Glute Strengthening and ITB Syndrome

Many distance runners at all level are familiar with Iliotibial Band (or ITB) Syndrome.  Whether they’ve suffered from it themselves or they know someone who has, the soreness along the sides of the thighs and the sharp knee pain is something they would rather soon forget.  What many people may not know is how having a proper glute strengthening program can help alleviate and prevent ITB syndrome.

The glutes, specifically gluteus maximus, is a key muscle involved in hip extension due to its attachments at the proximal and distal portions of the femur.  Without proper glute strength to stabilize the femur during extension, the tensor fascia lata, the rectus femoris, and the hamstrings will become overly dominant and can result in such movement impairments as ITB syndrome.

The key performance measure to evaluate proper glute function is the two-legged squat.  If the glutes are weak then some or all will occur during a two-legged squat:  the knees move closer together, the knees slide far over the toes, the heels rise, and the low back flexes.

If you choose to include a squat program into your exercise routine, then those movements need to be avoided so that you do not induce further injury.  A two-legged squat program can begin on a neutral surface, against a wall, or against a wall with a stability ball for support.  As you become more proficient in this, you can progress by adding resistance in the form of small dumbbells, moving to an unstable surface, or moving to a one-legged squat.

As the glutes strengthen and function improves the endurance runner will have more control over their legs and common problems such as ITB syndrome will become a distant memory.

If you have any great tips on squat exercises please feel free to comment or post your experiences below.

Dr. Andrew Goodman