Exercises to Prevent Shin Splints

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Shin splints are nearly inevitable if you're a runner or sprinter. Caused by either an inflammation of shin muscles or small microfractures on the tibia (the shinbone), shin splints generate pain when you walk, run or sprint. Typically, you only feel discomfort when running or sprinting, but the pain can become persistent and completely debilitating, resulting in a lost season.

Sources thought to cause shin splints include genetics, playing surfaces, shoes and a lack of muscle strength in the shin and foot. Regardless of the source, one sure way to help prevent shin splints is with strengthening exercises.

However, strengthening these muscles is challenging for numerous reasons. When we run, sprint and do agility work, we often increase our workload faster than our muscles and bones can handle. To add to the problem, the shin is rarely exercised. Most people think other lower-body weight room work will be sufficient for that area, too. Also, shoes nowadays are so cushioned and balanced that leg muscles don't have to be very strong to perform well. All these factors can cause serious damage to the shins.

You must directly strengthen the muscles of your feet and shin to prevent this common injury from occurring. Even though people won't notice your strong shins, time spent training them will pay off when you are strong and pain-free throughout your season. Try the exercises below to strengthen your shins:

Bunny Hop/Backward Hop/Zig-Zag Hop
These exercises should be part of a warm-up for a speed and agility workout.

  • Standing tall, place hands on hips and rise up on balls of feet
  • Bunny hop forward, primarily using ankles, for 10-20 yards
  • Staying on balls of feet, hop backward for 10-20 yards
  • Staying on balls of feet, hop in a zig-zag pattern for 10-20 yards

Sets/Distance: 1x10-20 yards each movement

Balance Stand

  • Stand on one foot; hold position for 30 seconds
  • Switch legs and repeat

Med Ball Chest Pass

  • Standing on one foot, hold med ball and face partner or wall five to six feet away
  • Perform chest passes with partner or wall for 30 seconds
  • Switch feet and repeat

Rotational Med Ball Chest Pass

  • Standing on one foot, hold med ball and face partner or wall five to six feet away
  • Throw med ball to partner, but change release point on each throw from shoulder to knee height
  • Work on balance while twisting to catch ball
  • Perform for 30 seconds; switch legs and repeat

Training Walk
This exercise is best done in bare feet and should be part of your cooldown after a speed or agility workout. You will need a course 10 to 20 yards long.

  • Rise up on balls of feet and walk forward 10-20 yards
  • Walk same distance on heels
  • Walk same distance on balls of feet with toes pointed in
  • Walk same distance on balls of feet with toes pointed out

Sets/Distance: 1x10-20 yards each movement

Photo:  blog.elevationfit.com

John M. Cissik is president of Human Performance Services, LLC, which helps professional athletes solve their strength and conditioning problems. He has worked with all levels, produced four videos, written 10 books and more than 70 articles on strength and speed training. For more information, follow him on Twitter (@yourhpservices) or like him on Facebook.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: CHEST | SHIN SPLINTS | CROSS COUNTRY | EXERCISES | WORKOUTS | EXERCISE | MED BALL | SPRINT | THROW | SHINS