June 13, 2022 8 min read
The clamshell may not look like much but it is an effective movement that strengthens your glutes, hip adductors, and abductors.
When done with proper form, a clamshell will help to strengthen the gluteus medius, core, and the gluteus maximus.
These glute muscles are in charge of not only hip stabilization but also of power and balance. So building the strength in these muscle groups helps to protect your knees and prevent back pain.
The basic clamshell is the best place to start but as you get stronger and your hip flexors loosen up you might want to consider adding resistance or modifying the movement. By adding resistance to the movement you will work your glutes, core, and lower back muscles even more.
Your glutes are made up of three muscles on each side of your body, the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus.
The gluteus medius is the main abductor and external rotator of the hip.
The gluteus maximus extends the hip and assists with abduction and external rotation of the leg. This is the largest muscle in the body, and the one most people are looking to define and strengthen with lower-body movements.
Lastly, the gluteus minimus serves as the primary internal rotator of the hip joint, which helps with abduction and inward rotation at the hip.
The importance of your medial glutes can’t be talked about enough, with responsibilities that include hip stabilization, balance, and power.
Strong medial glutes guide you through every step.
They stabilize you, propel you, and protect your knees and lower back from unnecessary strain by taking on a majority of the workload involved in lower body movement.
That includes any side-to-side action that you might take in a weightlifting or agility workout.
Clamshells can be beneficial for building the glutes, which are the main stabilizer for the pelvis. Stronger glutes can lead to better posture, stability, and performance.
When performing moves like a squat or deadlift in which one of the primary goals is to build glute strength, it’s important to first activate the muscles that will be doing the work.
Warm-up with a couple of sets of clamshells prior to your big lifts in order to activate your glutes and improve your flexibility. This also helps to ensure that they’re engaged and working as the primary movers.
As a general exercise, the clamshell can help strengthen your medial glutes, bringing more power and stability to your hips.
This can also translate to a decreased risk of injury throughout the entire lower body, greater stabilization in agility workouts, and more strength and power in your lower body movements.
Another benefit of the clamshell exercise is its decent effect on muscle shape and development. Especially If you add resistance to the clamshell, doing ten or more reps can leave your glutes burning.
If you really want to try and maximize the muscle-defining benefits of clamshells then try going for burnout sets or adding variations of the movement into your workouts. So anyone looking to tighten up their posterior and work on their muscle definition should make these moves a part of their workout routine.
By adding resistance to the clamshell you turn an exercise that many consider a stretch into something worthy of being put into your lower body workout.
With a resistance band, you will be adding a decent amount of difficulty to aid in the building and strengthening of the glutes and core.
If you're doing these for the first time, make sure to choose a lighter band, and work your way up to a heavier resistance band. To prevent knee pain do not place the band around your knees, it should sit comfortably just above them.
How to do it:
The reverse clamshell is a modified version of the clamshell exercise that targets the inner thighs and helps to sculpt and tighten the muscles.
This glute exercise also strengthens the outer thighs, tones the glutes, and helps stabilize the pelvic muscles.
We recommend starting with just your body weight, but as you get stronger you can add a resistance band to add resistance. The band would go just above your ankles.
How to do it:
Planks are already a challenging movement, so adding the clamshell to the plank forces you to stabilize your core muscles while also building and strengthening your glutes.
The combining of spine stability and hip mobility is not for beginners, so it's recommended that you make sure you can do both exercises perfectly as individual exercises before doing them together.
Combining the two movements together requires focus to make sure it is done properly. To make sure you have the focus necessary, make sure to check out Amped-AF.
If you are able to do this exercise with relative ease, then add a resistance band to the movement. You could also add resistance by holding a dumbbell on top of your hip.
How to do it:
A clamshell leg raise is a single-leg lift variation that is fantastic for increasing your glute and core strength. To make the lateral leg lift more challenging add a short circular band around both of your thighs right above the knee then try the exercise making sure to not let your toes turn towards the ceiling.
How to do it:
High clamshells are another advanced clamshell variations that require some serious coordination to do them properly. We recommend warming up for this with normal clamshells and then working a couple of sets of these in at the end. You can add resistance to the high clams by adding a band just above your knees.
How to do it:
Stick to the 10-15 rep range if you’re trying to strengthen your glutes and core.
If you have to do 20 plus repetitions to feel a burn with clamshells, then you’re going to be training muscular endurance rather than strength and hypertrophy. Don’t be afraid of adding resistance with bands to increase the difficulty of the movements.
Don’t add resistance to the exercises until your muscles are completely warmed up.
Your core should be engaged throughout the exercise, so don’t let them slack off. This helps to keep your spine in alignment and strengthen your abdominal muscles at the same time.
Don’t forget to keep your neck in neutral alignment throughout the exercise so you don’t strain it. Try to rest your head on your arm and remain in one position throughout the exercise.
While doing clamshells or any of the above variations try to isolate your glutes. You should only be rotating from your hips, not from your lower back.
The clamshell may not look like much but it is a great strengthening exercise for your gluteal muscles, hip abductors, and adductors. When done with proper form, the clamshell and the variations can help to build strong glutes and core.
The glutes and core help to stabilize the rest of the body, and without them, your posture and overall strength and movement could suffer. Integrating the clamshell into your workout routine can create a stronger, more stable body for better lifts and quality of life.