Unlock Tight Hips with the Shin Box Stretch

This article was originally written for STACK.

Tight hips are an epidemic. In today's increasingly sedentary society, most people are sitting for the majority of the day. Whether it's behind a desk or in the car, it's safe to say that you (yes you, the person reading this) likely spend more time on your butt than on your feet.

Sitting for prolonged periods of time causes a whole host of problems, one of which is "tight" hips. Tight hip flexors and inactive glutes can lead to huge problems for athletes. Poor posture, limited mobility and lower-back pain are just a few of the major symptoms of tight hips.

Tight hips can severely limit athletic performance, and make it nearly impossible to get into proper position for key exercises like Squats, Deadlifts and sprints. Tight hips are also often the culprit for lower-back pain, which plagues everyone from corporate employees to frequent commuters.

Fortunately, there's a cure.

Shin Box Switches are a simple yet extremely effective exercise for ungluing the hips and activating the glutes. This exercise mobilizes and strengthens your hips.

Shin Box Switches are great because they work both internal and external rotation in one fluid movement. You can also regress or progress the movement based on your level of strength/mobility.

How to Perform the Shin Box Switch

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs at 90 degrees (one leg internally rotated, one leg externally rotated).

  2. While keeping your torso upright and feet planted, slowly rotate your hips until you reach the same 90/90 position on the opposite side.

  3. Continue rotating in this fashion, pausing briefly at each side while contracting the glutes, for 2-3 minutes.


If your hips are initially too tight to get into a proper shin box position, or if you are not yet able to rotate, here are a few beginner options:

Regression 1

Sit on the floor in the 90/90 position, lean back and place your hands on the ground behind you for support. Hold this position for 30 seconds to 2 minutes per side. You may also attempt to slowly rotate while in this position.

Regression 2

Sit on the floor in the 90/90 position and place both hands on your externally rotated knee. Hold this position, while contracting the glutes if possible, for 30 seconds to 2 minutes per side.


Once you have advanced past the standard shin box, here are a couple more difficult options:

1. Shin Box Switch with Hip Raise

After rotating the hips, push off the ground with your glutes and thrust your hips forward. Briefly contract the glutes, then slowly return to the 90/90 position on the floor.

2. Shin Box Switch with Hip Raise and Lunge

Perform the same thrusting movement to raise your glutes off of the ground, then bring the back leg to the front in a half-kneeling (lunge) position. Make sure that your feet, knees and torso are all facing the same direction.

3. Weighted Shin Box Switch

Perform the standard shin box switch (or the advanced positions listed above) while holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in the goblet position.

When to Perform the Shin Box Switch

Shin Box Switches are an excellent warm-up drill, especially prior to any squatting, deadlifting or running. They can dramatically improve positioning and leverages for key lifts, and ensure that you move properly and pain-free.

Start with 1-2 minutes of standard switches then advance to more difficult progressions as you loosen up. If you're particularly tight or not yet able to rotate your hips, begin with 30 seconds to 1 minute of static 90/90 holds per side.

Because Shin Box Switches require no equipment and can be done anywhere, I also recommend including them throughout your work day if you have a standard desk job. Brief stints of mobility exercises to break up your work day (2-3 minutes, 5-6 times per day) can have a massive overall benefit.