How to Do the Clamshell Exercise

The clamshell exercise is a simple yet effective exercise that targets the muscles in your hips and glutes. It is a great exercise for anyone looking to strengthen their lower body, improve their balance, and prevent injuries. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of the clamshell exercise, how to do it correctly, and some variations you can try to challenge yourself.

What Muscles Does the Clamshell Exercise Work?

The clamshell exercise primarily targets the gluteus medius and minimus muscles, which are located on the side of your hips. These muscles are responsible for stabilizing your hips and pelvis, and they play a crucial role in everyday movements such as walking, running, and standing.

Hiit workout Additionally, the clamshell exercise also engages the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in your buttocks, and the tensor fasciae latae, a muscle that runs along the side of your thigh. These muscles work together to support your hips and improve your overall lower body strength.

Clamshell Exercise Benefits

The exercise offers numerous benefits, making it a popular choice among fitness enthusiasts. Some of the key benefits of this exercise include:

  • Strengthening the hips and glutes: As mentioned earlier, the clamshell exercise targets the muscles in your hips and glutes, helping to strengthen and tone them.
  • Improving balance and stability: By targeting the smaller muscles in your hips, the clamshell¬† can improve your balance and stability, which is essential for everyday movements and activities.
  • Preventing injuries: Strong hips and glutes can help prevent injuries, especially in the lower back, hips, and knees. By incorporating the clamshell exercise into your routine, you can reduce your risk of injury and improve your overall physical health.
  • Easy to do: The clamshell is a low-impact exercise that can be done by people of all fitness levels. It requires no equipment and can be done anywhere, making it a convenient exercise to add to your routine.

How to Do the Clamshell Exercise

To perform the exercise correctly, follow these steps:

  1. Lie on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other. Your knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle, and your feet should be in line with your spine.
  2. Rest your head on your bottom arm, and place your top hand on your hip.
  3. Engage your core and glute muscles, and slowly lift your top knee towards the ceiling, keeping your feet together.
  4. Pause for a second at the top, then slowly lower your knee back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, then switch sides.

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Common Mistakes to Avoid

While the clamshell exercise may seem simple, there are a few common mistakes that people make when performing it. These mistakes can reduce the effectiveness of the exercise and even lead to injury. Here are some mistakes to avoid when doing the clamshell exercise:

  • Raising your top leg too high: When performing the clamshell exercise, it is essential to focus on engaging your glutes and hips rather than lifting your leg as high as possible. Raising your leg too high can put unnecessary strain on your lower back and may cause discomfort.
  • Not keeping your feet together: It is crucial to keep your feet together throughout the exercise to target the correct muscles. If your feet are not touching, you may be engaging other muscles, such as your quads, instead of your glutes.
  • Not engaging your core: Your core muscles play a significant role in stabilizing your body during the clamshell exercise. Make sure to engage your core by pulling your belly button towards your spine throughout the exercise.

Variations of the Clamshell Exercise

Once you have mastered the basic clamshell exercise, you can try some variations to challenge yourself and target different muscles. Here are three variations of the clamshell exercise you can try:

  • Standing clamshell exercise: This variation is done while standing, making it a great option for those who have difficulty getting up and down from the floor. To do this exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a resistance band around your thighs. Engage your core and glutes, then lift your top leg out to the side, keeping your feet together. Slowly lower your leg back to the starting position and repeat.
  • Reverse clamshell exercise: The reverse clamshell targets the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in your buttocks. To do this exercise, lie on your stomach with your legs extended behind you. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle, then lift your feet towards the ceiling, keeping your knees bent. Slowly lower your feet back to the starting position and repeat.
  • Clamshell with resistance band: Adding a resistance band to the clamshell exercise can make it more challenging and increase the intensity. To do this exercise, place a resistance band around your thighs and perform the clamshell as usual. The resistance band will add extra resistance, making your muscles work harder.

Does the Clamshell Exercise Hurt?

The clamshell exercise is generally considered a safe and low-impact exercise. However, if you experience any discomfort or pain while doing the exercise, it is essential to stop and consult a doctor or physical therapist. You may be doing the exercise incorrectly, or you may have an underlying injury that needs to be addressed.

Additionally, if you have any pre-existing conditions or injuries, it is always best to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise routine.


The clamshell exercise is a simple yet effective exercise that can help strengthen your hips and glutes, improve your balance and stability, and prevent injuries. By following the correct form and avoiding common mistakes, you can reap the benefits of this exercise and even try some variations to challenge yourself. Remember to listen to your body and consult a professional if you experience any pain or discomfort while doing the clamshell exercise.