Ask most people where their tibialis is and you’re likely to be met by a blank stare.
Yet, this sheath of muscle at the front of your lower leg plays a key role in every step you take. It’s also pivotal to many sporting and athletic moves, such as going up for a dunk or sidestepping an opponent.
Many people have chronically weak tibialis muscles. This can result in drop foot, an unnatural high step gait, and knee pain. In this article, I’ll lay out a simple, yet tremendously effective slant board exercise that will strengthen the tibialis, helping to eliminate lower body pain and improve your athletic ability.
The tibialis anterior muscle is located at the front of your lower leg. It originates at the knee joint and inserts at the top of the foot, running parallel to the tibia (lower leg) bone.
The main function of the muscle is to flex the ankle to permit foot movement up and down. It also helps to move the foot laterally and helps to lift the arch of the foot from the ground.
When we walk, the tibialis is the muscle that allows us to lift our heel and then control its movement down into a flat foot position. Elderly people, especially, have very weak tibialis anterior muscles. This causes them to shuffle forward rather than lifting their foot off the ground when they are walking.
For athletes, the tibialis plays a very important role in deceleration. When the athlete runs in a straight line and then stops, either to jump vertically, move horizontally or stop completely, they will plant their heel into the ground. The bulk of that force will be absorbed by the tibialis anterior.
Athletes with under-trained tibialis muscles may end up with knee pain.
In terms of aesthetics, working the tibialis can make your calves appear wider when viewed from the front.
Working the Tibialis
The best exercises to work the tibialis will simulate the natural function of the muscles which is to flex and extend the foot. This is achieved by keeping the heel planted and flexing and extending the ankle.
This should be done with the heels in front of the torso, as this is the position when you are walking and transitioning from running to jumping, changing direction, or stopping.
The tibialis exercise is the opposite movement to a calf raise.
You won’t find dedicated tibialis training machines in too many gyms. Those that do have them may include a plate or weight stack to add resistance beyond your bodyweight. But you don’t have to go to a gym to effectively work your tibialis.
Introducing the Slant Board
The slant board provides the ideal platform for performing tibialis exercises. The board places you in a naturally elevated heel position that allows you to fully flex and extend your feet. At the same time, it allows for a secure, safe body position that won’t compromise your knees or spine.
The slant board Tib Raises
Here’s how to perform the slant board tib raise exercise:
- Position the slant board about a foot in front of a wall.
- Stand on the board with your feet set shoulder-width apart and pointing directly forward.
- Lean back so that your shoulder blades are resting against the wall and clasp your hands together in front of you.
- With your knees slightly bent, extend both feet up to bring the toes as high as possible.
- Hold the top position for a second.
- Reverse the action to lower the toes back to the slant board surface
Sets and Reps
The tibialis anterior is a much smaller muscle than the calves. So, you don’t have to train it with high reps the way you would when doing calf raises. Keep your reps in the 8-12 range, doing four sets each training session.
Work your tibialis 2-3 times per week, on alternate days for best results.
When you’ve got a slant board, It takes just a few minutes to work your tibialis muscles. That small time investment, though, will reap massive benefits in terms of reducing lower leg and knee pain, while also making you a more functional walker and athlete.
Give the slant board Tib Raise a try and share your thoughts in the comments section below.