What should I avoid during the side-lying clamshells exercise for the hip?

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When performing the side-lying clamshells exercise, avoid excessively hyper extending your spine or rotating your pelvis backwards. Keep your hips vertical and perpendicular to the floor. Additionally stop the exercise if you feel pain. Lastly, make sure you breathe normally and avoid holding your breath.

Rick Olderman
Physical Therapy
The side-lying clamshells exercise restores strength to the gluteus medius muscle located on the back of the hip, which helps when walking to prevent excessive side-bending and therefore rotation of the spine.

To do the side-lying clamshells exercise:

Lie down on your left side with knees bent and spine in a neutral position. Engage your lower abdominals to stabilize your spine and pelvis. Be sure your hip bones are stacked on top of each other (the tendency is for the top hip to rock backward). Press your fingers into the back of the top (left) hip to monitor contraction of your muscles. Keeping your heels touching, raise your left knee and rotate it back, creating an arc with your left knee. Do not allow your hips to roll back; keep them stacked. Feel the muscles engage at your hip, under your fingers. Lower your knee only to the point at which the muscles turn off -- usually 1/4 to 1/2 inch for beginners. Lowering the knee too far will allow the gluteus medius to turn off. We want it to stay on as long as possible, so keep the knee high by lowering it only 1/2 inch or so while feeling the muscle contract. Continue rotating the knee up and down, keeping the contraction. Stop if back or hip pain occurs or you are unable to maintain good form. Perform 5 to 15 repetitions or until fatigued. Switch sides.

Common mistakes when doing the side-lying clamshells exercise include:
  • If your hip muscles are weak, the top hip may rock back to get your knee up in the air. This favors the tensor fascia lata (TFL). Make the movement smaller so your hip doesn't rock backward.
  • If back or hip pain occurs, you're compensating your form. Make sure the top heel is resting on the bottom heel. Try placing a towel or pillow between your heels or knees. Limit the range of motion to a smaller range. Check to confirm your hips are stacked on top of each other. Also, draw your belly button in to better stabilize your spine.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.