Clamshell Exercise: How To, Alternatives,…

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For many muscles, you have a variety of exercises to choose from. Find out how to do the clamshell exercise and what it works.

The clamshell is an exercise where you lie down sideways with a bend in your knees and raise the upper knee without moving your hips.

This exercise mainly works your hip abductor aka your outer thigh muscles.

One thing to keep in mind is that bodyweight clamshells will likely not be able to see significant results in these muscles.

Instead, you want to do clamshells with a loop resistance band around your upper legs.

Another thing that is worth noting is that the clamshell exercise is not unique either. If you like its benefits, you can consider other outer thigh exercises too.

How to do a clamshell properly

Having something soft to lie down on can make clamshells a lot more comfortable.

That aside, take the following steps to do a clamshell properly:

  1. Lie down sideways with your upper legs pointed slightly forward and your knees at 90-degree angles.
  2. Slowly raise your upper knee as far as you comfortably can while keeping your hips in the same position. Additionally, keep your feet against each other.
  3. Lower your knee back to the position of step 1 in a controlled motion.
  4. Complete your set and do the same number of clamshells on the other side.
How to do a clamshell

The main technique attention point for the clamshell exercise is keeping your hips in the same position.

Putting your upper hand on your hip can make it easier to feel whether or not you are doing this right.

If you are doing clamshells properly, you should feel the muscles in the side of your butt fatiguing.

Muscles worked with clamshells

Clamshells mainly work your hip abductors aka your outer thigh muscles.

To get more specific, these hip abductor muscles include your gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae.

Something many people forget is that just doing a resistance training exercise like clamshells a few times is often not enough to see their desired results.

In simpler words, you still have to do enough clamshells with enough resistance to achieve your goals.

For example, to grow your hip abductors you want to do 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 25 clamshells with a resistance that makes these amounts challenging.

This will typically mean doing clamshells with resistance bands.

Another thing to note is that you likely don’t want to do clamshells every single day. Your muscles typically need some extra time to repair and grow.

Benefits of clamshells

If you keep the guidelines above in mind, clamshells can offer nice benefits. Some examples of these are:

  1. Stronger muscles: By doing clamshells in a good workout program you can grow and strengthen your hip abductors.
  2. Flexibility and mobility: The leg movements involved in clamshells can help you push your limits in terms of flexibility and mobility in and around your hips.
  3. Can help avoid injuries: Making the muscles around your hips stronger with clamshells can help you avoid injuries in this area.
  4. Can improve athletic performance: Your outer thigh muscles play a role when running and especially short turns. That means clamshells could help improve your performance in sports that involve these movements.
  5. Add some variety: Even if you like other hip abductor exercises too, you may find it enjoyable to switch things up with clamshells.

It is nice to know that a single exercise like clamshells can offer these important benefits.

Clamshell alternatives

Clamshells can be a good choice but you may also want to know what other options you have to get the benefits above.

A few examples of clamshell alternatives are:

  • Side leg raises
  • Fire hydrants
  • Weighted leg abductions
  • Side planks
  • Deadlifts
  • Lunges
  • Step-ups

To choose between these clamshell alternatives you want to think about what muscles you want to work and potentially try out a few options.

Are clamshells a good exercise?

Clamshells can be a good exercise to work your hip abductor muscles.

One thing to keep in mind is that you will still need to do clamshells enough times and with enough resistance for your training goals.

This will typically mean you will have to do clamshells with something like resistance bands to see your desired results.

Additionally, it is worth mentioning that clamshells are not completely unique either.

If you prefer to do other outer thigh exercises these could be a better choice. Enjoying the movements in your workout program makes it easier to stay consistent.


What is the clamshell exercise good for?

The clamshell exercise is mainly good for isolating your outer thigh muscles and to some extent improving hip mobility.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.