Standing version of the best damn IT band stretch

Posted on June 1, 2012

(Last Updated On: February 16, 2018)

I wrote a post, The best damn IT band stretch ever, which quickly became one of the more popular articles on this site. I also wrote a stretch for the rectus femoris, A better quad stretchwhich is just about the most popular I’ve written. This post will make a lot more sense if you read those two first.


Somebody asked me if there was a standing version of “The best damn it band stretch.” I’ve actually meant to write something about this for a while, so here we go.

There is a standing way to do this, and it’s pretty damn effective. It’s very similar the stretch in A better quad stretchI typically use the standing version more often than the kneeling version because it’s an easier set-up for people. Especially the clientele I have. (A good amount of older clients, clients who getting up and down off the ground is tough for, clients where kneeling is tough, etc.)

However, I still favor the “best damn IT band stretch.” The primary reason being it’s very hard to know whether the lower back is flat or not in the stretch below. Meanwhile, in the other IT band stretch the person has a bench or table as a feedback tool for knowing where their lower back is. (If it’s not on the bench, it’s not flat.) In anatomy terms, people get greater activation of the external obliques in the “best damn IT band stretch” compared to this one.


First, take your foot and put it up behind you on something. If you’re at the gym, a smith machine works great. If you’re at home, a chair or bed works well. Really, you can do this anywhere. A fence at the park, a bench somewhere, etc.

rectus femoris stretch

Next, make sure you have a proper set-up. Some of the most common faults are:


1) Letting the knee flair out to the side.

I wrote about this a ton in The best damn it band stretch everso check that out if you want a very thorough anatomy breakdown. Suffice to say, tightness in the TFL is what abducts the femur in this scenario.

So we DON’T want this:

signals of tight TFL

We want the knees to be touching each other. MAKE SURE YOU DO THIS PROPERLY. I have clients who I have to remind of this every single session. If you don’t feel your knees touching each other, you are doing it wrong.


2) Treating this as a quad stretch.

This is NOT the same as pulling your foot behind you and doing your kindergarten “pull your heel to your butt” stretch.

quadricep stretch options


Again, NO! Note how even Spider Man has a tight TFL / IT band.

The way this manifests in this stretch is people always lean back and make their heel touch their butt. You – do – not – want – this. This causes hip flexion, and we are aiming for hip extension. A very crucial distinction. Hip extension means we are fully stretching the tensor fascia latae and rectus femoris.

Do not do this:

bad quadricep stretch

Stand nice and tall instead.


3) Letting the lower back arch.

I wrote about this malalignment a ton in A better quad stretch and Thoughts on hamstring curlsCheck those for a more comprehensive anatomy discussion. In short, the lumbar spinal erectors and rectus femoris are overpowering the external obliques and glutes. This causes the anterior pelvic tilt and lower back to arch.

This is where it’s important to consider how high you place your foot. The higher it is, the more likely you are to arch your back. For instance, if you look at Holly’s back here you can see this foot position is too high for her:

The foot should be high enough a stretch is generated and it is challenging for the person to pull their stomach in. But, it shouldn’t be so high that keeping the lower back flat becomes impossible.

After you have proper alignment, squeeze your butt on the side where the foot is up. So, if your left foot is up on the bar behind you, squeeze your left butt cheek.

At the same time, make sure you keep pulling your stomach in.

Whenever you stretch the hip flexors it is crucial to have concurrent glute / external oblique activation. 

For some of you, you are going to feel a massive stretch down the front of your thigh, if you don’t already. While this is good in the sense it lets you know you are doing the stretch properly, and that you indeed need this stretch, don’t squeeze so hard you begin to debate if you could tear your muscle. That’s too much.

Here is the stretch in full. Notice how Holly has to continually remind herself to pull her stomach in, but when she does, she can do it. Thus, this is just about the right height:

You’ll notice in the video I like to add a little rocking back and forth. This just adds amplitude and allows for some more bang for your buck.

Give it a shot. It’s an awesome stretch for knee and lower back pain. Especially those of you who have knee pain while lunging. Do a few sets of this before your lunges and you’ll likely notice your pain greatly diminish, if not disappear.


For more on loosening the IT Band, check out: 6 Exercises to Loosen the IT Band


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