How to Do the Pilates Clam Exercise


The Pilates clam exercise works your hips, thighs and buttocks, creating a balanced musculature. Balance is crucial to avoiding overuse injuries, writes Lynne Robinson, author of “The Official Body Control Pilates Manual.” You can perform the Pilates clam series by completing all three exercises on one side and then switching to your other side.

Things You'll Need

  • Padded exercise mat

Classic Clam

  • Lie down on your right side with your thighs stacked and your knees tucked forward at a 45-degree angle. Draw your navel in and lengthen your spine.

  • Squeeze your buttocks as you open your legs, lifting your left thigh up. Keep your feet stacked. Open and close your legs -- like a clam opening and closing -- 10 to 15 times.

  • Pulse in ½-inch increments at the top of the movement to intensify the exercise. Add five pulses to each of your 10 to 15 repetitions.

Reverse Clam

  • Lie on your right side with your thighs stacked and your knees tucked forward at a 45-degree angle, just as you did for the classic clam exercise. Exhale as you rotate your left thigh inward, allowing your foot and shin to lift up. You are opening like a clam, at the ankles instead of the knees.

  • Inhale as you close your legs and exhale as you open them. Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times. Do not allow your spine to arch or tuck.

  • Add five tiny pulses of no more than an inch in the open clamshell position to intensify this exercise.

Clam Squeeze

  • Lie down on your right side with your thighs stacked and your knees tucked forward at a 45-degree angle. Place a small pillow between your inner thighs.

  • Exhale slowly as you gently squeeze the pillow. Draw your navel in and keep your spine long. You may feel your lower back, or sacroiliac joint, release in this position, Robinson notes. Inhale as you release the pillow. Perform 10 to 15 squeezes.

  • Add three tiny inward pulses as you squeeze the pillow to intensify the exercise.

Tips & Warnings

  • Line up your spine with the edge of your mat when setting up for your workout. This will help you keep your spine long.
  • The exercises may feel more difficult on your second leg. That leg was already working to stabilize you, so it is already experiencing some fatigue.
  • Check with your health care provider before beginning an exercise program for the first time or if you have been away from fitness programs for a while, or if you have any chronic health issues.

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  • The Official Body Control Pilates Manual; Lynne Robinson
  • Photo Credit Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images
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