How to Do the Side Lying Clamshell Exercise (With Perfect Form)

How to Do the Side Lying Clamshell Exercise
How to Do the Side Lying Clamshell Exercise (With Perfect Form)

Are you looking for an exercise that can strengthen your hips and pelvis? Look no further than the side-lying clamshell! This simple yet effective exercise is a staple in physical therapy and personal training programs alike. Whether you’re short on time or don’t have access to a lot of equipment, the side-lying clamshell is a great option that can be done just about anywhere.

But wait, there’s more!

In this blog post, we’re going to take a deep dive into the side-lying clamshell exercise. We’ll cover everything from proper form to modifications that can make it more challenging. Plus, we’ll explain which muscles you’re working on and who can benefit from this exercise. So, whether you’re a seasoned gym-goer or just starting your fitness journey, you won’t miss this comprehensive guide to the side-lying clamshell exercise.

Who should be doing the clamshell exercise

The best answer is just about everyone should be doing this exercise. This is beneficial for the elderly to build up hip strength and reduce falls. It’s a great exercise for weekend warriors to build up hip control and perfect for the young athlete to improve performance.

The clamshell exercise is also ideal for those who suffer from back, hip, or glute muscle imbalances. It helps strengthen the glutes and can be used as a preventive tool to decrease the risk of injury or pain in these areas.

People with back pain can benefit greatly from the clamshell exercise as it helps to strengthen and stabilize their hips and provides a solid foundation for their spine. This is also a great exercise for anyone with a labral tear or anterior hip injury to strengthen the back side of the hip joint.

One of our favorite patient groups that benefit from this exercise is anyone with a labral tear or anterior hip dysfunction. The stronger and more powerful the glutes are, the less pain and pressure that’s placed on the anterior hip.

Furthermore, athletes looking to raise their level of performance through increased back and glute strength may also reap great rewards from this strengthening exercise. A stronger hip leads to more power and more speed during athletic performance.

Benefits of the Clamshell Exercise

The Clamshell Exercise is versatile and can provide numerous physical therapy, rehabilitation, and performance benefits.

  • This exercise is designed to improve glute strength, core strength, and muscular endurance, which can help with overall mobility and decrease pain.
  • When done correctly, the Clamshell Exercise can also assist with postural control by strengthening the glutes and other muscles of the posterior chain.
  • Moreover, glute strengthening exercises such as this one may even help to improve running economy and speed and reduce injury risk during running.

In summary, the Clamshell Exercise is a beneficial physical therapy exercise that targets glute strength, core strength, muscular endurance, and improved movement patterns in order to reduce pain and build up injury-prone areas.

How to Perform the Exercise Correctly

Learning how to perform an exercise correctly is essential in physical therapy. It ensures you’re targeting the right muscles and getting the most out of your routine.

To perform this hip exercise correctly, it’s important to remember these key points:

  • Start by lying on your side with your hips bent to 45 degrees and your knees bent to 90 degrees.
  • Your feet should be stacked on top of one another and remain touching throughout the movement.
  • Start the movement by rotating the hip and bringing the knee up toward the ceiling.
  • Avoid rotating your spine or pelvis, and tighten your abdominal muscles for added support.
  • Once at the top of the motion, slowly lower the knee back down to the other leg in a slow and controlled manner

Implementing these tips is the first step towards improving the hip and glute and strengthening the surrounding muscles.

How to Make the Clamshell More Challenging

For those looking for an extra challenge with the clamshell exercise, there are many different ways to make this exercise more challenging, including resistance bands, changing to a standing position, performing on an unstable surface, or even trying to perform in a side plank position.

To add a resistance band to the hip exercise, start by lying on your side and place a mini loop band around both legs just above the knee. Start with a light resistance band and gradually increase the tension as you progress. As you move your leg towards the ceiling, you’ll feel the challenge from the resistance band.

Clamshell with band
Clamshell with band

To change to standing, stand up near a wall and place your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Place the band around the legs just above the knees. Place the bottom of one foot against the wall. This is the leg that will be moving is the target leg, although the other leg gets a great workout holding the single leg balance position.

standing clamshell exercise with band
Standing Clamshell

Try performing the movement in a side plank position to increase the intensity. Begin in a side plank position with your elbow and feet as support. Place the band around both legs just above the knees, ensuring tension on the band throughout the entire movement. When rotating the top leg up to the ceiling, ensure that you can maintain a straight side plank for the entirety of the movement. This is an absolute killer exercise!

side plank clamshell with band
side plank clamshell with band

Finally, you can also perform this exercise by using an unstable surface such as a Bosu ball. You do this two ways. First, you can perform in a side plank with your elbow on the bosu ball, creating a real challenge for the core. Or you can perform this in a bridge position with your feet on the bosu ball and your hips pushing into a resistance band outward.

bosu side plank
bosu side plank

A helpful tip is to start slowly and progress gradually with any new resistance added to maintain proper form throughout the activity. It’s important to find the resistance that challenges you the right amount but be cautious of progressing too quickly, increasing your risk for injury.

Have fun trying the different variations; some of them are much more challenging than they look!

Common Mistakes When Performing the Clamshell

Proper technique is key when it comes to completing physical therapy exercises such as the clamshell.

Unfortunately, there are several common mistakes made when performing a particular exercise that could not only hinder progress but also may cause injury.

  • One of the most typical errors when doing physical therapy exercises is rolling the pelvic back instead of keeping it in inline. Rotating the pelvis backward causes movement at the spine instead of the hip, defeating the purpose of the exercise.
  • Another mistake people often make is lifting their feet into the air instead of keeping them touching and anchored together on the floor. While this does still work the hip, it gets different hip muscles that can be targeted in other ways more effectively.
  • Lastly, not having enough hip flexion can also be a problem when executing the exercise, as that angle is key to activating special muscles deep within the joint. Try and keep the hips at a 45-degree angle or even slightly more to get the most benefit.

Keeping these common errors in mind will help all physical therapy exercisers perform each move safely and efficiently.


The clamshell exercise is a great way to improve your hip strength and stability. It can be performed with or without resistance, making it perfect for beginners and advanced exercisers alike.

Be sure to perform the clamshell exercise properly to get the most benefit from the exercise. If you want to make the clamshell more challenging, there are several easy variations that you can try.

And finally, avoid common mistakes when performing the clamshell, so you don’t jeopardize your results. Now that you know all about the clamshell exercise, give it a try and see what benefits you experience.

Let us know in the comments which variation of the clamshell exercise is your favorite and why.