Stretch and Strengthen Your Lower Body With the Shin Box Get-Up

The shin box get-up exercise activates your core, hip flexors, glutes and quads.
Image Credit: Kelsey Decker/LIVESTRONG.com

Thanks to today's 9-to-5 life, having tight hips seems inevitable. Fortunately, adding hip stretches, like the shin box get-up, to your regular rotation can help relieve tightness while also priming your hip flexors, glutes and quads for exercise.

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  • What is the shin box get-up exercise?​ It's a hip stretch that begins in the 90/90 stretch position and activates your glutes, quads and core to come to a kneeling position.
  • What is the shin box position?​ It is the position in which you externally rotate one leg in front of you so the outside of your thigh, shin, ankle and foot are on the floor and your knee is bent to 90 degrees. Meanwhile, your back leg is internally rotated so the inside of your thigh, shin and foot are on the floor and your knee is also bent to 90 degrees. (This starting position is the same as the 90/90 stretch — more on the differences below.)
  • What muscles does the shin box get-up work?​ It activates your hip flexors, tensor fasciae latae (thigh muscle that's responsible for hip flexion, abduction and internal rotation), glutes and adductors (inner thigh muscles), says Jen Fraboni, PT, DPT, physical therapist and creator of Jen.Health, a mobility and exercise program. When you lift your glutes off the ground, you're also activating your core.

    "When you include the part where you're lifting your glutes up, you're incorporating the hip flexor a little bit more, and you get to lengthen through a really particularly tight area," says Kelsey Decker, CPT, a National Strength and Conditioning Association-certified personal trainer and manager for training and experiences at StretchLab. "It really focuses on the front and back hips at the same time, so you're still getting a little bit of internal and external rotation with a lengthening stretch through that hip flexor."

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What's the Difference Between a Shin Box Get-Up, 90/90 Stretch and Z-Sit?

Although the shin box get-up and 90/90 stretch both have the same starting position, the 90/90 stretch, which is sometimes called the Z-sit, focuses on a static hold of internal and external hip rotation, deepening the stretch, Decker says. Because the shin box get-up involves lifting up your glutes, you're lengthening the hip flexors a bit more in that position.

"The shin box get-up requires more knee bend to get into that standing position, so it's not going to demand as much stretch into the hip capsule. The 90/90 stretch is good for focusing on hip mobility and improving that stretch in the internal hip capsule so we can create more internal and external rotation at the hips," Fraboni says.

If the 90/90 stretch feels too intense, the shin box get-up might actually be a good place to start, Fraboni says. While the shin box get-up isn't as aggressive as a stretch, it still activates your hips and wakes up the joint so it's a great move to incorporate into your warm-up before exercise.

Meanwhile, you can add the 90/90 stretch to your cooldown post-workout or on your mobility and recovery days, Fraboni says.

How to Do the Shin Box Get-Up With Proper Form

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Activity Mobility Workout
Region Lower Body
  1. Sit on a mat or the floor. Take a deep breath and make your torso tall and proud.
  2. Bring your right leg in front so your thigh is straight out from your waist, with your thigh turned so the outside of your thigh is on the floor. Your knee should be bent at 90 degrees and the outside of your shin, ankle and foot should also be on the floor. Keep your ankle in a neutral position so that your toes point directly forward.
  3. Maintaining a vertical torso and keeping your right leg in this position, bring your left leg out so that your thigh is pointing at a 90-degree angle away from your torso, and the inside of your thigh, shin and foot are on the floor. The knee of this leg should also be bent 90 degrees and your ankle should be in a neutral position.
  4. While keeping your spine tall, your chest proud and your hips square, activate your glutes and press your front knee into the ground to drive your hips up, squeezing your glutes and quads.
  5. Hold for 1 to 2 seconds and then sit back down.
  6. Rotate your hips to switch legs and repeat.

Tip

If you have knee pain or recently had knee joint replacement surgery, you can place a pillow or yoga block underneath your glutes to help raise your glutes, which will help the flexion of your knee and lessen the degree of internal and external rotation, Decker says.

"This makes it easier for them to get up into that kneeling position to get that full stand-up shin box stretch. Once you're up in that position, you can always adjust the angle of your leg," she adds.

You also want to make sure to maintain a tall spine and proud chest throughout the movement. You can place your hands behind you for extra support in the shin box position, according to Fraboni.

"Move slow and think of placing tension through your legs as they slowly move from one side to the other. Hinge at your hips to come up to a tall kneeling position and slowly extend your hips as tolerated as you squeeze your glutes," Fraboni says.

Watch the Full Tutorial

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3 Shin Box Get-Up Exercise Benefits

1. It Mobilizes and Stretches Your Hips

The shin box get-up begins with internal and external rotation of your hip joints, so it's a great way to loosen things up before exercise. As you come up to a kneeling position, it stretches your hip flexors while still working external rotation of the front leg and internal hip rotation of your back leg, Decker says.

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"Our hips are circular; they're a ball-and-socket joint, so we want to make sure we're using all different areas of that range of motion. In providing that internal and external rotation by switching from one side to the other, you're working through the full range of motion in your hips," Decker says.

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2. It Activates Your Quads and Glutes

In order to physically get into the kneeling position, you're activating your quads and glutes, which helps you stabilize as you hold the position, Decker says. You'll also activate your inner thighs (adductors) and your gluteus minimus and medius (hip abductors) as you rotate from one side to the other.

This is also why the shin box get-up is a particularly great stretch to do before a lower-body workout or a run.

"You could start in the 90/90, push up and lean back a little bit to really accentuate those hip flexors and work on that internal and external rotation. When you pop your butt back down and rotate your knees the other way and get up, you're working on getting that full range of motion that really incorporates the mobility aspect of priming your body for exercise," Decker says.

3. It Engages Your Core

As you're getting up from the floor and transitioning into the kneeling position, you're also activating your core.

"It's activating more of your outer core, where you're starting to warm up your hips, glutes and obliques, and utilizing that with trunk support, versus your inner core, which is more like baseline pelvic and diaphragm contraction," Fraboni says.

Throughout the movement, you also want to incorporate some core bracing so your chest stays upright and your spine stays stiff.

"So even if we bend forward, we hinge from the hip and not the spine because we want to make sure this is a hip-dominant movement and not a spine-dominant movement," Fraboni says.

3 Shin Box Get-Up Form Tips

1. Keep Your Hips Square

In your setup, you want to make sure your hips remain square throughout the movement to avoid leaning to one side. This will not only allow you to evenly distribute your weight as you come up to a kneeling position, but it will also ensure both glutes are activated and that your hips stay in alignment, Decker says.

2. Maintain a Stiff Chest and Tall Spine

By keeping your chest proud and spine tall, you're ensuring that the movement is driven by your hips. To help with stability and provide some momentum, Decker likes clasping her hands in front of her chest to drive her hips up to the kneeling position.

3. Move Slowly

One of the biggest mistakes people make with this stretch is moving too fast and not intentionally going through the range of motion, so they miss out on the benefits, Fraboni says.

Moving slowly and making sure your chest stays upright allows your hips to drive the movement, and therefore, you're able to stretch the hips and mobilize the joint.

Related Reading

4 Shin Box Variations

1. Elevated Hip Rotation Stretch

This shin box variation is helpful for those who can't do the seated shin box get-up on the floor because it targets internal rotation in each leg, Decker says.

"It allows for the individual to work on internal rotation of one hip, and by adding the rotation away from the leg, it will increase the stretch through the elevated leg," she says.

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Activity Stretching
Region Lower Body
  1. Stand parallel to a chair, bench or other elevated surface and place your leg closest to it on the chair so that the inside of your shin and knee lie flat on it. Your knee should be pointing forward. This is internal hip rotation.
  2. Place your hands on your hips and twist your torso away from the chair until you feel a stretch in the hip of your elevated leg.
  3. Pause briefly and then return to the starting position by turning your torso back to the center.
  4. Repeat on the other leg.

2. Elevated Pigeon Pose

A regression of the shin box get-up, this stretch works on the basics of the movement before you attempt to do it on the ground, Decker says. You should feel the stretch on the elevated leg on the box or bench, and this works external rotation of the hip.

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Activity Stretching
Region Lower Body
  1. Stand facing a tall box or counter and place your right leg on top, bending your knee to 90 degrees. Your shin should be parallel to the front of the box. The outside of your thigh and foot should stay on the box. Make sure your hips stay square in front of the box or counter.
  2. Bend your torso forward and lower it toward your right leg. You should feel the stretch in your right hip. If your flexibility allows, place your forearms on top of the box and hold for a few breaths.
  3. Come back up to stand and switch legs.

3. Shin Box Get-Up With Side Reach

This variation helps you stretch your side body and chest, while lengthening through your hips.

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Activity Stretching
Region Lower Body
  1. Sit on a mat or the floor. Take a deep breath and make your torso tall and proud.
  2. Bring your right leg in front so your thigh is straight out from your waist, with your thigh turned so the outside of your thigh is on the floor. Your knee should be bent at 90 degrees and the outside of your shin, ankle and foot should also be on the floor. Keep your ankle in a neutral position so that your toes point directly forward.
  3. Maintaining a vertical torso and keeping your right leg in this position, bring your left leg out so that your thigh is pointing at a 90-degree angle away from your torso, and the inside of your thigh, shin and foot are on the floor. The knee of this leg should also be bent 90 degrees and your ankle should be in a neutral position.
  4. Place your right hand on the ground behind you and reach your left arm back to lengthen through your side body. Avoid fully locking out your right elbow and make sure your shoulder is just over your wrist.
  5. Sit back down on the ground to return to the starting position.
  6. Rotate your hips to switch legs and repeat on the other side.

4. Weighted Shin Box Get-Up

If you'd like to level up the classic shin box get-up, you can try adding some load, like a dumbbell. The heavier the weight, the more challenging it will be to get off the floor.

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Stretching
Region Lower Body
  1. Sit on a mat or the floor, holding a dumbbell (horizontally) in both hands.
  2. Take a deep breath and make your torso tall and proud.
  3. Bring your right leg in front so your thigh is straight out from your waist, with your thigh turned so the outside of your thigh is on the floor. Your knee should be bent at 90 degrees and the outside of your shin, ankle and foot should also be on the floor. Keep your ankle in a neutral position so that your toes point directly forward.
  4. Maintaining a vertical torso and keeping your right leg in this position, bring your left leg out so that your thigh is pointing at a 90-degree angle away from your torso, and the inside of your thigh, shin and foot are on the floor. The knee of this leg should also be bent 90 degrees and your ankle should be in a neutral position.
  5. While keeping your spine tall and your chest proud, activate your glutes and press your front knee into the ground to drive your hips up, squeezing your glutes and quads.
  6. Hold for 1 to 2 seconds and then sit back down.
  7. Rotate your hips to switch legs and repeat.

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