The tibialis anterior is a muscle that extends from the outer part of the front of your tibia -- or shin bone -- crosses over toward the inner part of your ankle and merges into a tendon at the first bone of your big toe. Although stretching can be part of your cool-down to enhance relaxation, the tibialis anterior can be difficult to stretch, and it may not even need stretching to alleviate its tension.
Hard to Stretch
The tibialis anterior cannot be stretched entirely like you would with your hamstrings or calves because the shape and arrangement of your ankle bones prevent your foot and ankle from hyperextending, according to registered massage therapist Paul Ingraham. Unless you want to break your ankle, you cannot easily stretch the meaty portion of the muscle near your knee, no matter how far you point your toes away from you. However, there are some stretches that can be beneficial. Because the muscle extends toward the ankle and foot, stretching the lower portion of the tibialis anterior may have some benefits.
Stretching your shins with your body closer to the floor can help you focus more on the stretch without having to worry about balance. Kneel on the floor with your shins and the tops of your feet and toes touching the floor, and sit on your heels with your back straight. Lean your torso back and put your hands on the floor behind your feet for support with your fingers pointing forward. As you shift your weight more onto your heels, increase the stretch slightly by lifting the upper part of your shins off the floor. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds as you maintain a steady, deep breathing rhythm.
Standing Shin Stretch
Sometimes the floor shin stretch can place too much pressure on your knees and ankles. The standing position is a better alternative if you cannot perform the floor stretch. Stand on your right leg with your hands on your hips for balance, and cross your left calf in front of your right shin below the knee. Place the tops of your toes on the floor to help you extend your ankle. Bend your right leg to push your left ankle toward the floor gently, and hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch on the opposite leg.
A better way to alleviate muscle tension in the meaty part of the tibialis anterior is by giving yourself a massage, Ingraham suggests. Sit on the edge of a chair, and extend your left leg in front of you with your left foot planted on the floor. Place your left thumb on the thick part of the muscle on the lateral side of the shin about 1 or 2 inches below the kneecap. Compress gently into the muscle and slowly slide your thumb down along the muscle until you reach the middle of your ankle. Don't push too hard, especially if you have shin splints or muscle soreness. Stroke each leg several times, rotate and flex your ankle for a minute and take a short walk to improve circulation.