This week’s Best Butt Exercise is a nice and easy floor exercise that can be done lying down, but don’t let that fool you into thinking its not super effective, because it is.

These are another butt exercise that can easily be done from the comfort of your own bed! Great exercise for first thing in the morning or just before bed to really get the glutes firing and activate the butt muscles.

Clamshells are also known as external hip rotations, because they involve rotating at the hip. Depending on your flexibility you may have some difficulty getting a large range of motion for this move, but you will improve with practice and time.

Hip mobility is one of the first things to go as you age, so this is a great exercise to not only keep those buns nice and perky, but also to fight the loss of mobility that comes with a sedentary lifestyle.

Exercise: Clamshell External Hip Rotations
Muscles worked: Glutes
Jolie Recommends: 20 reps per side, add a resistance band to work the glutes further once well-practiced.
Difficulty rating: 2
Effectiveness rating: 8

Best Butt Exercise #8: Clamshells

How To Do The Move

  1. Start lying on the floor on one side with your legs bent at around 90 degrees at the knees. Angle your thighs from your body at around 135 degrees.
  2. Keeping your hips stacked vertically on top of each other, hinge at the hip to bring the knee of your top leg up, opening your legs like a clamshell.
  3. Keep the heels touching each other, and squeeze the glutes to drive the movement. It’s very important not to let your pelvis roll backwards as you raise your upper leg.
  4. Use your free arm and place your hand on your upper glutes, so you can feel the glute muscles working throughout the exercise. This kind of ‘palpating’ for muscles working can actually increase the amount of muscle recruitment and activation.


Perfecting Your Form

  • Keep the spine in a neutral position – neither arched or hunched.
  • Keep the hips stacked vertically one on top of the other, and perfectly still while you perform this movement. This ensures the glutes provide the movement, not the hips.
  • Slow, controlled movement while maintaining a mental focus on the butt muscles will make this exercise most effective.
  • Squeeze the glutes and pause for a moment at the top of the movement to work the butt even more.

Reppin’ It

Slow, controlled movement with perfect form is the key to reaping the benefits of this exercise. Aim for 20 reps per side with no exercise equipment initially, then step it up with a resistance band around your knees to add extra difficulty to the exercise.

Clamshell Variations

I love the clamshell exercise because it really helps to target the sides of your glutes (like seated band abductions or monster band walks). But another reason I love them is that there are some nice variations you can do with them too!

The first is the ‘suspsended clam’ or ‘flying oyster’. Basically it is the same as a normal clamshell, but you just reposition both feet so they are floating about 1 foot off the ground.

Something like this, but bring the bottom foot up so that your two feet are touching mid-air:

The second variation I like is to do a kind of hybrid move between clamshells and straight leg raises. Start by doing a regular clamshell (feet on the floor version), but pause at the ‘open clam’ position and extend your top leg out straight. Then return to the open clam position, before bringing your knees back together. That’s one rep. Repeat!

You can do both of these variations with or without a band. I suggest starting without a band intially, until you get the hang of it. Enjoy!

Best Butt Exercises: Clamshells
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8 thoughts on “Best Butt Exercises: Clamshells

  • December 19, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Hey Jolie,
    thanks for sharing so many great butt exercises. I discovered the clamshell a while ago and fell in love with it straight away. I discovered a new muscle in my butt the first time i did it. Seriously I was soooo amazed. I do need to incorporate more butt exercises into my workout routine though, as I have been focusing mostly on balance and cardio at the moment. But I am committing myself to the butt challenge. By next summer my butt will be one to show off ;). I’ll be back soon to get some more exercise tips and ideas.

    • December 19, 2014 at 10:16 pm

      Hi Sarah! I absolutely love these too, it’s funny how effective they can be even though it doesn’t seem like an ‘intense’ exercise! They work really well with a resistance band once you get your form perfect. A mini-band around the knees really steps it up a notch!

    • November 23, 2017 at 2:26 am

      Hi Bryan, you can definitely do something similar to this when sitting down, they’re called Seated Band Abductions, but they work best with a resistance band loop for some resistance. They could potentially be done discreetly while seated at your desk! (If you’re aiming to be somewhat covert about it, I’d probably recommend using an open length of resistance band for this, and just hold the two ends together with your hands above your knees to form a loop – it is easier to set up discreetly than trying to poke both legs through a resistance band loop!)

  • April 15, 2018 at 2:31 am

    Do clamshells hit the entirety of glute muscles or just the outside ones? Due to an injury I have problems performing most exercises that require bending like squats, lunges, deadlifts, etc. Trying to incorporate some glute work while that is healing and even hip thrusts aggravate it

    • April 17, 2018 at 6:11 am

      Hi Matt,
      Hope you have a speedy recovery. Clamshells do actually work the Gluteus Maximus (largest of the glute muscles) as well as the smaller outer muscles (Gluteus Medius and Minimus). This is indicated in Table 1 of this study, where muscle activation is measured as a percentage of maximal voluntary muscle contraction (%MVIC), and Clams clock in between 30 – 40 %. If these don’t cause pain and your physician approves, then go ahead and use them! Visualizing the target muscles contracting can really help increase muscle recruitment as well, so don’t underestimate this as a technique.
      Hope this helps and good luck!

  • July 16, 2018 at 3:51 am

    Is there any rule for maximum number of reps n number of sets? For example, can I do 10 sets of 20 reps each?

    • July 16, 2018 at 12:47 pm

      Hey Azad,
      Reps and sets are totally up to you, but I like to get a good muscle burn going at least (this way you know the muscles are working!). This will of course vary from person to person, but for me I’ve found that if I use a heavy resistance band (like booty bands), then I only have to do about 5 reps and already I feel the burn. If I’m doing them without any resistance at all, I’ll need to complete about 20-30 slow and controlled reps before I start feeling it. Whenever I have time I will do multiple sets – 3 is a good number to aim for – this makes sure that I’ve really annihilated the muscles there to try and make them grow bigger for next time! Don’t forget about progressive overload here too!


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