The clamshell exercise is a staple of any rehab program that calls for glute activation moves.
But honestly, it’s slightly overrated.
And so often done INCORRECTLY.
We end up rotating to get a bigger range of motion. We engage other muscles to try and rush to progress the move and add a band.
We aren’t intentional with the move while focusing on what we feel working.
But part of that is actually because it is so easy to cheat.
For such a seemingly simple move, it is so easy for us to cheat and compensate and ultimately perpetuate the existing issues by overusing the same muscles we are trying to avoid overusing.
All too often this basic move perpetuates the problem instead of activating the muscles we want it to.
We end up engaging our TFL or overworking our piriformis over actually getting our glute medius to pull it’s weight.
That’s why I wanted to share with you one of my favorite Glute Medius Activation Moves to do instead – The Wall Side Lying Lateral Raise.
But before I go into the glute medius move I prefer to use, I did just want to touch on 3 key cues if you decide to use that oh so basic clam exercise.
#1: Turn your top toe down toward the ground.
This cue can actually be useful in many glute medius moves to help inhibit the TFL if it tends to take over.
The internal tibial rotation, or rotation of your lower leg down toward the ground, can help you prevent the TFL from compensating for your glute medius.
When doing the clam, just turn that top foot toward the ground in front of your bottom foot instead of keeping your feet stacked or letting that top foot open up as you raise your top leg.
#2: Don’t focus on a bigger range of motion.
Yes we always want to strengthen through a full range of motion, but we want to make sure it is actually a range of motion we can control with the muscles we want to target.
Too often we end up rotating our entire body or start to overuse muscles like our piriformis to perform a bigger range of motion.
Instead of focusing on making the move bigger, focus on stopping the movement with the glute medius, really feeling it on the side of your butt.
It can even be helpful to put a wall or pole behind you and think about squeezing your butt slightly forward even as you open.
#3: Change your degree of hip flexion.
Struggling to establish that mind-body connection?
Try changing how much you flex or extend your hips.
While this can not only help us target the anterior or posterior fibers of the glute medius more, and make sure we are able to engage the muscle through a variety of postures, it can also help us find a position where we can most easily establish that mind-body connection, especially if we are struggling.
Once you are able to really feel the muscle working, you can even move to a more or less hip flexed position to use that engagement to help you create the mind-body connection while in a position you may not have felt it before!
But because each of us does have a different build and mind-body connection, whether even due to previous injuries, it can be useful to feel free to adjust our exact degree of hip flexion as we learn to master the move and use the correct muscles.
Now let’s talk about how to do the Wall Side Lying Lateral Raise and why I prefer this move over the basic clam.
The Wall Side Lying Lateral Raise:
If you’re struggle to engage your glute medius, it can be helpful to make sure you’re engaging your glute max as well. That’s why this move with the slight kick back can really help.
And because your TFL is a hip flexor and your piriformis assists with horizontal abduction when your hip is flexed to 90 degrees, it can be key to work on activating your glute medius while your hip is extended.
If you think about the clam, you aren’t kicking back and as easily able to use the glute max to help prevent your TFL from compensating.
You also are in that hip flexed position which lends itself to both your Piriformis and TFL engaging, two muscles that often compensate for our glute medius leading to lower back, hip and even knee aches and pains.
And that’s why this Wall Side Lying Lateral Raise is a great go-to glute medius activation move!
This move works on hip extension to engage your glute max while also working to improve your hips stability and glute medius activation.
To do this move, you may start with bodyweight and progress to a mini band variation with the band around your legs just above your knees.
Set up by bending that bottom leg to help you stabilize and set up lying on your side with your back to the wall. You want to set up a few inches out from the wall so you can kick back slightly into the wall. You can fully lie on your side with your bottom arm straight out on the ground or you can prop yourself up to rest your head in your hand.
Then lift your top leg up a few inches off your bottom leg and make sure you do NOT rotate that toe open. You can even turn that top toe slightly down toward the ground.
After lifting up a few inches, drive your heel back into the wall behind you.
From this position, slide your heel up the wall lifting your leg.
Perform this lateral raise but do not rotate your hip open to raise up higher.
Lift up and then slowly slide the leg down. Do not lower completely down and relax out. If you’re using a band, you want to make sure the band doesn’t pull you back down and that you keep tension on it even at the bottom.
You want your glute working the entire time.
Focus on feeling your glute 90
lifting your leg up, and if you have a band pushing against the band, as you feel your glute max working to drive your heel back into the wall extending your hip.
We have to remember that no one move is right for everyone. And even knowing when we DON’T feel a move working the correct muscles can be key so that we can prevent ourselves from perpetuating the problem and even select a move that does better help us establish that mind-body connection.
Use these cues to help yourself make sure you’re adjusting moves to fit your needs and goals and if you’ve been struggling to use the clam, try this lateral raise variation instead!
Working to activate your glutes? Check out my Booty Burner!