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The Clamshell Exercise – All You Need To Know

The Clamshell Exercise – All You Need To Know

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The clamshell exercise is one of the best exercises to strengthen the muscles of your lower body, specifically the hips and thighs. Read this blog post if you want to know all about the clamshell exercise in detail.

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The clamshell exercise, or more commonly known as clams, is one of the best exercises to incorporate in your daily workout repertoire. Named after how your body resembles a clamshell while you move your hips and legs, it strengthens your thighs and hips, tones your glutes, and stabilizes your pelvic muscles. The Clamshell exercise is associated with a number of benefits and is often included in many physiotherapy treatment protocols.

If everyone keeps telling you how great clams are for you and that you should include it in your exercise routine, you might be interested in knowing what exactly a clamshell exercise is and what makes it such a highly-recommended exercise by the experts. If yes, this blog is for you. We’ve discussed everything there is to know about the Clamshell exercise in detail in this blog post.


What Really Is the Clamshell Exercise?

A clamshell exercise is not just an exercise but is a full-fledged technique that can help you get relief from body pains and aches. It might sound too good to be true, but this one exercise can have a significant impact on your body. It targets the glute muscles and aids in the stabilization and control of your hip joint movements and helps keep your knees aligned. If your work nature is such that you’re on your toes most of the time, and constantly suffer from stiff knees and hip joint, Clamshell exercise is what you need to try.


What Muscles Does Clamshell Exercise Work?

The gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, and gluteus medius are the three major muscles of the hip. Gluteus maximus is the largest muscle of the body, but that doesn’t make other glute muscles any less important. If any of your glute muscles are weak, you’re highly likely to cause injury and pain.

Clamshell exercise majorly targets the lower part of your body, specifically your glute muscles. The primary muscle that it works on is the gluteus medius. This muscle is responsible for the external rotational and abduction movements of the hip. It’s also the gluteus medius that stabilize the pelvis when you’re standing on one leg, as in numerous sports that involve jumping and running from one leg. The gluteus medius also provides motor control and stability to the pelvic girdle when you’re moving up and down the stairs.


Why is the Clamshell Exercise Good For You?

There are numerous reasons why the clamshell exercise may be good for you. Apart from its benefits in the physiotherapy routine, it’s an excellent exercise to strengthen the gluteus medius, which is the primary controller of side-to-side movements. Clamshell exercise can also help you with the correction of the Trendelenburg gait, a condition in which one hip drops while you walk.

The list of reasons why Clamshell exercise is good for you doesn’t end here. It is known to offer excellent benefits in many injuries, including knee sprains, ankle sprains, lower back pain, osteoarthritis of the hip or knee, IT Band Syndrome, the Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome, and many more. 


Should I Incorporate The Clamshell Exercise Into My Daily Workout?

If you still want an answer to the question, “should I incorporate the clamshell exercise into my daily workout routine,” the answer is – yes, definitely!

The Clamshell exercise doesn’t only work on strengthening the pelvis, glutes, and hips, but it can ease the pain in the lower back and prevent various injuries. According to a study, Clamshell exercise is one of the best ways to strengthen the hip and prevent hip injuries (Ref: Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy).

If your lower back often pains, you feel stiffness in your knee, and hip joints and your muscles feel lethargic when you climb the stairs too much, you probably need to work on strengthening the muscles of your lower body. And what better way to do this than incorporating Clamshell exercise to your daily workout?

Step-by-Step Instructions

Doing the clamshell exercise is no hard task. It’s simple and easy, and you’ll soon get the hang of the correct technique.

  • Lie on your side such way that your target hip is up
  • Stack both the legs over one another and bend your knees to 90 degrees
  • Fix your hips such that they’re at roughly 6p degrees
  • Roll forward till your belly button has approached the ground
  • Raise the knee that’s placed on the top while ensuring that your ankles are together and the trunk is slightly rolled forward
  • Hold the raised knee at the highest point for about 2 to 3 seconds before you lower it back down

Common Mistakes

Although Clamshell exercise is easy to do, people still make mistakes. Some of the most common mistakes include the following:

  • People roll their back or trunk while their hip moves
  • Some people hold their breath while they’re at it
  • People who’re still new end up separating their ankles

Modifications and Variations

As you get hold of the basic Clamshell technique, you’ll want to move a step up. There are numerous modifications and variations in the Clamshell exercise that are more difficult and provide a greater benefit. 


Lifted Heel Side Clam

The lifted heel side clam is an advanced version of the basic clamshell exercise. It involves you lying down on your side, just as you would for the basic clamshell. Unlike the basic clamshell, you don’t keep the knee of the bottom leg touching the floor. Instead, you lift both your knees up the floor while they’re still together, and then raise the top knee as high as you possibly can. This Clamshell variation increases the range of motion of your knee. It puts greater pressure on your gluteal muscles and hence offers greater benefit.


Clamshell Exercise with Band

Another popular modification of the Clamshell exercise is the Clamshell exercise with an elastic band. In this variation, an elastic exercise band is wrapped around the legs, just above the knees. You perform the exercise as you would without the band. The only difference is that the elastic band adds extra resistance. You should make sure that you don’t rely on the band’s recoil while you’re moving your leg down. You can choose the band with a resistance level that suits you best. 


Reverse Clamshells

Unlike regular Clamshells, reverse Clamshells target the internal rotators. The anterior fibers of the gluteus minimus and gluteus maximus are often quite weak, accounting for the hip’s weak internal rotational movements. Reverse Clamshells are, therefore, a modified form of Clamshell exercise that delivers the opposite effect.


The clamshell exercise is an excellent exercise that you should include in your daily workout plan, especially if you’re suffering from pain in your knees, hips, or lower back. It’s specifically ideal for athletes and sportsmen who’re involved in sports that require them to use one leg more than the other. While it sounds like a pretty basic exercise, as you go up the level, you can reap greater benefits through modifications and variations.

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