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How To Do a Clamshell Exercise?

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What is a clamshell exercise?

The clamshell exercise is a gluteus-centered effective exercise named after its resemblance to a clam opening and closing its shell. It is very safe and mild, which is why it is often used in sports physical therapy and it is often prescribed by physical therapists.

Which muscles are used when performing a clamshell exercise?

The clamshells target your gluteus medius mainly, which is the abductor that forms the outside edge of your booty and side of your hip. Apart from the gluteus medius, the clamshell exercises will also target your core muscles, hip flexors, pelvic muscles, and gluteus maximus, which is a prime mover when the hip extension is being performed.

What are the benefits of clamshell exercises?

This seemingly simple exercise will bring a lot of benefits, and the majority of them will be booty and lower-body centered. Some of the major benefits of a clamshell exercise include:

– Clamshell exercise provides hip strengthening and hip stabilization.

The clamshell can help strengthen the gluteus medius, which will bring more stability and power to your hips. Strong and powerful hips can translate to excellent stabilization in agility workouts, decreased risk of injury to the lower body, lessened knee pain, and more strength and power in your squat, which is perfect for those dealing with upper knee pain or any other joint issue.

– Clamshell exercise activates glutes.

Before completing complicated movements, such as squat or deadlift, it is essential to activate the muscles that will be performing the movement and doing all the work. That is why it is so useful to perform a couple of sets of clamshells before doing your compound movements, such as squats or deadlifts, in order to activate your glutes and perform to the best of your ability.

– Clamshell exercise provides muscle definition to inner and outer thighs.

Clamshell exercise is going to affect the shape and the development of the muscles that are performing the movement, especially if resistance is added; you will definitely feel the burn in your glutes. If you are looking to tighten up your posterior chain, make sure to add clamshell exercise to your workout routine.

How to do a clamshell exercise?

In order to get all of the benefits of the clamshell exercise, you have to perform it in proper form. Here is how to properly do the clamshell exercise.

  1. Lie on the floor, preferably on a carpet or a comfortable mat, on your right side with your feet, hips stacked, and knees bent. Have your knees bent at 90 degrees and your head is resting on your right arm.
  2. Draw your knees in toward your body until your feet are entirely aligned with your gluteus. To ensure your left hip joint doesn’t tilt backward while performing the movement, place your left hand on your left hip. This is your starting position.
  3. Brace your core and keep your abs engaged while you raise your left knee (which is your top knee) as far as you can without lifting your bottom knee off the floor or rotating your right hip. Keep your feet together at all times.
  4. When you get to the end of the movement, hold for a moment, squeezing your glutes, before slowly lowering your left knee back into the starting position. 
  5. Once you are done performing as many reps as you see fit, switch sides and do the same thing on the other leg.

Variations of a clamshell exercise

Clamshell exercise is a pretty simple exercise to perform, but some variations make it more challenging and more fun. Some clamshell variations include:

Legs up Clamshell

With the legs up clamshell variation, your knees are kept stacked and the bottom leg is lifted off the floor. This variation challenges your oblique muscles and the deep abdominal muscles to work much harder than they do in the standard variation.

Clamshell with a Resistance Band

If clamshells are getting too easy for you, you can add resistance, in the form of resistance bands, for some extra challenge. This variation of clamshell exercises includes placing a resistance band around your thighs before starting the movement. The resistance band will provide glute activation, which will make your muscles fight harder, and you will feel the burn much more intensely. 

Clamshell to Side Plank

This variation is one of the most effective ways to strengthen your hips and glutes, especially the gluteus medius. It will also engage your core and side abdominals. In this version you will open both of your legs to the side, pushing with your bottom leg of the floor and lifting your hips while also opening the top leg to the side.

Mistakes/Safety Tips

Some common mistakes are observed in people performing the clamshell exercise. Make sure to avoid:

– Going too fast

Make sure to perform the exercise smoothly and with muscle control; using momentum to move your leg is not beneficial in any way. The only way to strengthen your hips, glutes and core is to do the clamshell properly.

– Straining Neck

While performing the clamshell exercise, your spine and neck should be in a neutral position, and there should be no straining. During the clamshell exercise, the neck should not move at all.

– Rolling Top Hip

Make sure not to roll the top hip forward or backward as you separate your legs.

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