By Jordan Duncan
Isolated exercises targeting one specific muscle or movement are quickly becoming a thing of the past. By making workouts more functional they will have a greater carry over into everyday life, whether you want to improve performance of a particular sport or some other activity, or simply want to remain injury free.
A great functional exercise is the side lying clam while in a modified side plank position. This combines two excellent individual exercises, creating one that serves multiple training purposes. Perform it as follows:
- Begin by laying on your side. For an additional challenge, you can loop a resistance band around both legs just above your knees.
- Assume a modified side plank position, supported by your down side elbow and knee.
- Both knees should be bent to about 45 degrees and your feet and knees should be stacked on each other.
- Your body should be straight from your knees to your head.
- While maintaining the modified side plank, lift your top knee to a challenging yet comfortable height without moving your feet.
- Don’t let your body rotate forward or back and don’t allow your torso to bend.
- Lower your knee so it rests on the other knee. Repeat without coming out of the modified side plank.Perform sets on both sides.
The clam portion of the exercise is important because it strengthens the hip abductor muscles. These muscles, like the gluteus medius, tend to become neglected and are therefore prone to weakness in many people. The hip abductors promote good lower extremity alignment by preventing the knees from collapsing inward (termed valgus collapse), especially when walking, running, and while moving from sitting to standing. Valgus collapse plays a role in several lower extremity pain conditions, like patellofemoral pain syndrome, making strong hip abductor muscles advantageous for injury prevention.
The modified side plank element trains the core and has been shown to improve spinal stiffness and stability. The modified side plank targets the lateral plane, which is valuable because core training has historically consisted of sagittal plane exercises such as sit-ups.
The best functional exercises often involve dynamic movement patterns (in this case the clam portion) while ensuring sufficient spine stability (via the modified side plank). By combining these two exercises, the side lying clam while in a modified side plank position makes for a fantastic choice that can be beneficial for people of all ages and activity levels.
Dr. Jordan Duncan is the owner of Silverdale Sport & Spine, a sports medicine clinic located in Silverdale, Washington. In addition to treating a diverse patient population, Dr. Duncan enjoys treating athletes and has worked with numerous high school, collegiate, and professional athletes. He has served as an expert opinion for a wide variety of healthcare and fitness articles.