The tibialis anterior muscle lies within the front of your lower leg, attaching to the outside of your knee and the upper portion of the tibia bone on one end, and near the base of your big toe on the other. The muscle facilitates ankle flexion, also called dorsiflexion, and inversion, which occurs when you move your foot inward. Perform stretching and strengthening exercises that target the tibialis anterior to increase your range of motion, help the muscle function effectively and potentially prevent certain lower-leg injuries. Consult your doctor if any exercise causes pain.
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Kneeling TA Stretch
The kneeling TA stretch, as recommended by the American Council on Exercise, places your ankles in a position of deep extension, or plantar flexion, which stretches the tibialis anterior muscle on each leg simultaneously. The exercise also stretches the quadriceps, which run vertically within the front of your thighs, producing knee extension. Kneel on your knees with your legs several inches apart and your toes pointed backward, so the top of your feet face the floor. Flex your knees and lean backward, moving your buttocks toward your calves, until you feel a gentle stretch through the front of your lower legs and thighs, then hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Place your hands on the floor by your feet for balance.
Because the tibialis anterior facilitates ankle flexion, you can have a partner press your foot through the opposite range of motion to stretch the muscle. Lie on your back with your legs extended and lift one leg at a time several feet off the floor. Have your partner hold under your heel with one hand pull down on the top of your foot with the other. Tell her to stop when you feel gentle tension and hold for at least 10 seconds, then repeat the stretch with your opposite leg. You can also perform the exercise dynamically by having your partner repeatedly extend your ankle, deepening the stretch slightly with each repetition.
Isometric exercises involve pressing against a sturdy object without moving it, initiating a static muscle contraction. They are particularly appropriate if you've recently suffered an injury that causes pain when you move through normal ranges of motion. Start in the same fashion as the partner stretch to exercise the tibialis anterior isometrically, and after your partner pulls your ankle into extension slightly, resist any further movement for five to 10 seconds. Additionally, because the tibialis anterior also inverts your ankle, have your partner place his hand on the inside of your foot and press against it, but have him provide resistance so no movement occurs.
Resistance Band Exercises
Dynamic strengthening exercises that target the tibialis anterior, unlike isometric exercises, involve contracting the muscle concentrically -- shortening contraction -- and eccentrically -- lengthening contraction -- in succession. You can use an elastic band for such exercises to provide the necessary resistance to effectively strengthen the tibialis anterior. Tie one end of the band to a sturdy object near the floor and the other around one foot at a time, near your toes. Sit facing the object -- far enough away so the band is taut -- with your toes pointed forward and repeatedly flex your ankle to stretch the band and return to the starting position. You can also turn so your legs are perpendicular to the band and repeatedly invert your foot.