Athletes are finally starting to uncover the hidden power of having really strong tibialis anterior muscles.
We’re starting to see a resurgence of interest for developing this once extremely neglected muscle group, largely thanks to Ben Patrick and the ATG training system.
There’s a long list of reasons you should be training your tibs regularly, which we’ll get to shortly.
But more importantly, what are the most effective ways to go about strengthening and stretching this muscle?
I’ve been training my tibs seriously for a couple years now. I’ve got all the gadgets when it comes to tib training. And I know all best exercises and stretches to do and why certain ones are better than others.
I decided to rank the top 10 best tibialis anterior exercises in order of effectiveness, so you know which exercises are most worthwhile spending your time on.
Why Train The Tibialis Anterior?
The first reason you should think about training this muscle group is because almost no one else is doing it. A lot of athletes don’t even know it exists!
Just by going out of your way once or twice a week to train your tibialis anterior is going to give you a pretty big advantage over your competition.
I’ve put together a short list of the benefits of training the tibialis anterior.
10 Benefits Of Tibialis Raises
- Increased stopping power – One of the primary roles of the tibialis anterior is deceleration. This makes it extremely useful for sports like basketball and tennis to name just a couple.
- Increased ability to quickly change direction – Similarly, being able to change direction quickly and efficiently is greatly improved by strengthening the muscles of the shin. If you’re an athlete that requires quick speed and agility (think footballers of all kinds), then you need to be training your tibs.
- Increased vertical jump – Having well developed tibs allows you to perform more efficient quad flexion thus enabling you to better position your body for maximum power output during triple extension. If this interests you, be sure to check out my article discussing the importance of the tibialis in vertical jump training.
- Increased lateral efficiency & balance – The tibialis muscles contribute to ankle eversion and inversion which significantly improve your ability to perform lateral agility movements. Balance is massively improved by developing the tibs too.
- Increased speed – A strong tibialis anterior creates a strong connection between the ankle and knee extensors. Strong tibs assist with the transferal of force from your lower leg to your upper leg, making you a more explosive sprinter.
- Increased stability when performing squats, deadlifts, etc – One of the most noticeable things when I started regularly using my anterior tib machine was how much more stable and secure my heavy paused rep squats were. Your tibs help stabilize you during the eccentric movement of these heavy lower body compound lifts and I felt a lot more comfortable moving out of the hole with big weights when my tibs were stronger.
- Increased ankle mobility – Developing your tibs will very often lead to an increased ‘knee-to-wall’ measurement. Even if you’re just focusing on stretching and not so much strengthening, your ankle mobility will skyrocket.
- Decreased likelihood of patella tendinopathy – If you suffer from knee issues, one of the best things you can do is develop the VMO as well as the tibialis. This is one of the fundamentals of Ben Patrick’s ATG training system and works wonders.
- Decreased likelihood of shin splints – While tib development may not cure your shin splints, they go a long way to preventing them from developing. Shin splints is literally a lower leg overuse injury. You can’t strengthen the lower leg adequately by training the calves alone – you need to train the antagonist muscle as well, which is the tibialis anterior.
- Decreased likelihood of landing injuries – When you’re jumping, as you come down to land, your tibialis anterior is the ‘first point of contact’ as far as muscles which absorb this concentric force go. By bulletproofing your TA muscle, you’ll increase the integrity and durability of your ankles and knees and reduce the chances of awkward landings and sprains.
Seriously, I could keep going on, but you get the picture. Training your tibs is a must for any athlete worth their salt!
For more details on these benefits and more, check out my article discussing these 10 benefits of tibialis anterior training.
Who Should Train Their Tibialis Anterior?
Pretty much anyone who values the above laundry list of benefits. This applies to the vast majority of athletes but I’ll list out a few of the sports/athletes which will benefit most from really strong tibialis muscles.
In absolutely no order,
- Bodybuilders – Bet you were surprised to see that one on the list! But even bodybuilders are starting to figure out that they can improve the aesthetics of their lower legs by getting those tibs to pop. Strong tibs make for a super athletic look.
- Snowboarders – These guys get an insane amount of usage out of their tibs. All of the tiny plantar and dorsiflexion movements of the ankle used to angle the board back and forth require well developed tibialis anterior muscles.
- Mountaineers & hikers – Ever scaled a mountain and woke up the next morning with your shins in excruciating pain? When you descend a mountain, your tibialis is in overdrive. If you’re a hiker or mountain climber, you will benefit a crazy amount from tibialis anterior training.
- Track & field athletes & runners – Anyone who does any amount of running or jumping will benefit a lot from doing the exercises I’ll be discussing today.
- Volleyballers – Again, think lots of jumping and landing. I’m a volleyballer and the tibs take an absolute beating. Great way to jump higher as well!
- Basketballers – Think volleyball with the added dimension of running and sudden changes of direction. Basketball is probably the one sport that requires the most from your tibs.
Again, I could list out virtually every sport or physical pursuit here and chances are there would be a pretty good reason to train your shins! But you get the picture.
Let’s dive straight into my list of the top 10 tibialis anterior training exercises.
10 Best Tibialis Anterior Exercises
These tibialis exercises are ranked in order from the most effective to least effective in terms of strength development.
The exercises at the top of my list require external load to maximize strength development. Think weighted tibialis raises. Further down the list are the bodyweight exercises you can do virtually anywhere.
The bottom of the list are tibialis stretching exercises that are less about strengthening the tibialis anterior and are geared towards increasing flexibility and mobility in the lower legs.
#1 – Anterior Tib Machine Tibialis Raise
This is the ultimate tibialis anterior training exercise.
An anterior tib machine is a small contraption that sits on the floor of your gym (similar to the one above).
You place it near a bench and wedge your feet between a foot pad and a pedal. With a small amount of weight on either side, you can perform 8-25 reps of tibialis raises for 3-5 sets to get one of the most effective shin workouts imaginable.
These produce the greatest training effective of all tibialis exercises as the rigidity of the device combined with the foot insertion angle allows for the deepest possible contraction and squeezing of the anterior tib.
This is the anterior tib machine which I use about three times a week and it’s phenomenal.
If you’re planning on doing a lot of tibialis anterior training, be sure to check out my anterior tib machine buyers guide to learn more about why you need to get ahold of one of these!
#2 – Tib Bar Tibialis Raise
The second most effective way to perform weighted tibialis raises is to use a tib bar. These things are a lightweight alternative to the anterior tib machine that also allow you to perform tibialis raises using an external load.
Simply sit on a bench with your lower legs supported and your feet over the edge. Wedge your feet into the tib bar and perform the ankle dorsiflexion motion. Again you can do anywhere from 8-25 reps per set of this exercise, or go til failure.
You can also use a tib bar to stretch the shins out simply by sitting there with your feet in a loaded tib bar. This is great for improving ankle mobility and range of motion.
This is the tib bar I personally use when I’m on the go. I absolutely love this thing.
To learn more about tib bars, what the best ones are, and where to buy them, be sure to check out my tib bar buyers guide.
#3 – Kettlebell Tibialis Raise
The kettlebell tibialis raise is one of the next best options if you don’t have access to an anterior tib machine or a tib bar.
Most gyms will have some sort of kettlebell which should be able to fit around your foot. Once attached, perform the desired number of reps in a slow and controlled fashion and squeeze at the top of the movement.
This exercise is less effective than using the specialized equipment discussed above because a kettlebell will never quite fit your foot how you want it. The weight jumps may not be ideal either. But these are probably the next best way to do weighted tibialis raises!
#4 – Dumbbell Tibialis Raise
You can also use a dumbbell to perform the same movement as the kettlebell raise which are both doing the same thing as a tib bar.
You can also see how it starts to get tricky to attach the dumbbell to your foot. There’s no real easy way to do it. The most common way is to wrap a band around the dumbbell.
Clearly, dumbbells aren’t the optimal way to do this movement, but if you’ve got a band or strap, they can be done!
#5 – Standing Tibialis Raise
This is the simplest variation of the tibialis raise. It’s a really great entry-level movement because you need nothing but a wall and your bodyweight to pull them off.
Simply stand up against a wall with your weight on your heels and dorsiflex your ankles up and down.
Eventually, you’ll start to get a really nice burn going in the tibialis anterior.
The downside of this exercise is that it can take quite a few reps to get that stimulus you’re looking for once you become proficient at this movement. Absolutely perfect for beginners however!
You can make this exercise harder by standing elevated on a ledge with your toes over the edge. This will increase the range of motion as your toes can plantarflex down further when there’s no floor in the way.
#6 – Seated Band Resistance Raise
This is another simple way perform tibialis raises and only requires a resistance band.
Simply attach the resistance band to any post or pole and secure one end around your toes. Elevate your leg slightly if you can to make this exercise more effective.
The issue with this exercise, as you can imagine, is the band will occasionally slip off your foot if you’ve not secured it properly – or worse it’ll slip off the post and slap you in the face!
You’ll also need to play around with the thickness of the band and how far from the post you’re situated to get the stimulus just right.
Still, not a bad way to hit the tibs with minimal equipment!
You can also do these standing up with one foot on the edge of a bench and the band wrapped under the bench.
#7 – Seated Resistance Band Inversion & Eversion
This exercise actually targets more of the tibialis posterior than it does the tibialis anterior but it’s a great way to increase this really important aspect of tibialis mobility (ankle inversion and eversion).
Wrap a thick resistance band around the ankle and tug on it for resistance while rotating the ankle away from the resistance.
Resistance bands like these can be super useful for tibialis anterior training as well as so many other exercises. I’d recommend grabbing one of the following if you plan on doing these exercises regularly.
Inversion and eversion of the ankle are movements almost no one trains, so by incorporating this exercise into your routine, you’ll notice astounding mobility and stability improvements in your lower legs.
#8 – Heel Walks
This is another excellent exercise for the tibialis anterior which requires no equipment.
Simply stand on your heels, dorsiflex at the ankle, and walk up and down on your heels until you feel a burn in your shins.
These work best if you’re wearing socks or barefoot and they take a bit of getting used to as it can be hard to balance at first.
#9 – Ankle Walks
Another super simple bodyweight tibialis strengthening exercise. This one also focuses on the tibialis posterior and is great for developing strong and durable ankles and increasing mobility.
Most people won’t be able to start walking on their ankles immediately, as most people are incredibly tight around the lower leg.
Start out simply by standing on the spot and practicing putting your weight on the ankle in this side position before progressing to walks. Take it slowly and focus so you don’t get a sprain!
Super great exercise for stretching and strengthening and I’d recommend getting at least a few sets of these in each week to hit those tib posterior muscles.
#10 – Tibialis Anterior Trigger Point Stretch
One of the most effective ways to stretch out the tibialis anterior is to use a trigger ball or foam roller.
You want to apply a good amount of pressure and focus on holding at the point where it’s most painful. This should be very uncomfortable if you’re doing it right but is an excellent way to loosen up this muscle.
Great for tightness and to do after a tibialis training session to prevent soreness.
Tibialis Anterior Exercise Equipment
As I mentioned earlier, by far the best equipment you can use to train your shins is an anterior tib machine or a tib bar.
These things are specialized tibialis training equipment that produce the greatest results.
Below are the two products I personally own and highly recommend to any athlete serious about developing their tibs.
I’ve also written a couple buyers guides which discuss in depth everything you need to know about these products and why you should be using them!
Don’t Forget The Tibialis Posterior!
In my list I mentioned a couple exercises which focus on the tibialis posterior more than tibialis anterior.
The tibialis posterior contributes more to the ankle inversion/eversion movement whereas the tibialis anterior works toward ankle plantarflexion and dorsiflexion.
All four of these movements are really important and if you’re smart enough to go out of your way to train your tibialis anterior, you should be smart enough to train the posterior!
Make sure you include a few of the inversion/eversion exercises if you really want to develop super well rounded lower legs.
Closing Thoughts On Tibialis Anterior Training
After a couple weeks of incorporating any of these tibialis anterior exercises into your routine, you’ll start to notice massive improvements in a wide variety of movements.
I mentioned earlier that my squat was noticeably stronger after just a few days of working with my anterior tib machine.
You’ll likely see gains in vertical jump as well as speed and there will be less obvious benefits that you won’t immediately appreciate such as preventing an ankle injury or simply not getting knee pain.
So get out there and start building those tibs!