Iliotibal Band Syndrome (ITBS): Recovery Exercises - Women's Running UK

Iliotibal Band Syndrome (ITBS): Recovery Exercises

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  September 6, 2016

ITBS exercises


Iliotibal Band Syndrome (ITBS) is a common upper-leg injury, often caused by overuse of the ITB. This can lead to swelling and pain on the outside of the knee. You can get ITBS from wearing worn out shoes, over training, being a new runner, running style problems where your knee rolls in, muscle weakness and lack of flexibility, pulling the knee out of alignment.


Before you start running again, a minimum two-week rest is recommended. During the rest period, and when you start to run again, apply ice three times per day for 20mins, and use kinesio tape to help with support and to reduce swelling. Improving muscle strength and flexibility in the quads and glutes will be key to your recovery and to preventing ITBS in future. The below exercises will help you to do just that. Those exercises that focus on the glutes and hips will also help to improve stability around the pelvis, which may also help to alleviate the problem, as a lack of stability around the pelvis and core can be another contributing factor in ITBS. Aim to do the stretches and foaming rolling exercises five days per week and, the strengthening exercises, two to three times per week.

Sets and reps: Perform three sets of 10-15 repetitions. Hold the stretches twice for 20 to 30 seconds.

Strengthening exercises:

Resistance band leg raises

Resistance band leg raises

Muscles used:
Front thigh (quadriceps)

• Sit on the floor with one leg straight and one leg bent
• Tie a resistance band in a loop and put both feet inside
• Lift your straight leg up off the floor
• Hold the top position and lower back to the floor
• On the first set, keep your toes pointing up to the ceiling
• On the second set, turn your toes inwards (bottom)
• On the third set, turn your toes outwards (below)

Watch points:
Don’t lock your knees when lifting your leg.

Single-leg half-squat on a step

Single-leg half-squat on step

Muscles used:
Front thigh (quadriceps)

• Stand with one leg on a step
• Bend your knee slightly, to a maximum of 30 degrees
• Straighten your leg again
• Complete one set before changing over to the other side

Watch points:
Hold onto something if you struggle to keep your balance or if your knee is sore.

Resistance band bridge – open knees

Resistance band bridge

Muscles used:
Back thigh, bottom (hamstring, glutes)

• Lie on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
• Tie a resistance band around your thighs
• Lift your hips off the floor and hold the position
• Open your knees pulling against the resistance on the band
• Close your legs and lower your bottom back to the floor but don’t rest

Watch points:
Pull your tummy muscles tight when lifting your hips up.


Piriformis stretch

Piriformis Stretch

Muscles used:
Hip flexors (piriformis, psoas muscles)

• Kneel on all fours
• Bring your left leg forwards
• Bend your knee and place your leg on the floor
• Slide the other leg backwards
• Reach forwards with your hands

Watch points:
Ensure that your hips stay square. If your hip flexors are very tight, you might not be able to go as low as demonstrated in the picture. Keep stretching and you’ll get there.

Foam roll ITB release

Foam Roll ITB Release

Muscles used:
A thick strip of connective tissue that runs on the outside of your leg (Iliotibial band, or ITB)

• Lie on your side with your hip on a foam roller
• Roll the foam roller down towards your knee
• Keep rolling up and down
• Where you feel tight knots, hold the foam roller for a few seconds before continuing

Watch points:
Never roll over a joint.

Quad stretch

Quad stretch

Muscles used:
Front thigh (quadriceps)

• Lie down on your side on the floor
• Grab hold of your top leg’s ankle with your top hand
• Pull your heel towards your bottom

Watch points:
To increase your stretch, move your stretching leg’s knee a bit further backwards.

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