Are Clams a Sham?

Have you ever had hip or knee pain? And have you been told by your physio that you have a problem with your glutes? Did you then get shown how to do the wonder/awkward exercise “clams”?… Then please read on!

Clamshell Exercise For Glutes

Are ‘Clams’ a waste of time…?

The clam in theory may sound like the perfect glute exercise, but its biggest use is actually telling us more about the lack of exercise knowledge in the world of health professionals. There is no perfect exercise so if it is given out as a beginner exercise and then progressed on to something more suitable within a week or two, I won’t be too disappointed. The reality however is that you have been given clams by a health professional and you’ve been doing them for 3-6 months now without any change in sight!

Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? Let’s dive a little further into this…

“Clams will help you with glute activation or hip stabilisation”

So why can’t you just do clams forever??? It seems the clam exercise is prescribed to you for any pain or condition known to man that occurs beneath the belly button. The problem with this is it is an exercise where you are lying on your side, something that generally doesn’t cause you any problems and not something you need to improve at.

You will be told how the clam will help activate your glutes and that this will help you when standing up, however the research tells us this just isn’t true. Clams will make you good at one thing, lying on your side and lifting your knee up and down – not usually your goal or desired outcome (though if it is then continue)!

“Clams are a nice easy starter exercise”

The other problem I have with clams is that they are actually difficult for you to perform well. A lot of the time you have never completed exercises like this before and your first attempt at a clam recruits everything but your glutes! If your health professional asks where do you feel the burn – you usually respond with your lower back, the front of your hip and down your thigh, most of which we don’t want working. 

Now we could spend a session teaching you how to perform this exercise well, however I feel that defeats the purpose of it being an easy starter exercise – if you need 20-30 minutes to teach it, you can probably spend the same amount of time teaching a better complex exercise, right?! And let’s be honest, clams aren’t sexy, they aren’t fun, they’re boring! And a boring exercise means you’re less likely to do it! Heck I’d probably turn on Married at First Sight instead!

Note: When I say complex, I simply mean from a perspective, usually most other exercises are just as simple to perform.

“Clams help to isolate Glute Med”

Health professionals talk about the clam like it is the mightiest of all glute med exercises… however a recent study painted quite a different picture. When compared to other exercises for activation of glute med using EMG data of the muscle contraction, the clam ranked 12th and 14th (two variations of the clam) out of 19 exercises! So somehow the holy grail of glute med exercises didn’t even make the top 10! As a Crows fan I’ll argue that 12th isn’t so bad this year… but let’s be real here.

Emg Data Of The Muscle Contraction Ranking

So what did make the top 10? Squatting, Deadlifts, Bridging, Lunges and all sorts of other variations! So if you’ve been seeing a someone who has identified a hip or glute component to your pain and is still insisting on using a clam to get you stronger, then I’d probably leave…

When looking at all of these points, it is pretty clear that the clam is just a sham in most cases…

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Mana NankivellMana Nankivell
00:38 18 Apr 23
I highly recommend Trent and the Physio Fit team.I sustained a knee injury (fat pad impingement) in a half-marathon around 18 months ago, and after 12 months of seeing a (different) physio and sports doctors without any improvement, I was told by the doctor that I would "probably just have to put up with the pain".I booked in with the team at Physio Fit for another opinion, and it was the best decision I ever made. Trent put together a very manageable rehab plan for me and was quick to respond and adapt when something didn't work out. In the past 6 months, I've gone from not being able to walk without pain or even think about hiking, running or cycling without my knee flaring up, to running my first post-injury 5.5km trail run and hiking 10km with a 10kg pack!
Laura O'ConnorLaura O'Connor
08:47 05 Feb 23
This clinic is the pinnacle of physiotherapy in Adelaide. Ive seen a couple of different physios at physiofit over the years for different injuries and the experience has been absolutely amazing each time! Highly recommend seeing the team here for all your physio needs!
Ryen ArcherRyen Archer
02:50 03 Feb 23
Corey is absolutely fantastic, worked out my issues and we have been working to improve them for a few months now and all I can say is I am feeling a million times better! thanks physio fit! Keep up the great work!
Amy SzyndlerAmy Szyndler
02:44 03 Feb 23
I attended Physio Fit to get my tennis elbow treated. Always a friendly greeting from the lovely reception staff, and my physio, Corey, was fantastic; very friendly, knowledgeable and provided treatment that was personalised and holistic. Following Corey's advice and exercise regime helped me get back to the activities I enjoy, pain-free. Highly recommended.
Debbie MossDebbie Moss
07:21 02 Feb 23
Have been taking my daughter here for quite a few months now for ongoing back issues. The care that she has been given through her Physiotherapist Corey, has been fantastic. Everything has been explained and if exercises have needed to be modified he has. Would thoroughly recommend this place for any Physio needs. All staff that we have dealt with have been friendly and professional. A great team and environment.
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