How to Do the Pilates Clam Exercise

Woman in the clam starting position
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The clam is a popular and easy Pilates exercise. It is a basic movement that is a good introduction for beginners and provides a foundation for a more advanced Pilates exercises.

The Pilates clam is very easy to do and once you get into the rhythm, you will find it to be a great addition to your workout that targets your hips, thighs, and those all important glutes.

What Is the Clam in Pilates?

Pilates clam is a simple exercise that begins to tone the hips and thighs. It also teaches pelvic stability as the leg rotates inward and outward at the hip.

This exercise is calling on your deep six hip muscles.These smaller and lesser-known hip muscles help with the movement of your legs and hip, create pelvic movement and are important to the overall health and integrity of your hip.

Clam will help you build the strength and flexibility you need in more difficult side-lying exercises. You will need the same skills—pelvic stability, shoulder stability, abdominal control, and moving the leg independent of the pelvis—when you move on to exercises like the side kick series.

How to Do a Pilates Clam

You will need a Pilates mat or a firm, padded surface.

  1. Lie on your side with your hips and shoulders in a straight line.
    • Bend your knees so that your thighs are at a 90-degree angle to your body.
  2. Rest your head on your top arm as it is stretched out overhead, or bent, whichever is more comfortable.
    • Make sure your neck is long so that your head is not tipped back or tucked forward.
  3. Bend your top arm and place your hand on the floor in front of your chest for extra stability.
  4. Stack your hips directly on top of each other vertically. Do the same with your shoulders.
  5. Keep your big toes together as you slowly rotate your leg in the hip socket so that the top knee opens.
    • Open the knee only as far as you can go without disturbing the alignment of your hips.
  6. Slowly bring your knee back to the start position.

Repeat the clam 5 times, then change sides.

When You Are Comfortable

As already mentioned, the clam is the foundation for other Pilates exercises where you will lie on your side. Finding that perfect balance to keep your body aligned is key and it is important to practice the clam as often as you can.

When you do find your comfort zone with the clam, you can begin to build on it.

A Breathing Pattern

Begin by adding a breath pattern to your clam routine. Follow your breath and open your knees when you exhale and close them when you inhale.

Keep your breath slow and steady and follow this pattern with a gentle rhythm.

The Clam Squeeze and Reverse Clam

These exercises are similar to the clam. Instead of lifting your knee, you will keep your knees together.

For the Clam Squeeze:

  1. Lie in the same position as the clam and place a pillow between your knees.
  2. As you slowly exhale, gently squeeze the pillow with your knees.
  3. On you inhale, release the pillow.

Repeat this 5 times, then change sides.

For the Reverse Clam

  1. Lie in the same position as the clam.
  2. Keep your knees together and slowly lift your shin and foot upward (your 'clam' is open to the rear) as you exhale.
  3. On your inhale, slowly lower your shin and foot.

Repeat this 5 times, then change sides.

The High Clam

The clam and high clam are both beginning Pilates exercises. Once you are familiar with the clam, you will want to move onto the high clam. The difference is not significant and you will find that it is also a great workout for your thighs.

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