Strengthen Your Anterior Tibialis with These Exercises

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Start Treating Your Foot Drop with These Exercises

Picture of physical therapist working on a woman's ankle.
Your physical therapist can help treat your foot drop. DNY59/Getty Images

If you have foot drop or weakness in your anterior tibialis muscle of your lower leg, then you may benefit from physical therapy to help you correct your high steppage gait pattern and regain normal motion and strength in your leg.  Your physical therapist will work with you to help you start using your leg normally again.

There are many different physical therapy treatments for foot drop including stretching, neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), elastic bands to elevate your foot, or bracing using an ankle foot orthosis.

Exercise is one of your most important tools to use to correct foot drop.  Exercises for foot drop include specific motions to help improve the strength and neuromuscular input to your anteroir tibialis muscle.  Stretching of your calf muscles is also important when you have foot drop.

Foot drop can be caused by a number of different factors, so it is important for you to visit your doctor right away if you are experiencing weakness in your anterior tibialis.  Your doctor can perform special tests to determine the cause of your foot drop and start you on the correct treatment path.

Your physical therapist can help you perform the exercises correctly, and this step-by-step program can provide some ideas on how to begin.

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Anterior Tibialis Strengthening with an Elastic Resistance Band

Anteiror tibialis strengthening with a resistance band.
You can use a resistance band to strengthen your anterior tibialis muscle. Brett Sears, PT, 2015

To start strengthening your anterior tibialis muscle to correct your foot drop, obtain an elastic resistance band.  You can get one from your physical therapist, or you can buy one at your local sporting goods store.

Secure your band to a stable object like the leg of a table or sofa.  Then tie a loop in your band and secure it around your foot near your toes.  It may be helpful to have your lower leg resting upon a small pillow so the heel of your foot does not rub on the ground.

Next, pull your toes and foot up while keeping your knee straight.  Only your ankle should move as you flex your foot up.  Pull your foot up as far as you can, hold the end position for a second or two, and then slowly relax back to the starting position.

Perform this exercise for 10 to 15 repetitions or until your anterior tibialis muscle tires and you can no longer flex your ankle up.  Then, move on to the next exercise.

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Anterior Tibialis Strengthening with a Cuff Weight

You can use a cuff weight to strengthen the front of your ankle.
Use a cuff weight around your foot to strengthen your anterior tibialis to correct foot drop. Brett Sears, PT, 2015

You can use a cuff weight to strengthen your anteroir tibialis muscle to help treat your foot drop.  Start by sitting in a chair and wrapping your cuff weight around your toes.  Make sure it is secure.

Begin the exercise by sitting with your cuff weight on your foot and then flexing your ankle so your foot and toes move up towards your knee.  When your foot is flexed all the way up, hold the position for a couple seconds, and then slowly lower your toes back down to the starting position.  Repeat the exercise for 10 to 15 repetitions.

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Isometric Exercise for Foot Drop

Isometric anterior tibialis strengthening.
You can use your other foot to provide isometric resistance to help correct your foot drop. Brett Sears, PT, 2015

Isometric exercise is a type of motion where your muscle contracts, but no motion occurs around your joint.  It is simple to do, and it can help strengthen your anterior tibialis muscle in specific ranges of motion in your ankle.

To perform isometric anterior tibialis strengthening, follow these simple directions:

  1. Sit in a chair or lie down.
  2. Cross one leg over the other with your affected leg on the bottom.
  3. Place your foot on top of the ankle you wish to exercise.
  4. Press the top of your weak foot into the sole of your other foot.  Remember, no motion should occur at your ankle joint.
  5. Hold this position for 5 seconds, and then slowly release.

Perform about 10 to 15 repetitions of the exercise, 2 or 3 times per day.

Remember that isometric exercise can strengthen your muscles, but strength only occurs in the specific ROM in which you are exercising.  That means that you should vary the position of your ankle when performing the exercise.

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Bonus Exercise: Calf Stretch

A towel can be used to stretch the Achilles tendon.
Use a towel wrapped around the ball of the foot to stretch the calf muscle. Brett Sears, PT, 2012

When your anterior muscle is weak, you will not be able to fully flex your foot.  This may keep your ankle in a position where your calf is shortened.  A shortened calf means a tight muscle, so stretching for your calf may be necessary to fully correct your foot drop.

A simple method to stretch your calf is by doing the towel calf stretch.  Wrap a towel around the ball of your foot, keep your knee straight, and pull the ends of the towel so your foot flexes up and stretches your calf.

Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, and then relax.  Perform 3 to 5 stretches several times per day.

If you have foot drop due to weakness of your anterior tibialis muscle, visit your doctor right away to be sure you get an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your condition.  Exercises to help strengthen the muscles around your ankle may be necessary to help you regain normal strength and return to optimal function and mobility.

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