How To Do The Clamshell Exercise For Weak Hip Muscles Properly

Common Exercise Mistakes: The Clamshell Exercise For Weak Hip Muscles

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...

The "Clamshell" Is A Common Hip Strengthening Exercise

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 alike (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 wrong.  

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

Use thes 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.

If you'd like to find out if there are other common exercises that you're doing wrong, give us at call at 314-941-3970 or email me at and we can help you learn how to do your exercises properly so that they're helping to do what they're actually intended to do.

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