The dorsiflexor muscles on the front of your leg allow you to lift your foot. When overused, dorsiflexor muscles are often responsible for conditions such as shin splints. Weak dorsiflexor muscles can lead to conditions such as plantar fasciitis, in which the thick band of muscle from the ball of your foot to the heel becomes inflamed. To prevent these injuries from occurring, engage in regular exercises to stretch and strengthen your dorsiflexor muscles.
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The ankle dorsiflexion exercise helps to strengthens the muscles that attach to the front portion of your tibia. For this exercise, you'll need a resistance band and weight plate -- a round weight with a hole in the middle -- between 3 and 5 pounds that can be tied together. Sit on a sturdy high desk or table that lets your legs dangle free. Thread the band through the weight plate and tie the band together. Place the loop over the top of your foot. Flex the foot to bring your toes toward your knees. When you have bent back as far as possible, hold this position for two to three seconds, then release the stretch. Repeat the exercise 25 times. Rest for 30 seconds, then repeat the exercise 25 times.
The ankle inversion exercise works the tibialis anterior muscle, which is a dorsiflexor muscle. To perform, lie on your side on a bed, table or couch where your ankle hangs off the table. Wrap the resistance band and weight around the ankle closest to the floor. The band should rest at your instep with the weight dangling free. Slowly lower the foot toward the ground, then lift it up, bringing the toes toward the ceiling. Lower your foot to return to your starting position and repeat the exercise 25 times. Rest for 30 seconds, and repeat for one set.
Anterior Tibialis Stretch
The anterior tibialis stretch is an exercise for the dorsiflexors that is ideal for performing before and after exercising. Begin by sitting in a chair. Bring your left leg across your right knee, resting the left ankle 2 inches away from your right knee. Grab your foot with your right hand and gently pull the foot toward your body. You should feel a stretch across the front of the lower leg. Hold this position for 15 seconds, then release. Repeat the stretch four times on this leg, then switch to your opposite leg.
Plyometrics are fast, explosive jumps that can help to strengthen the dorsiflexor muscles at the ankles. The box jump is an example of a plyometric drill. To perform, obtain a long, sturdy box or an aerobic step set to a height you can comfortably jump. Stand about 8 inches away from the box and squat down halfway between standing and having your thighs parallel to the floor. Use your arms, legs and ankles to power your body onto the box, landing in a slightly squatted position, which protects you from injury. Squat again to jump off the box. Repeat in sets of 10 or jump as many times as you can in 30 seconds. Rest and repeat for an additional set.