Doing Resistance Band Clam-Shell – A Right Way

The clamshell exercise is one of the prime reasons; people buy booty bands. Everybody knows a simple fact that the clamshell exercise is meant for glute strengthening.

Is it more than enough! Really Not. Doing the strengthening and conditioning of the body is not only limited to knowing the body parts. There is a vast network of muscles working around the joints of the whole body.

Understanding the exact muscles, we need to contract during resistance band clam shells increases the efficiency of this exercise manifold.

Here I am going to explain the structure and set-up of glute muscles in the hip and how they are affected by clamshell exercise with a mini loop resistance band.

The above information shall further assist you in grasping the idea behind the common mistakes, which I shall explain while demonstrating clamshell exercise later in this article.

So, what is the correct way of doing clamshells with resistance bands? Engaging the right kind of glute muscles without compensation from the adjoining muscles of the hip is a key to perfect banded clamshells. Lay on the ground and turn sideways while keeping the feet together and knees bent at a 90-degree angle.  Now, bring the upper knee close to the side of the hip while contracting the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius muscles. After that, turn the top knee back to its original position while keeping the feet still intact. Repeat the same move with another leg.

Why am I only talking about gluteus maximus and medius muscles? Where are they situated in the hip? How do I ensure that I am only contracting gluteus maximus and medius?

Here is my explanation of these obvious questions.

❝ Hi, I am Ravi, your companion and a passionate fitness athlete, cyclist, runner, gym enthusiast who just loves the concept of resistance bands for their extreme flexibility. I have been using resistance bands as one of my primary fitness equipment for the last many years ❞

So, let us begin-

Types of glute muscles (a brief introduction)

The glute muscles preliminary assists in following functions

  1. Hip extension (straightening of joint)
  2. Hip flexion (moving thigh towards the abdomen)
  3. Hip external (abduction) and internal rotation (adduction).

All the above functions are handled by the different glute muscles which are detailed herein under –

a) Gluteus minimus muscles –

These are the innermost muscles near the front side of the hip. They originate from the side of the pelvis bone and ends at the femur (thigh bone).

When gluteus minimus muscle contracts (reduces in length), they pull the thigh bone (femur) towards the hip, causing the inward rotation of the upper leg.

b) Gluteus medius muscle –

These muscles surround the gluteus minimus muscles. They originate from the side of the pelvis bone and ends at the side of the femur (thigh bone).

When gluteus medius muscle contracts, they pull the thigh towards the lateral side, i.e., obliques. As such, their prime function is leg abduction (outward movement of legs towards the side of the body).

c) Gluteus maximus muscle –

This muscle is by far the most massive glute muscle and covers the almost complete backside of the butts. The gluteus maximus is further divided into lower, middle, and higher regions. As gluteus maximus covers the major part of the hip, It is responsible for leg abduction as well as external rotation of the hip. 

Similar to the other glute muscles, they also originate from the hip bone and ends over a comparatively more substantial area of the femur (thigh bone).

How the glute muscles behave during banded clamshell exercise?

Now, we know the anatomy of glute muscles. Let us take the next step towards the muscles that take the maximum load during banded clamshells.

During a clamshell workout with mini loop bands, we need to rotate the leg externally while keeping feet fixed together.

The above movement of the leg involves external rotation of hip along with hip abduction towards the side. From the information, we got in previous paragraphs, the gluteus maximus muscles aids in hip external rotation along with hip abduction.

That means the gluteus maximus muscles are the prime movers.

As the gluteus medius muscles are responsible for hip abduction (sideways movement of the leg). They are also activated though not as much as the gluteus maximus muscles.

From the above discussion, it can be quickly concluded that the targeted muscles during clamshell with resistance bands are gluteus maximus with serious competition from gluteus medius muscles.

📑 Here is a vital resource explaining the difference between the gluteus maximus and other glute muscles for more information from DoctoryessisGluteus maximus and glute muscles are different.

👉 NOTE –

There are several other muscle groups such as abdominal muscles, oblique muscles, hip rotators (small group of muscles on the backside of the hip), lower back muscles (erector spinae), which act isometrically (without a change in length) to provide stability to the moving parts.

However, the concentric contraction (dynamic reduction in length) is initiated by the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius muscles. As such, they are the biggest gainer out of all muscle groups.

The correct way of performing clamshells using resistance bands –

Doing clamshell without any external resistance is the least beneficial. Adding the resistance band such as booty bands around thighs makes gluteus maximus and gluteus medius muscles to work harder for rotating and abducting hip.

Here are the step by step detailed instructions with useful tips to keep primary muscles engaged –

  • Lay down on your one side over the mat.
  • Wear a mini loop band of appropriate size according to your fitness level, around the thighs just above the knees.
  • Join the feet together while keeping knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Keep the neck rested over the arm, lying against the mat to avoid stressing it.
  • Now the rotate the upper knee sideways as high as possible while keeping feet fixed together steady in its place against the resistance of the hip circle band.
  • Focus on glute muscles; I elaborated earlier. Use them to bring the knee in outward direction while breathing out.

👉 NOTE- 

Once we decide to make any movement, our brain tries its best to make it happen even if the primary muscles are weak. The brain does so by engaging the other adjoining muscles, thereby decreasing the overall impact over the targeted muscles.

This is the reason; the muscle mind connection is of utmost importance. Understanding the dynamics of muscles and skeleton bones is paramount.

  • Once the upper knee reaches in the plane of butts, it is time to slowly bring it back while breathing in.

👉 FACT –

In every exercise, we need to breathe in during the eccentric contraction (returning of targeted muscle to original length against the gravity) and breathe out during concentric contraction (the lifting phase where muscle contracts).

  • Do 9 to 10 repetitions of the upper leg in the above manner. Repeat the same steps with another leg.
  • The steps from sr. no. 1 to 8 makes one set. Do 3 to 4 sets of banded clamshells.

Common mistakes to avoid during resistance bands assisted clamshells –

The clamshell workout looks pretty simple. There are some mistakes that most of the beginners make due to the wrong technique, costing you a knee injury.

👉 FACT –

The glute muscles, while ensuring the stability of the hip, also maintains the health of the knee joint. The tight or overactive glute muscles create counteraction by the other muscles connected with the pelvis such as rectus femoris ( a quadriceps muscle which passes through the patella (knee cap) and ends at the tibia ( lower leg bone)) and IT band among others. It results in instability around the knee joint, causing pain in the process.

So avoiding the mistakes and strengthening the hip muscles appropriately is a must.

Here are the two common mistakes we need to avoid –

a) The backward movement of hip –

As told earlier, our body tries to compensate for the weak muscles by contracting the surrounding muscles. People with weak glute muscles, in a bid to move the leg sideways, tilts their hip backward.

➤ It happens when glute muscles are not able to pull the upper thigh bone further. This is the point where the body deploys the lower back muscles and pull the hip backward to compensate for the weak external rotation of butts.

💡 TIP –

Beginners often try to replicate the range of motion of other athletes by dangerously modifying the posture. It is better if we restrict the range of motion while keeping the posture intact.

It is recommended to strengthen the weak glute muscles by discarding resistance bands for some time. Once we get adapted to the simple clamshells, the loop bands can be added to grow the glute muscles.

b) Over engagement of tensor fascia muscle –

The above muscle runs along the side of the femur (thigh bone). It originates from the side of the hip and ends midway along the length of the thigh bone at the Iliotibial band (IT band).

IT band is a tendon (a white stretchy material) that originates from the side of the hip and ends at the tibia (lower leg bone) passing over the side of the knee joint.

The tensor fascia muscle also helps in leg abduction similar to the gluteus maximus and medius muscles by contracting and pulling the thigh towards the side of the butts.

People with weaker glutes, often over engage tensor fascia and IT band for completing the range of motion of the clamshell exercise. As a result, glutes are not worked upon as intended.

🙂 Possible solutions –

Squeeze your abdominal muscles to keep core stable in its position. Further, keep the upper hand over on the waist to become aware of the hip movement as and when it happens. Keep the back in a neutral position without arching inwards.

Focus on using glute muscles to lift the knee sideways instead of leg muscles.

📑 Here is an essential resource from Thestudentphysicaltherapist about the common issues with a clamshell exercise – The ups and downs of the clamshell exercise.

Other variations of banded clamshells –

There are several different variations of clamshell exercise with resistance bands. Here are some of them listed as under-

a) Banded clamshell in a supine position –

Here, instead of lying sideways, we lay straight on the ground while facing upwards. The hip loop band is wrapped around the lower thigh area as usual.

We need to move both knees together or one by one away from each other towards the sides of the hip to the extent possible by using glute power while keeping back in a neutral position.

The above exercise is ideal for beginners.

b) Banded clamshell in a plank position –

The above exercise is meant for the advanced athletes, where benefits of the plank are combined with the clamshells.

Here, we need to hold a side plank position with one elbow and hand pressing against the floor. Stretch the mini loop band through the upper knee while keeping feet together fixed in their place.

The ability to hold a plank posture for at least 60 seconds is a must to progress into this variation.

c) Resistance Band clamshell in bride position-

The traditional bridge exercise is an isometric exercise where we need to hold the body in a position against the bodyweight. The bridge exercises preliminary targets gluteus maximus and erector spinae (back muscles).

What if we need to stretch the mini loop band with both knees while holding the body in a bridge. It shall be a perfect glute workout to supercharge the butts from all the angles.

The above exercise is best for intermediate and advanced athletes.

📑 If you liked the way I explained the clamshells with resistance bands, here are some other resistance band exercises I explained similarly in relevance to the muscles that work behind them –



Do subscribe to Unique Addict for the latest update about the most recent articles like above when published right in your inbox.

Leave a Comment