Paddle Healthy | Best Ways to Alleviate Upper Leg Soreness

black-schmidt_olukai_2016-29

Best Ways to Alleviate Upper Leg Soreness

If you paddle a lot, you're likely all too familiar with that nasty soreness on the outside of your upper leg. Maybe there's a pinching feeling just above the outside of your knee, or perhaps the area just below your hip is all matted down. Regardless of where your issue is, it's your Iliotibial Band (IT) band that's to blame.

If left unattended, this issue can develop into a bigger problems including damaging your MCL, ACL as well as hip dysfunction. The bottom line: you need to do something. But most people's solution of trying to "stretch" the IT band is misguided because this band of connective tissue–to which the glutes, quads and hamstrings attach–doesn't stretch. Instead we need to relieve the tension in the surrounding soft tissues so they stop clamping down. Here are some mobilizations to do just that:

1)  Hip Rotation – External Bias 

The TFL is a small muscle with a big temper. When we paddle, the TFL gets very tight and as it attaches to the IT band, it can start sending this tension downstream. If we perform a mobilization to improve external rotation at the hip, we'll feed some slack back into the TFL and consequently, the IT band.

1) Put your left foot on a bench, plyo box or counter top. If these aren't available, take a big step forward on the ground with your left foot to start.

2) Let the left leg drop out to the side, while keeping the ball of the right foot on the ground and the right leg extended behind you.

3) Place one hand inside your left foot and one outside to help with your balance.

4) Press the left leg outward and at the same time, slowly turn your torso to the left.

5) Move your torso around in various positions until you feel the tight spot in the left hip. Spend a few seconds at end range, relax and repeat. Do this for at least two minutes and then switch sides.

6) You can also drop the active leg down so that it's flat on the bench/counter/plyo box, which looks like the yoga pigeon pose.

Hip Rotation External Bias

Hip Rotation External Bias. Photo courtesy of Mobility Wod

2) Hip Flexor Wad / TFL Smash

You can provide further slack to the same area by smashing the soft tissues around the hip flexor wad and TFL. To do so:

1) Lie on your left side and bring your left knee up.

2) Place a lacrosse ball, softball or similar ball on the side of your left hip, then move inward a couple of inches toward your midline.

3) Using your left elbow and forearm for support, slowly smash back and forth across the area. Hold for a while if you hit a sore spot.

4) Complete two minutes on each hip. To vary the stimulus, you can slowly pull your knee up toward the hip and then extend the active leg again, as if you were pedaling a bicycle.

Hip Flexor Wad and TFL Smash

Hip Flexor Wad and TFL Smash. Photo courtesy of Mobility Wod.

3) IT Band/Adductor Stack and Smash

When thinking about the outside of the leg, we shouldn't forget the inside. This mobilization targets both the outside of the quads and hamstrings, and the adductors on the inside of the legs that–if tight–can make IT Band issues worse:

Kai Lenny finished seventh overall in relatively casual form at yesterday's SUP race. After spending the past week perfecting his skills on his remarkable new downwind hydrofoil prototype, it was clear Kai had other endeavors on his mind. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

Kai Lenny finished seventh overall in relatively casual form at yesterday’s SUP race. After spending the past week perfecting his skills on his remarkable new downwind hydrofoil prototype, it was clear Kai had other endeavors on his mind. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

1) Lie on your left side, supported by your left elbow and forearm.

2) Place one ball or thin roller just above the outside of the left knee and another ball opposite it just above the inside of the knee.

3) Pin the inside ball in place with your right leg.

4) Either do little flutter kicks with both legs or roll slowly back and forth.

5) After a few seconds in the start position, move the balls/ball + roller up the leg toward the hip. After 2+ minutes you should finish with the outer ball/roller just below the pelvis.

IT and Adductor Stack and Smash

IT and Adductor Stack and Smash. Photo courtesy of Mobility Wod.

4) Anterior Calf Smash

Another way to feed slack into the IT band is to start downstream with the outside of calf (anterior tibialis):

1) Lie on your left side, supported by your left elbow and forearm.

2) Place a ball on the outside of your left calf just below the knee.

3) Slowly smash back and forth across the ball. You can also flex and extend your left ankle.

4) Move the ball down your calf until you finish just above the ankle, spending at least 2 minutes on the left leg before switching.

Anterior Calf Smash. Photo courtesy of Mobility Wod.

Anterior Calf Smash. Photo courtesy of Mobility Wod.

Related

Pre-paddle warmup exercises that key to injury prevention.

More SUP-related health and fitness tips.