This move may look relaxed, but you’ll definitely feel the burn.
You may have never seen or heard of a clam shell (the fitness move, that is), but here’s why you need to add it to your gym sesh: It’s a low-impact, leg-strengthening workout that targets a forgotten muscle group, the hip abductors.
When gym buffs reference “abduction,” they’re referring to any exercise that moves a part of the body away from the center. Hip abductor muscles are responsible for moving the legs away from the body’s center.
This clam shell exercise move is not only great for building strength in the hip abductors, but it also works perfectly for hip, leg, and lower back rehabilitation. Physical therapists commonly use clam shells and other hip abduction exercises to help patients recover due to their effectiveness in strengthening the glutes and easing lower back injuries.
How to Do a Clam Shell Exercise
To start, lie on your side and use your arm to prop up your head. (Yep, get comfy.) Lift both feet off the ground and bend the knees at a 45-degree angle.
With your feet staying together, raise and lower your top knee as if you are opening and closing a clam shell—hence the name. While doing this motion, keep your lower knee on the floor and your hips and pelvis as still as possible. In the perfect clam shell exercise, your hip abductors will do the bulk of the work, with a little help from the core muscles to provide stability.
Too challenging? You can drop your feet to the ground to take a little pressure off the leg and core muscles.
Once you’ve mastered the clam shell move, put it to practice in this 8-minute workout that targets the glutes.
Sidorkewicz N, Cambridge EDJ, McGill SM. Examining the effects of altering hip orientation on gluteus medius and tensor fascae latae interplay during common non-weight-bearing hip rehabilitation exercises. Clinical Biomechanics. 2014 Nov;29(9):971-6.