I seem to be obsessing about hip strength this week, so here you go:  my finicky, detailed version of hip rotations or clamshells, that will actually strengthen your deep hip muscles!

This series helps to stabilise your leg bones in the centre of your hip sockets, thereby reducing friction in your hip joints and decreasing uneven pressure on your knees. That makes them a great go-to for anyone with arthritis (keeping the range appropriate) and osteoporosis.

Also, and let’s focus on the important part here, strong hip muscles get you a lovely round booty! And a good butt is what you need for a healthy pelvic floor and well-fitting pants. So there… aim for 1 minute of action for each position on each side every day. Go for it!

Clamshells Version 1

  • Lie on your side, knees bent and feet lined up with your sit bones.
    Lift your feet, keeping your knees on the mat
  • Press your heel together all the time
    Keep your torso and pelvis stable by gently wrapping your abs around your abs
  • Rotate your leg bone in the hip socket so that your knee lifts.

THIS IS IMPORTANT! **Turn your leg bone in the hip socket** – Imagine an old fashioned radio knob on the side of the hip and turn that to lift your thigh bone

It’s easy to just lift your knee, but that makes this a quad exercise (the muscles that run along the front of your thigh) rather than what we need: an exercise that targets the rarely used muscles deep in the hip structure.

There are six small, deep muscles in a row being targeted in this series.
  • The first position gives you the most surface ones and the biggest range of motion.
  • The second position, where you keep your feet on the mat, targets the middle layer and results in a smaller range but possibly more sensation.
  • The third position, where you bend your hips and knees into approximately 90 degree angles (think tabletop on your side) reaches the deepest layer. It is, therefore, the smallest range with the biggest ouch potential!
This is a tricky group to find, but soooo satisfying once you get it.

Clamshells Version 2

  • Bring your feet down to the floor, still lined up with your sit bones.
  • Turn your leg in your hip socket in this position to get at a different part of your deep hip muscles

Clamshells Version 3

  • Bring your knees forward a little bit and your shins forward so the are lined up with the front of your mat
  • Keep pressing those heels!
  • Turn your leg again. This gets a third proportion of your deep hip. Can you feel the difference?
Here’s a demonstration with a few more details.
And here’s another version of clamshells from a little later, with much longer hair!
There are a few tricks to use if you don’t feel the work in the back/ side of your hip:
  • put your hand the side of your hip and give a good scratch to wake up the muscles
  • hold your hand in the same place and see if you can feel the muscle moving with your hand, even if you can’t “feel” it with your brain
  • only lift the leg as high as you can go feeling the work in the side of the hip, even if that means a very small range.
Ready to make your clamshells even more awesome? Read on for more about how your feet connect to your hips!


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