I recently received a nice little swag bag from The Tib Bar Guy! (@thetibbarguy). He sent me a tib bar, a solo tib bar, and a slant board and was hoping I would provide you guys with an honest review of the products. If you've been following my content for a little while now then you know that last year I built a DIY tib bar and this year I've started doing front squats with my heels elevated as well. So I was sort of in the market for both of these products and can make very good use of both of them! As well I have a basis for comparison as I have used scrappy, DIY versions of both of these things and I will be able to directly compare that to the feel of these professionally designed ones as well!
Tib Bar, Solo Tib Bar, and Slant Board!
I should note that I did not receive any compensation for reviewing these products. The products themselves were sent to me at no cost (thank you Tib Bar Guy!), but I have not been compensated for writing this review. However, after completing the review I was offered an affiliate link by the The Tib Bar Guy, and since these are products that I believe are valuable and use myself I was happy to accept that offer! If you find this review helpful and would like to support the production of more content like this then please consider using my link if you decide to purchase any of these products. I receive a small percentage of the purchase that uses my link. I appreciate you guys! I hope you find the review helpful and I hope the products end up being a helpful addition to your training.
Let's kick off today with the tib bars! Both the standard and the solo.
Both products are high quality
Both fit me perfectly and are comfortable to use
Both let you push tibialis training to the next level
I prefer the standard (bilateral) tib bar mostly for the sake of training economy
The solo tib bar hits the ankles in a slightly different way though and has its own value
Products may be cost prohibitive for some people
If you are in the market I highly recommend either one of these products from The Tib Bar Guy!
Introduction The tib bar has been popularized recently by the KneesOverToesGuy, who is a large advocate of tibialis training. The tibialis muscle is the muscle on the front of the lower leg that is responsible for dorsiflexing the foot (raising the ball of the foot off the floor). KneesOverToesGuy theorizes that by training this muscle function directly we can build pain free knees as this muscle is highly active during deceleration in athletic movements.
More strength and functionality here means less stress put on the knees during braking actions, which means less potential for developing knee pain in the long run. My personal interest in training this muscle lies primarily in the potential longevity and performance benefits. I do a lot of running and jumping and heavy lifting and I want to continue to be able to do these things at a high level well into my 40's and 50's and beyond, so I am constantly looking for new tools, methods, and modalities that will help to better accomplish these goals, both in terms of rehab (when needed), general prehab to keep things running smooth and pain free, as well as performance enhancement. If training the tibialis muscles with intent can help in this regard then I am all for it. Standard Tib Bar vs. Solo Tib Bar The tib bar comes in two models: standard and solo. The standard bar is a bilateral unit that lets you work both legs at once and the solo tib bar is the unilateral version of the standard tib bar that allows you to work one leg at a time. I'll be very upfront, I prefer the bilateral version and have already spent a good bit more time using the standard tib bar as compared to the solo.
The primary reason for this has nothing to do with efficacy or product quality. It simply boils down to laziness. I do a lot of hard training and this is a small muscle group. Having to work both legs individually is a deterrent for me that will potentially lead to lower compliance in the long run. I know myself well enough to know this so the majority of my work has taken place with the standard bar for the sake of efficiency.
The bilateral Tib Bar in action
That doesn't mean there isn't value to solo bar though! The main thing I noticed here was that it was really difficult to keep the implement stable and under control with one foot vs. two. With the standard bar the ankles stabilize each other and all the movement takes place from front to back. With the solo bar that stabilization aspect is gone. The goal is still to move the ankle from front to back, from plantar flexion into dorsiflexion, but without that built in stability the weight is also constantly trying to pull your foot inward and outward and you have to fight to keep the foot in the line that you WANT IT to be throughout the set.
This is a strong argument for including the solo version in your training as well, especially if you are prone to ankle sprains or are rehabbing an injured ankle. You still get the tibialis strength work, but you also get ankle strength and stability work as well.
Design The solo tib bar has a foot plate with a nice grip pad on it. On top of that is a foot strap that gets secured via a high quality ratchet. On the underside is a short weight sleeve designed to hold standard 2 inch hole plates. The unit comes with its own set of collars to secure the weights to the sleeve.
The standard tib bar on the other hand has a horizontal ankle bar for you to set your feet on. You set your feet atop the ankle bar and secure them underneath the padded foot bar that is above it and slightly askew. This keeps your feet wedged inside the bar and gives you leverage to move the ankles around and lift the unit up and down. There is no need for a strap or ratchet in this case as there is with the solo bar.
Under the the horizontal ankle and foot bars there is a vertical bar designed to hold the weight plates. Just as with the solo bar it is a 2 inch sleeve designed to house standard 2 inch weight plates. It also comes with its own set of collars to secure the weights to the sleeve.
Fit Both units fit the foot exceptionally well...at least for me! Since the solo unit has a strap and ratchet it has the advantage of being adjustable. In the event that you have really big or really small feet this may be a better choice for you because the strap can be pulled either more loosely or more snug to fit more different sized feet.
The disadvantage of this is that you have to constantly tighten and loosen the strap in order to rest between sets and change the unit from one foot to the other. This is not a huge deal, but again for me, sometimes my laziness with little things like this causes me to stop doing these types of exercises.
This is why I personally prefer the bilateral (standard) tib bar. It has the advantage not only of letting you work both legs at once for greater time efficiency, but it also is easier to get on and off. There is nothing to tighten, loosen, or adjust. You just slide your feet in and out of the implement.
The potential disadvantage of this (and I should note that this is not something have actually seen occur, I am just speculating here) is that some people may run into a situation where the implement doesn't fit their feet all that well, either because they are too large to slide far enough into the two horizontal bars, or because they are too small to get a snug fit when they do. I imagine this would only apply to a very small number of people as the range of feet that can fit into the implement should work for the vast majority, but still it is a possibility and so it should be noted. Feel Both units are very comfortable to use. When I made my DIY tib bar the biggest issue I was running into was discomfort on the top of the foot. Since I didn't have any good way to pad it, the top bar would put a lot of pressure on my feet when it was loaded with a decent bit of weight and this made it hard to really push my sets to the limit sometimes. The pain involved with pushing your body really hard is very different from the pain involved with actual pain and as a seasoned athlete and I am acutely aware of the differences between the two.
The former is easy for me to ignore, the latter is not. That discomfort limits force production and effort, whether you are aware of it or not, and that will hinder your gains in the long run. This issue does not exist with either the standard or solo tib bar. Both are incredibly comfortable on the foot and make performing the the tibialis raise about as pleasant of an experience as it can be! Which is to say not very pleasant at all because after just a few reps that shit starts to burn like crazy man! Usage As far as usage goes, the movement itself ends up being very smooth. As I noted, both implements fit very snugly and secure for me so I am able to execute the tibialis raise about as best as I possibly can using either implement. Just about my only area of complaint is with the collars that were provided to secure the weights to the sleeves. They aren't super strong.
They shouldn't need to be THAT strong anyway because you'll never be using very much weight on these exercises, but when I do my sets on the standard tib bar (more weight than the solo version) I have found that the collars have a tendency to slip down the sleeve over the course of the set, which causes the plates to slide down slightly as well. When that happens the plates rebound back and forth as I raise and lower my feet which makes the movement feel much less smooth overall and is just kind of annoying to have to deal with.
So just use one of your spring collars and shut about it, right? Well, I would except the sleeve on the tib bar is ever so slightly smaller in diameter than the sleeve of a standard barbell. This means that my spring collars don't fit the tib bar. So the only solution I have been able to come up with so far has been to double up the collars (The Tib Bar Guy sends you two collars with each tib bar, which is nice), which has been doing a good job of keeping the weights much more snug on the sleeve. But the problem here is that these collars are rather wide and take up a lot of room on the already short sleeve on the tib bar. With two of them on there you don't have all that much space to actually load up the plates.
Fortunately, this should be a pretty simple solution! Just make collars that are 1 or 2mm smaller in diameter and then they should be snug enough on the sleeve that they will no longer slip. Or make the sleeve slightly thicker on future product models so that the existing collars don't slip and so that spring collars can be used instead if someone chooses.
Editor's Note: I have been informed by the Tib Bar Guy himself that this issue has since been fixed with a more heavy duty collar, and that the weight slipping issue is no longer an issue. Value As of today (6/7/22) the standard tib bar is currently selling for $89.00 USD. The tib bar pro (slightly heavier duty model of the standard bar) is going for $139.00, and the solo bar is also going for 139.00.
This part is a little bit tough for me. As a small business owner myself I fully understand why the products are priced the way they are (I have received similar complaints about the pricing structure of some of my training programs, for example), and with production and all of the other overhead involved there is no doubt in my mind that the price point is fair. Materials and shipping are not cheap these days which does force costs to go up. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the current pricing is probably somewhat prohibitive for a lot of people who would otherwise be in the market here and want to purchase these products.
Again, it's tough because obviously it would be silly of me to expect someone to produce such a high quality product and NOT profit from it to at least a reasonable degree (hopefully more!). It's just a bummer because if there was a way to get the costs down then more people would be able to derive the benefits of these products. I'm really just lamenting the state of the world here. I think a lot of people would see great benefit from incorporating these movements into their training, but as it stands I do think the cost is somewhat prohibitive. However, when you compare this against the potential benefits that these implements offer then in many cases the cost is going to be more than worth the value they provide. Rating Overall, I give both tib bars from The Tib Bar Guy 4 out of 5 stars! The products are well designed, of a high quality, they fit my feet well, they are very comfortable to use, and they let you push your tibialis training to the next level. The products accomplish everything they should accomplish and they do it well.
They lose a star because there is a minor weight slipping issue with the standard tib bar, but this is something that should be able to be easily rectified after receiving feedback from users (I am told it has been!). As well, the cost may be somewhat prohibitive for people who want to start taking tibialis training seriously but don't have very much disposable income.
All in all, if you want to start training your tibialis muscles or have been considering purchasing these products (perhaps you've been dealing with knee pain, shin splints, or certain ankle issues) then I have no problem recommending the tib bars from The Tib Bar Guy.