharing your story!
Today in YTU training in Toronto feeling discomfort in my SI joint, IT band, gluteus & performis. Jill applied PNF on the abducted leg in the Leg stretch series on the wall for a closed chain static stretch and wow it was challenging but yummy at the same time. This is one stretch series I realized that I must do to stablize my hips until the energy is flowing again freely!
I suffered from patella femoral syndrom for many years. The only thing that helped my knee pain was yoga. For me it wasn’t only the targeted exercises like abductor lifts but building my sense memory of what correct alignment of the knees is, strengthening my gluteus muscles and quads, and stretching my hamstrings — it was the whole practice that helped me out.
Great article, I ran (no pun intended:) into this issue and yes pain in my knee, which shot up into my ilium and over to my ischium, when out running outside one day this summer. The owner of the studio I teach at, had the same explanation, she also said older, mmmm and especially women runners suffer from this very tight IT band. She then showed me the innocent looking blue foam roll, not so innocent after you are rolling with it. I know I used some very unflattering words when I used it for the first time, but I now use the roll after all my workouts. I am attending the YTU workshop with Jill in Toronto and as we were given these colorfully therapeutic innocent looking balls, I will give those a try.
Last year I fell off my bike and injured my knee. Thanks to my teacher and YTU, the injury resolved a lot sooner than anticipated and it allowed me to avoid drugs
Nicely said Robyn! The adductors and abductor of the hip are always forgotten about. How often do you see anyone is a gym isolating those muscle groups. Most traditional yoga class don’t speak much of the actions either. Enter Yoga Tune Up 🙂 today I was introduced to The Adductor Slides exercise for the first time. I thought I had well rounded hips, I keep my ITBand well lengthened. Wrong!! My adductors are so weak, I could barely perform 1 repitition with proper form. What a fantastic exercise, hoping it gets less excruciating as I work at it.
When I first tried to do an abductor lift I could barely lift my foot of the floor. Needless to say I also had some problems with one of my knees while running. After including abductor lifts in my practice my medial glutes & TFL have gotten a lot stronger and my knee is feeling so much better
I absolutely agree with your self assessment of your knee issues. The gluteus medius’s role in hip stabilization is so underappreciated. Ignoring your side butt can lead to host of other issues/injuries at the foot as well as the knee. Thank you for drawing attention to the need for self care before surgery care!
Nice article Robyn, I love YTU’s Abductor LIfts! When I recently felt knee pain I knew just what to do, I went straight to my YTU Therapy Balls, got my rub on and then started practicing Abductor Lifts. Would you know the pain went right away and I’ve included Ab LIfts in my regular routine now with 1/2 Happy Baby Minivini.
This is great, I never would’ve thought that adductor lifts would be so helpful in strengthening and stabilizing the knee, I’ve sent this link to a few of my friends who play soccer and suffer from from knee issues. I also tell them to use blocks under their hands if their back is not flat when folding.