Clam Shells Done RIGHT!
***Quick Disclaimer: Usually when performing a hip clam, the setup for the left versus right will be different. However, the main purpose of this article and video are to help improve awareness of better positioning for general strength! Enjoy!
The hip clam clam is a great functional exercise, that when done correctly, can have a profound impact on your movement. A lack of strength in theses muscles can result in low back pain, decreased performance, and increased compensation during every day activities. It's easy to perform it incorrectly because it takes transverse and sagittal plane stability to really master this frontal plane exercise. Due to this, the movement usually is performed with a good amount of compensation. In this article & video we will look at those common compensations and learn an easy fix you can implement into your workout!
1. Poor Upper Body Positioning: Relative to the lower body, most people begin their hip clams with the upper body too far forward. Additionally, the trunk tends to rotate toward that direction as well. What does this do to our mechanics? It starts the movement at a poorly rotated position that can create an easier compensatory contraction from the low back. Why does this matter? One of the big benefits of the hip clams is to strengthen the rotators of the hips to inhibit and over active low back! Without correcting this problem, you are running in circles and never getting out of pain!
2. Poor Hip Position: An improper position is observed at the hips as well. Most people initiate the movement with a top hip that is rotated backwards relative to the bottom hip. This allows us again to utilize our lower back, if needed, and decreases the challenge on the hip external rotators. For general strength, the hips should be ideally stacked on top of one another in a "neutral position" (besides my disclaimer at the top of the page).
3. Posterior Hip Rotation: Probably the greatest compensation of them all is the posterior rotation that occurs at the hip. As people initiate the movement, they typically begin with hip abduction (correct), but then continue with a posterior hip rotation (incorrect). Part of the reason this occurs because people think or are over-coached to bring the knee as high as possible. However, this poor thought process creates unknowingly compensatory rotation at the hip and doesn't strength the hip rotators. Instead, don't worry about how high you can get, but how high you get without posterior rotation of the hip.
The Solution: The Wall
The wall serves as an excellent reference point to teach the brain non-compensatory movement. When setting up on the wall, we want to ensure that the upper body, hip, and feet are all touching. This addresses the improper positioning as noted above. Moving to the hip, the wall blocks any unnecessary rotation as well as demonstrates the proper amount of anterior/posterior pelvic tilt that is needed. Ideally, the hip is put in a slight posterior pelvic tilt prior to movement. You can confirm that you executed this correctly if a small amount of your low back is touching the wall. You are now in a better position to correctly perform the hip clam and begin to feel the benefits that the movement brings!
Confused? Watch the video below to see the correct technique!