The tibialis anterior is often overlooked in workouts… but it’s an incredibly important muscle to help reduce the impact physical activity can have on the knees, shins and ankles. It also helps to improve strength and power from the ankle and lower body, which contributes to better overall functional movement (especially agility, lateral movements, jumping and running).
The irony of the tibialis anterior being overlooked in workouts is that is it actually easy to train once you know how to engage it.
From basic bodyweight movements to using specialist equipment that helps you overload the muscles, this guide outlines 9 of the best tibialis anterior exercises, including how to do them and things to consider.
At a Glance – Best Tib Exercises
- Standing Tib Raises
- Seated Tib Raises
- Tib Bar Raises/Curls
- Single Leg Bar Raises/Curls
- Heel Walk
- Tib Dorsi Calf Machine Raises
- Weighted Toe Taps
- Banded Tib Raises
- Toe Drag
Useful Equipment for Training the Tibialis Anterior
From our experience, a Tib Bar is a really useful and affordable piece of exercise equipment that can help to progress your tibialis anterior training. Our recent roundup review outlines the best Tib Bars we’ve used and which ones we’d recommend (as well as which ones to avoid).
What is the Tibialis Anterior Muscle?
The tibialis anterior is a long muscle located on the lateral side of the tibia bone, on the shin. It’s sometimes simply referred to as the “shin muscle”.
Its primary role is to allow for dorsiflexion of the ankle, which involves hinging at the ankle to raise your toes towards your knees. Similarly, it helps to lower the toe back down softly.
A common injury associated with the tibialis anterior is shin splints and strengthening the muscle has been shown to increase the threshold of tibialis activation during physical activity (which basically means the risk of shin splints decreases).
A strong tibialis also helps to improve stopping power, vertical jumps, agility, balance, ankle mobility and reducing the impact the knees and ankles absorb during physical activity. Strengthening the tibialis can be done by following along to the exercises below.
(If you are currently experiencing pain or discomfort in your knees, shins or ankles, we would recommend speaking to a Physical Therapist first).
9 Tibialis Anterior Exercises To Try
Standing Tib Raises
The bodyweight standing tib raise is the easiest way to get started with strengthening the tibialis anterior.
It doesn’t require any equipment and is suited to all levels.
We have a whole guided explaining how to do tib raises to help you understand the different variations you can try.
The drawback to standing tib raises is that once you’ve built up a bit of strength in the tibialis anterior, you’ll find you might need to do a lot of repetitions to feel like you’re challenging the muscle (similar to calf raises).
This is when weighted tib raises are worth considering, as a more practical way to strengthen the tib.
Seated Tib Raises
If standing tib raises are more challenging than you’d anticipated, you can take things down a notch by performing the same movement but sat down.
The benefit of seated tib raises is that you can do them when you’re working or anytime you’re sat on a chair. This makes them very inclusive and easy to include a few sets throughout a day.
You can also experiment with different feet positions and incorporate eccentric repetitions (slow lowering phase) to make the movement more challenging.
This really is a great exercise to get started with… you could even do some seated tib raises as you read the rest of this article!
Tib Bar Raises/Curls
Tib Bar raises are probably our favourite exercise for strengthening the tibialis anterior. They allow you to add load to the movement which means you can apply proven strength training methodologies to your tibialis workout, such as progressive overload training.
Our guide on Tib Bar benefits includes a full list of why this product is so effective at strengthening the tibialis anterior.
You can slowly increase the weight you are lifting over time, which helps demonstrate that the muscle is getting stronger.
As far as weighted tibialis anterior exercises go, we think using a Tib Bar is the best option, as it creates a safe way to do this. An alternative is to place your feet between a kettlebell handle, but there is more risk that your foot could slip out… and the weight tends to limit the full range of motion.
Single Leg Bar Raises/Curls
Similar to regular Tib Bar raises, you can also do single leg bar raises. For this, we would recommend using the Isotib Bar from HGG Performance.
The benefit of single leg tib raises is that you can train each leg separately (unilateral training). This helps identify potential imbalances and ensures one leg doesn’t overcompensate for the other.
It also allows for more movements at the ankle, so it can be used for more exercises, including ankle inversion and eversion. We find this is particularly useful for those who often roll their ankles and are looking at ways to strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments in this area.
Heel walks are quite self explanatory and a simple way to get the tibialis anterior activated.
When you walk on your heels, by definition, you are pointing your toes upwards towards your knees. This requires the tibialis anterior to contract to do so (ankle dorsiflexion).
The benefit of heel walks is that they are easy to try and you can see how you get on. The drawback is that it might be a lack of balance that is the limiting factor in your ability to do heel walks, compared to weakness in the tibialis. If you are struggling with balance, try holding onto the wall as you do them (if you are struggling with balance, this might suggest giving balance training some attention too!)
Try to avoid sticking your glutes out to compensate for the altered position and instead, try and maintain an upright torso.
Heel walks can be a useful exercise to include in warm-ups to activate the tibialis and stretch out the calves… but they aren’t as effective at building muscle in the tibialis as an exercise such as Tib Bar raises.
Tib Dorsi Calf Machine Raises
A tib dorsi calf machine behaves very similar to a Tib Bar, in terms of allowing you to add load to tib raises. This helps apply progressive overload training to your tibialis workouts, helping to build muscle more efficiently.
In comparison to a Tib Bar, dorsi calf machines tend to be bigger, heavier and less practical to move around. As a result, they are better suited in gyms.
They also don’t allow for quite the same sort of versatility in movements, especially compared to a single leg Tib Bar… however, for those who enjoy more traditional gym exercises and equipment, the movement of performing a tib raise using a dorsi calf machine will mean you feel right at home.
Weighted Toe Taps
A strong tibialis anterior isn’t just about strengthening the upward movement of the toes towards the knees from the ankle joint… it’s also about strengthening the ability to lower the toes back down.
This creates a “softer” landing and reduces the impact of the movement on your joints.
A weighted toe tap involves applying weight to the foot, such as with an ankle weight or light dumbbell. You then simply lift and lower the toes, hinging at the ankle. You could also place your toes between a kettlebell handle too (but you would need to place your foot on a raised surface to accommodate the size of the kettlebell in this instance).
Try and focus on the lowering phase… so for this, we would recommend a slow and controlled tempo to help ensure you have complete control of the ability to lower your foot back down.
Banded Tib Raises
Another way to add resistance to tib raises (which is the primarily movement of contracting the tibialis anterior) is to use a resistance band. This is a common approach in Physical Therapy, as a way to slowly increase the force applied to the dorsiflexion of the ankle.
You can get resistance and therapy bands in all sorts of thicknesses (which indicates the level of resistance)… so opt for a thinner band to begin with and work your way up to a stronger resistance over time.
It’s best to attach the band to a secure fixing, such as a bench or pole and so that there is enough resistance that your toes are naturally pulled away from your body. You may need to test different positions until you find the sweet spot where your tibialis feels like it’s been challenged in a safe and controlled way.
Banded tib raises do restrict the range of motion at the ankle slightly, due to the requirement of trying to keep the band securely attached to your foot.
So far, this list of tibialis anterior exercises has focused on strengthening the tibialis muscle… but toe drags are designed to help stretch them out.
Tight muscles can also lead to injuries and limited movement, so you want to ensure you’re stretching the tibialis anterior as well as strengthening it.
Toe drags are a simple, yet effective way, to stretch the shin and ankle muscles. They can be performed as part of a warm-up, as well as a general stretching routine.
Instead of doing repetitions, try and hold each toe drag for 30 seconds, for example, and then repeat this a few times on each leg.
Ultimately, a strong tibialis anterior can have such a positive impact on your overall functional movement and helps to reduce the risk of injury to the knees and ankles, so including some tibialis anterior exercises into your weekly fitness routine is well worth it.
Basic movements like the standing tib raises (or seated tib raises) are great for beginners and then if you want to progress your training, Tib Bar or weighted raises are a great way to add load to the movement in a safe and controlled way.