Foam Rolling the IT Band
Rehab pros are divided on the topic of foam rolling the IT band. Some say you can’t deform dense fascial layers like the IT-tract (they’re correct), but they’d be blind if they didn’t recognize that a ton of people do get positive responses to rolling this piece of fascia.
What Really Happens
Here’s what’s really going on when you do it:
By positioning the foam roller on the outside of your thigh on where you think the IT band is located, you’re actually targeting the underlying vastus lateralis (lateral quadriceps) and biceps femoris (lateral hamstrings) musculature.
Most people have no idea how to target, let alone locate, a functionally shortened area of musculature or symptomatic trigger point. Just because it hurts and is located on the side of your leg doesn’t mean you’re “treating” the IT band.
So if you’re a fan of foam rolling this area, then whether you realize it or not, you’re probably not on the IT band. You’d probably get long-term benefits by rolling a different area. Instead of trying to squash the IT band, target the quads and hamstrings directly.
The Fix: Foam Roll the Quads and Hams
Forget the IT band. Target the vastus lateralis and biceps femoris directly. All you have to do is slightly change the position of your body over the foam roller. You’ll get maximum benefit from SMR work in the lateral leg without continuing to be a slave to the IT band rolling.