Thanks to Ben Patrick of the ATG training system, It seems as though many athletes are starting to come around to the idea of training their tibialis anterior muscles.
Athletes all over the world are now taking the time to focus on bulletproofing the lower legs to increase knee durability and overall athleticism.
Today we’re going to dive deep into the great big list of benefits you can look forward to from regularly training your tibialis anterior.
What Is The Role Of The Tibialis Anterior?
Briefly, the tibialis anterior is the meaty part on the front of your shin. It’s responsible for ankle dorsiflexion (think of bringing your toes toward your knee).
It’s also involved in ankle inversion and eversion which is the lateral rolling of your ankle.
Most people have never even thought about training their tibialis anterior muscles and I believe that’s a huge mistake. This might seem like a relatively innocuous muscle group, but the benefits of having really strong tibs are really quite astounding.
Let’s not bury the lead any longer and get straight into my my long list of really good reasons to give your shins some extra love.
Top 10 Benefits Of Tibialis Anterior Training
I should mention I’ve been training my shins pretty religiously for a couple years now and I have first hand experience with all of this stuff.
I’ve done my best to order these from the most profound and important benefits to the least.
#1 – Extremely Rapid Balance Improvements
I used to be one of those people who could stand on one foot for barely longer than a few seconds before I’d start hopping around.
I would find myself doing a lot of different bosu ball exercises trying to improve my balance but progress was extremely slow.
Once I started regularly using an anterior tib machine to train my shins, I noticed a significant immediate improvement in my balance.
Not long after, I remember just standing on one leg while grabbing my opposite ankle to stretch out my quad. You know, the typical standing quad stretch… Holy crap! I’m not falling over!
I was able to stand on one leg effortlessly for 30+ seconds without so much as a slight hop to maintain my balance.
When you think about it, all balancing on one leg is, is millions of little ankle dorsiflexion/plantarflexion/inversion/eversion movements over and over again.
After just a couple weeks of tibialis strengthening, my tibs had become so proficient at these movements that I had very quickly developed my capacity for balance and stability.
#2 – Ability To Decelerate Far More Quickly
One of the primary functions of the tibialis anterior is stopping power or deceleration.
You might be wondering why you’d want to stop really quickly but it’s incredibly valuable in a variety of contexts.
Basketballers need to rapidly decelerate after a turnover to race down the other end of the court to defend against a fast break. Or pull up for a step back jump shot
Squash and badminton players often need to be able to slam on the breaks.
Mountaineers and hikers use the same skill when carefully descending from a steep climb.
Netball, touch football, the list of sports that require rapid deceleration is massive.
I’m sure you could think of at least one application in which you’d personally benefit from improved deceleration.
#3 – Lateral Explosiveness & Change Of Direction
The ability to dodge, juke, and change direction at the drop of a hat are skills highly sought after by a number of sports including the following.
- Rugby & American football
And the full list is probably a hundred times longer than that!
We can summarize these movements as ‘agility’ which is directly tested for in a number of professional sports combines including the NFL and NBA.
You could literally put a price on the value of elite agility based on entry level contracts in these elite sports leagues. And we’re talking big money!
#4 – Land A Lot More Efficiently
If you’re an elite volleyballer, basketballer, AFL player, or jumper of any sort, you’ll know that jumping high requires you to be able to generate lots of force with your legs.
But what people don’t often think about is that the ground reaction forces when landing are significantly higher than when jumping.1https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/17543371211058031#:~:text=Previous%20studies%20have%20shown%20that,reaction%20force%20in%20drop%20landings.&text=Increasing%20the%20jump%20height%20can,key%20contributing%20factors%20to%20injury.
This makes landing particularly brutal on our joints.
Your tibialis anterior is the ‘first line of defense’ for absorbing these eccentric landing forces. It’s the first muscle that’s switched on when the foot contacts the ground and its job is to stabilize the ankle and knee.
Everyone by now should know how important landing properly is in sports like basketball and volleyball when it comes to chronic knee injury prevention.
By taking your tibialis strength training seriously, you’re reinforcing your ability to land safely which will keep your knees healthy for many years to come!
#5 – Superior Stability When Lifting Heavy
After just a couple weeks of doing tibialis strengthening exercises, I noticed an incredible improvement in my back squat.
I felt so much more secure and stable throughout the entire range of motion. Previously I had some discomfort when deep in the hole during the amortization phase.
After my tib training, my heavy squat days felt so much stronger.
As you perform the eccentric lowering during a squat, your tibs are heavily engaged and help stabilize and guide the knee on the way down.
When you’ve got really strong tibs, it’s as though you’re able to lower to the perfect squat depth with laser-like precision. Your tibialis then coordinates a seamless handoff to your knee extensors for a super smooth and powerful leg drive out of the hole.
Truly an awesome feeling!
#6 – Jump Higher & Sprint Faster
I’ve written extensively in the past about the important role your tibialis anterior plays in the vertical jump. But essentially its able to do this by doing two things,
- Strengthening the connection between ankle and knee to prevent energy leakage – I like to think of the tibialis as a dual stabilizer of the ankle and knee joints. Jumping high and sprinting fast requires an efficient transferal of force from the feet through to the hips and back down again. Strong tibs stabilize the ankle and knee extensors allowing them to produce maximum torque.
- Assist in positioning the quads to produce maximum power output – Well developed tibialis anterior muscles physically allow you to lower your hips and position your quads into the best possible biomechanical location to perform the vertical jump. Less developed shins force your body to compensate when jumping by settling for a worse starting position which leads to poorer jumping technique and a lower vertical.
If you’re a sprinter, it’s the same deal. Speed follows technique which follows positioning.
#7 – Increased Ankle Mobility & Range Of Motion
Ankle mobility is a really underdeveloped attribute of elite athleticism, for so many reasons. It also has a lot to do with positioning, shock absorption, and efficient force transferal.
One study found that athletes with poor ankle mobility were at a greater risk of lower back and Achilles injuries when jumping.2https://www.researchgate.net/publication/234114524_Influence_of_the_ankle_joint_dorsiflexion_on_the_execution_of_vertical_jumps
Another study found a direct link between improved ankle flexibility and vertical jump height.3https://www.researchgate.net/publication/234114524_Influence_of_the_ankle_joint_dorsiflexion_on_the_execution_of_vertical_jumps
#8 – Goodbye Shin Splints
With shin splints there can often be a number of causes not just limited to having weak tibialis anterior muscles. The pain will manifest in the shin but often as a compensatory mechanism for a deficiency elsewhere.
Usually the culprit with shin splints is the hips or calves and so focusing on these areas is wise. But improving your tibialis strength will absolutely help prevent the onset of shin splints in the future as well.
Shin splints is literally an overuse of the lower leg injury and so strengthening our lower legs (calves) will often be recommended.
Generally speaking if you’re being prescribed calf exercises, it’s never a bad idea to train the opposing muscle group (tibs) to prevent muscle imbalances.
#9 – Goodbye Patella Tendinopathy
Perhaps the single best benefit of training your tibialis, especially for athletes with jumper’s knee, is the elimination of patella tendinopathy.
We’ve talked a lot about the tibialis’ role in stabilizing the knee joint. By focusing on your shins as well as your quads (primarily your VMO), you’ll be strengthening the two muscles closest to the knee joint which will alleviate stress and pressure from the patella tendon.
Sled drags in combination with tibialis raises are the quickest ways to bulletproof those knees and get you the relief you’re after.
#10 – Dangerously Athletic Looking Lower Legs!
Want bigger looking calves? Train your tibialis anterior. It’s like having calves on the front of your calves!
I’ve seen a number of bodybuilders at my gym lately obsessing over the anterior tib machine saying it’s the secret to better looking calves and I 100% agree.
Use An Anterior Tib Machine Or Tib Bar
Hopefully by now you’ve come to realize that training your tibialis anterior is a no brainer.
I regularly use two pieces of equipment to train my tibs, an anterior tib machine as well as a tib bar.
I’ve compared and reviewed all of the best machines and bars on the current market in the following articles so you can find the best one for your needs.
Best Exercises For Tibialis Anterior?
I recently wrote an article in which I listed out and ranked the various tibialis anterior training exercises in order from most effective to least effective.
I highly recommend you check that out if you’re looking to find out the best possible ways to train this muscle group.