Multiple Flow on Effects from One Muscle - The TFL!

A runner, cyclist and swimmer will, at some point, pick up a little affliction along the Tensor Fascia Latae or TFL for short.

This little muscle, approximately the size of two middle fingers (or a little bigger if you are me – yes, i have small hands) sits just under the hip bone that you will feel on the side of your waist line. It is generally responsible for the leg coming out (abduction), bringing the knee towards the chest (hip flexion) and stability of the hip when standing up – it assists the Glut Max in this case. It also has an effect when we move the leg into a adduction position. Therefore it can be fairly well agreed that it will be activated for almost all functional movements of the leg – so, henceforth, this is for the swimmers, runners and cyclists that are picking up their intensity at this time of year.

Because of the TFL’s role in almost all leg movements, flow on effects are also likely to affect other joints and muscles. The common areas that I find to be related are the glut max activation, Tibal-fibula joint stiffness, Glut medius and minimus stability control in active hip rotation, and lateral calf tightness (in the peroneals).

Glut Max activation –
Here we can see a direct anatomical relationship with the TFL and Glut Max by sharing a common attachment – the Illiotibial band (ITB). When I’ve noticed the TFL & ITB is tight, the activation of the glut max will suffer as the full length of the muscle cannot be used due to the anterior pull affecting the lateral fibers of the glut max. Some may feel this during their training and may even ‘hit or slap’ the glut max to ‘wake it up’. If this is you, focus on a few more bum clenches in your warm ups and rolling out the ITB after you train.

Tibal-Fibula Joint Stiffness.
The insertion of the ITB is on the fibula head (outside of the knee). If you have any stiffness in the TFL or Glut Max, this will naturally refer to stress being places on this little gliding joint just below the outside of the knee. With very little movement in this joint already, a lessened amount can play havoc on the function of other muscles, such as the Peroneals.
If you notice a tight TFL or ITB, roll it out after training and then play a little with your Tibial-fibula joint by pressing underneath and moving your foot around. It can be tricky to notice if you are moving the joint, so be patient and careful!

Peroneals
These three muscles go down the outside of your lower leg. They control a lot of your foot stability and basic movements. For the runners, think of them as the core for your foot. Without them you would simply roll your ankle on every step. As mentioned before these muscles get affected if the Tibial fibula joint is suffering stiffness. Again, if suffering from trouble in the TFL & Glut Max functions then give a little love to these lower leg muscles as they will no doubt be working overtime to correct the dysfunction of the hip area.

Glut Medius and Minimus
These two muscles also assist the hip & leg in a similar fashion to the TFL. We tend to feel the Gluts more often then TFL when there is an issue, so if the side of your hips are playing up, have a feel a little further around and give the TFL some loving care also.