How To Do The Clamshell Exercise For Weak Hip Muscles Properly

95% Of People Do The Clamshell Exercise For Weak Hip Muscles Improperly

The clam or clamshell exercises for weak hip muscles is one the most common physical therapy exercises for back pain, hip pain, and knee pain. However, most people do the clamshell exercise wrong

Watch the video to learn the common mistakes when performing this exercise, and learn how to do the clamshell exercise properly in order to strengthen weak hip muscles...

7 Simple Tips To Get Rid Of Hip Pain by Dr. Dave Candy, More 4 Life Physical Therapy, St. Louis, MO

Common Exercise Mistakes:
The Clamshell Exercise For Weak Hip Muscles

Many people who suffer from back pain, hip pain, or knee pain are taught to do the clamshell to strengthen their hip muscles. And that's a good idea in theory. Weak hip muscles are a common cause of back pain, hip pain, and knee pain  (along with other problems).

The clamshell may very well be the most common therapy exercise given for hip strengthening. Unfortunately, about 95% of people who I see in my practice who have learned the clamshell in the past have been taught to do it improperly.  

(If they learned it on YouTube or by Googling "hip strengthening exercises", that number increases to about 99.9% do it wrong.)

Use these tips to make sure you're doing the clamshell exercise properly:

  1. Start on your side with your hips and knees bent 45 degrees.  It may be helpful to use a pillow between your knees if you have hip pain or knee pain when laying on your side.
  2. Roll your body forward slightly so that your belly button is pointed towards the table
  3. Put your hand on your hip with your thumb above your waist on your low back and your fingers on your hip muscles so that you can feel your hip muscles contract.
  4. Slightly lift your top knee (opening up like a clamshell) by squeezing your hip muscles.
  5. Don't allow yourself to roll backward.  It is more important that you stay rolled forward and just focus on using your hip muscles than how high you lift your knee.
  6. In some cases, you may only be able to separate your knees a little bit.  Some people with really weak hip muscles won't be able to even lift their knee up at all.  That's OK!
  7. It is more important that you focus on feeling your buttock / hip muscles contract than it is how high you lift.
  8. If you notice that you're rolling backwards, or you don't feel your hip muscles working, chances are you're lifting your knee too high.  Roll more forward and only lift your knee a little bit.  Remember, it is more important that you feel your hip muscles contract when doing the clamshell exercise than it is how high you can lift your knee.

Hopefully these tips help you do the clamshell exercise for weak hip muscles properly.

7 Simple Tips To Get Rid Of Hip Pain by Dr. Dave Candy, More 4 Life Physical Therapy, St. Louis, MO

What Other Exercises Help Weak Hip Muscles?

Even if you do the clamshell exercise properly, it's really more of a neuromuscular coordination exercise than it is a strengthening exercise.

What that means is it helps your brain learn how to fire the right muscles at the right time.

However, in terms of an exercise to actually strengthen weak hip muscles, it's a beginning exercise at best.

After all, even when you do the clamshell exercise properly, you're still only lifting the weight of your leg - and not the whole weight at that.

That pales in comparison to holding up the entire weight of your body when you're standing or walking.

If you get back pain, knee pain, or hip pain when walking you're going to need more than just the clamshell exercise to strengthen your hip muscles.

Every time you take a step when walking, your hip muscles have to balance the entire weight of your body on one leg until your other foot gets back to the ground.  For that very reason, standing on one leg is one of the best exercises to strengthen weak hip muscles in a functional manner that replicates walking.

However, just standing on one leg isn't enough.  You have to make sure that you're properly balancing your pelvis in order to strengthen the correct muscles in your hip. Use these tips when standing on one leg to strengthen your hips properly.

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