My favourite stretch of the week is this side stretch pictured above. It stretches multiple muscles down one side of the body including the hard to reach iliotibial band (ITB) which runs from the top of the hip down to its attachment just below the knee. The ITB is actually a fibrous band with muscles attached to the upper part such as the gluteus maximus.
This stretch works on many of the lateral structures of the body; the muscles and tendons and the connective tissue that surrounds them and connects them together. Physical movement requires muscles to act in coordination with each other, rather than in isolation, and stretching groups of muscles together can develop flexibility in entire chains involved in movement rather than specific muscles.
The stretch is side on to a wall or other support, with the outside leg taken back behind the heel of the front leg. Both legs are a little bent. Press the hip out away from the wall while taking the outside arm up and reaching the thumb toward the wall. Try to stay in the frontal plane, that is not leaning forward or back, just sideways.
You should feel a pull in the hip of the outside leg and maybe down the outside of the leg (the ITB), the waist, the lower and mid back, shoulder area and arm. Hold for 20 – 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Very tight ITBs can lead to knee pain, so it’s worth giving them a good stretch. Weak gluteal muscles can lead to tight ITBs as they overwork to compensate for the lack of strength.