Side Plank Clamshells: How To, Benefits,…

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Combining two exercises does not always offer the benefits you hope for. Discover how to do side plank clamshells and whether they are good.

Side plank clamshells are a side plank variation where you combine up and down knee side plank repetitions with the clamshell exercise.

Compared to the regular version, side plank clamshells are easier for your oblique muscles and more challenging for your upper outer thigh muscles.

While this could sound good in theory, side plank clamshells are not that great in practice.

The main reason is that it becomes a lot easier to do the clamshell exercise with a suboptimal technique. If you move your hips too much, your training results will suffer.

Additionally, for most people, the up-down knee side plank will not be hard enough to really grow and strengthen their obliques a lot.

In short, you likely want to choose one of the many more effective side plank clamshell alternatives instead.

How to do a side plank clamshell

If you find side plank clamshells uncomfortable on your elbows, you can use something like a yoga mat instead of a hard floor.

That being said, take the following steps to do this exercise:

  1. Sit sideways on the ground and lean on your lowest forearm. Keep your upper arm about vertical and your knees at about 90-degree angles.
  2. Slowly raise your hips until you are in a straight line from your lowest knee to your lowest shoulder. At the same time, raise your upper knee as far as comfortable without tilting your hips sideways.
  3. Return to starting position in a controlled motion.
  4. Complete your set and repeat the same number of repetitions on the other side.
How to do a side plank clamshell

The main thing to keep in mind during side plank clamshells is not really tilting your hips sideways when you raise your upper knee.

Your leg should do the moving, not your hips.

Additionally, you want to do about the same side plank clamshell workout on each side to avoid muscle imbalances.

Side plank clamshells muscles worked

The main muscles worked in side plank clamshells are your hip abductors (outer thighs) on both sides and your obliques.

More specifically, these hip abductors include muscles like your gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae.

By adding the clamshell movement, you work the upper outer thigh muscles more than in a regular side plank. Especially if you loop a resistance band around your upper legs.

On the flip side, you also work the outer thigh muscles in your lower leg and your obliques less in side plank clamshells. Knee side planks are easier on these muscles.

Additionally, it is easy to move your hips a lot during the clamshell movement because they are not resting on the ground. This is generally suboptimal for results.

You could do weighted side plank clamshells by holding some type of weight on your hips and using a resistance band.

This can offer results but at the same time, you need to know that there are more effective exercise options to work these muscles.

Side plank clamshell benefits

Side plank clamshells are often not the most effective option available but they do still offer helpful benefits. A few of these include:

  1. Stronger muscles: You can still see muscle growth and strength progress by doing side plank clamshells with enough resistance and repetitions.
  2. Can reduce your injury risk: Strengthening the muscles around your core and hips can help you reduce your injury risk in these areas.
  3. Could improve flexibility and mobility: Side plank clamshells can help you push your limits of how far you can comfortably move muscles and body parts.

People who like doing side plank clamshells can still consider this exercise for the benefits above.

Side plank clamshell alternatives

Side plank clamshells offer the benefits above but you may want to know about the alternatives that can help you get these effects to larger extents. Some of these include:

  • Side leg raises
  • Regular clamshells
  • Side bends
  • Weighted standing leg abductions
  • Fire hydrants
  • Other side plank variations

Your personal preferences, what muscles you want to work, and what equipment you have will influence what side plank clamshell alternatives are the best for you.

Are side plank clamshells a good exercise?

While side plank clamshells do still offer benefits, you can not really say they are a good exercise.

This is mostly because the extra side plank movement does not really offer that much more oblique engagement but does tend to make your outer thigh muscle workout less effective.

The result of this is that most people will prefer regular clamshells, other hip abductor (outer thigh) exercises, and/or other oblique exercises.

Since personal preference matters to some extent too, you can still consider side plank clamshells if you like doing them.

In that case, you may need to do the exercise with a weight on your hips and a resistance band looped around your upper legs to work your muscles hard enough to get results.


What is a side plank clamshell?

A side plank clamshell is a combination of a knee side plank and the clamshell exercise. This adds a bit of oblique engagement but also tends to make your outer thigh workout worse. In turn, most people want to choose one of the side plank clamshell alternatives.

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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.