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Hip External Rotation Clamshell Exercise

By Sean | In Events and Announcements | on October 15, 2011

Clams can improve squat depth and stability

An exercise that we incorporate a lot into our warmups are “Clams” or the Hip External Rotation Clamshell Exercise. I’ve borrowed some of Mike Reinold’s information before on the Shoulder W post and I’ll use some of his information and video demonstrations again to discuss the clamshell exercise.  Just as the shoulder W and the “no money” drills are excellent ways to strengthen and prepare the shoulder for external rotation, the clamshell exercise strengthens and prepares the hips for external rotation.  You can think of this as pushing your knees out as you pull yourself deep into a squat.  In terms of simplicity and effectiveness there aren’t many exercises that top the clamshell.

“Why is it so valuable,” you ask?

In Mike’s article here he mentions that EMG studies have shown that the clamshell exercise, if done properly, produce a good amount of muscle activity in the gluteus medus and maximus, which is very helpful especially on squat days.  He gives a few pointers for performing the movement:

  • Support your head and neck in a neutral position.  Also, use a resistance band to get the most out of the movement.  This increases the invovlements of the hip external rotator muscles not only on the top leg but also in the bottom leg as it works to isometrically hold its position.
  • Your legs can be positioned at 60, 30, or 0 degrees.  At neutral or 0 degrees the movement will become more difficult and range of motion will decrease.  Normal range of motion for hip ER is about 30 degrees with the hip extended and 50 degrees with the hip flexed, so a noticeable decrease of hip rotation is normal.  However, with the hips at 0 degrees the glute medius becomes more involved with the movement where the glue maximus and the deep external rotators are the major players with the hips flexed at 30 or 60 degrees.
  • Emphasize placing your hand along your iliac crest.  This helps to cue to body to not rotate and incorporate the low back, which is likely the most common fault during this exercise, especially in those that have really weak glutes.  Also, by placing your hand on your hip, you can put your thumb on your glutes to feel and facilitate the contraction.  It really helps with your technique.

Here is Mike’s video of how to perform the Clamshell exercise with the hips flexed.

Here is Mike’s video of how to perform the Clamshell with the hips neutral.

Finally, a more advanced version of the clamshell exercise has the hips at neutral and holding a side plank position while simultaneously performing the movement. See the demonstration below.

WOD 10.15.11

Marcus’ Prowler Challenge

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