Clam Shells…..The exercise that just keeps returning

Clam Shells are probably one of the most common exercises handed out over the years.  And I must admit, I have tried to get away from them so many times.  One of my biggest pet peeves is having a client come in who has been doing Clam Shells for months…….with a band around their knees……wrong!

There are a ton of different variations of Clam Shells, but the most important key is maintaining posture and range of motion.  Since so many people are lacking mobility in their hips to begin with, it is really easy to compensate.  This is one of the main reasons I have taken a detour many times looking for other ways to engage the glutes.

But at the end of the day, sometimes there is no better way to engage the glutes.  This past week they came to my rescue when my back flared up and I needed a safe, stable way to reinforce my pelvic position.

So here they are again for a quick review!

A few keys to success:

  • Put a pillow under your head to provide better spinal alignment
  • Keep your shoulders and hip stacked on top of each other
  • Think about keeping your core engage and a neutral spine
  • Maintain the space between your rib cage and hip
  • When range of motion decreases, exercise is over!

Happy Glutes!


A Glute Killer!

It’s been awhile since I posted an exercise that really gets after the gluteus maximus, and this one is no joke.  While simple in stature, it packs a huge punch and requires a lot of thought and careful movement.

Before you do it though, there is one very important requirement…..your glutes must be the star of the show in a basic glute bridge pattern!  The means you can complete a full bridge (shoulders, hips and knees meet in a straight line at the top) with those butt muscles firing up a storm.  My basic rule of thumb is that once you can complete 20 reps without those pesky hamstrings taking over, it’s time to advance.

So when that time comes, give this puppy a try!

The Bridge Slide

Here are some keys to success:

  • Engage the glutes prior to lifting the hips off the ground.
  • Extend the hips to full height, and check in on those butt muscles once again to make sure they are still jumping for joy.
  • Once stable, slowly begin to slide one leg out until it is straight.  This is where the challenge exists, as the leg straightens you will begin to extend further from the hip asking for even more glute engagement.  It will also ask the pelvis and core to stabilize.
  • Then, with a big breath out, raise the leg towards the ceiling.  This once again requires a huge amount of core stabilization and as the leg lowers, you must once again keep firing those glutes to prevent the hips from dropping.
  • After one rep is complete, slowly lower back to the ground and reset for the other side.
  • I would give you a rep range on this one, but I think it’s more important to be in tune with your body.  Do as many reps as you can find success in!

And just one more tip from someone that performed these today with ridiculously tight hip flexors and a slightly pulled right hamstring…….pre stretching the hip flexors will make this one more effective!  That last 5 degrees of hip extension is what makes the bridge a great exercise.  If the front of your hip is tight, say goodbye to that 5 degrees!

Cheers to awesome glutes!


Get after those glutes!

Working the glutes with heavy weights and awesome exercises like lunges, squats and deadlifts is awesome.  But sometimes you need to take a step back and single them out.

Clam shells are a pretty universal exercise for working on the glute medius and minimus.  I mostly like using them when I have a client who can’t find the butt muscles, it’s hard to miss them with these!


I have five different variations here, all addressing different movements of the hip and challenging both the stability and mobility.

  • Feet Touching, knee lifts up and down (external hip rotation, stabilized)
  • Knees Touching, foot lifts up and down (internal hip rotation, stabilized)
  • Feet a few inches apart, knee lifts up and down (external hip rotation, destabilized)
  • Knees a few inches apart, foot lifts up and down (internal hip rotation, destabilized)
  • Leg straight, toes pointed at ground

Here are some keys to remember when adding these to your exercise program:

  • Neutral spine still applies!  Many times when someone is doing these for the first time it is easy to let the low back join the party.  You need to maintain a stable lower back while producing the motion.
  • If you find that you are limited in your motion, especially when the feet or knees are touching, make sure to seek out proper medical help.  Limitations in mobility are best addressed there, and then reinforced.
  • If you find that you have greater range of motion with the knees or feet touching versus when they are separated, chances are you have a stability issue.  When a fulcrum point is used, the body is stabilized and can produce force in order to create motion.  If the range of motion decreases after you destabilize that point, that means you do not have enough strength in the joint.
  • If at any point you begin to lose range of motion while doing these, exercise is over!

Start with 10 reps from each position then progress from there.  I like using these both as a warm up and as a cool down.  Either way, they are a good pain in the butt!


The best laid plans…..

The alarm went off, in theory I was ready to hit another hard workout today.  But, my body told me otherwise.  In years past I would have probably worked out even though I was feeling sick, but since I need to be focused and feeling well on the golf course, the workout just didn’t happen today.

So instead of another Kettlebell workout, I’m bringing you some variations on Duck Walks that you can add at the beginning or even end of your workout!

These are some intense butt burning moves, so enjoy them and all the power they will bring!


One of my favorites…..

Only one more day left here in paradise, so in honor of this glorious weather here is one of my favorite exercises I just happened to film at the top of Kokohead Crater this past January.

I’s and Y’s

The goal of this exercise is not just to engage the mid and lower trap muscles, but also to challenge your ability to stabilize your core.  As the arms raise up, it is easy to go into an anterior pelvic tilt to gain the feeling of more range of motion.  You instead want to engage the glutes and abs to stabilize the lumbar spine and raise the arms only as high as you are able.  I also like feeling of my shoulder blades going into my back pockets and space being maintained between the shoulder and ear.

Give these a try as part of your workout or warm up!


Aloha from Maui!

It’s been a long day of travel that required an enormous amount of patience and deep breathes.  But we made it to paradise and get to spend the next 5 days here playing in University of Hawaii’s Tournament at the Kapalua Bay Course!  In honor of my return to the Hawaiian Islands for the second time this year, here is one of my favorite exercises that I just happened to film near the ocean in Kona.

Meet the Cossack Squat!  I swear that’s the name!  This is an incredible variation on the squat that challenges both the sagittal and frontal planes.  In addition, it works on hip mobility, dorsiflexion, core stability, ninja skills and well, it looks cool.

Now I’m doing a little different version in this video, more of how we use it in martial arts.  This baby packs a lot of punch though and can be regressed and progressed to the moon and back.  It’s all about knowing your limits with it and then working from there.  If you have difficulty with the range of motion, you don’t have to drop quite so low and can even place your hands on the ground as an assist.  If you want to make it more challenging, you can load weight in one or both hands.  This was actually part of day 4 of the Jen Sinkler #30daysofkbs challenge.  It was one of the first times I have loaded with exercise and boy are my glutes feeling it today!

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Aloha, S

Monday Rehab: Weighted Golf Swings 

Last week I included weighted or resisted golf swings as one of my top 5 dumbest exercises ever……but really this one could be the dumbest exercise of all time!

Why you ask?  Well, this opens up Pandora’s box into the world of sports specific training.  If you want to find a subject that gets me fired up, this is it.  I felt my voice getting more aggressive just typing about it.

In the world that is Golf Fitness, everyone somehow decided that if an exercise looks like a golf swing, it must be good for the golfer.  However, I will argue until the end of time that this is the worst approach ever!!!!!

The bottom line is that when working with a golfer, the biggest consideration is symmetry.  No golfer will ever be perfectly symmetrical, although I would also argue no person out there ever will be either.  Golf is a pattern overload sport, and the more you play, the more asymmetrical you will become.  These asymmetries though are part of what makes your body and golf swing unique, but if they get too out of control, hello injuries!

Despite this factor though, trainer after trainer keeps having golfers hold onto the cable machine and take golf swings.  Have you ever considered that perhaps their golf swing is not efficient or has faulty movement patterns to begin with?  Adding resistance will only reinforce those bad patterns!  And on top of that, it’s just grinding in more reps in one direction further locking in a body that uses one side more than the other.

Before I continue to go off on a huge tangent here, let me get to the point.  The golfers job is to play and practice to create the necessary asymmetries to be awesome, and my job is to fight those.  When these two thing work together in harmony, great things happen!

So why on earth would I have a golfer swing a weighted club or take resisted golf swings causing asymmetries to be further ingrained potentially leading to injuries and working in contradiction to my training program designed to level the body out?  Whew!  I’m out of breath now!

As I mentioned last week, the other issue in play is that adding weight to a golf swing changes up the timing.  In order to deliver the extra resistance, you actually have to slow your body down.  So basically resisted golf swings will lead to poor timing, injury and slower swing speeds.  That’s worth a big old thumbs down!

All hope is not lost though, it is possible to work on similar muscle firing patterns in the gym that are safe, reinforce good timing and address the asymmetry issue.

Here are a two of my favorites to replace weighted golf swings with:

Step and Swing

  • Flip your golf club around so the grip faces the ground
  • This move is similar to throwing a ball
  • You are simultaneously pullin the club back as you create momentum in the opposite direction
  • This creates a huge stretch between upper and lower body leading to a sling shot feeling, can you say speed!
  • Repeat both directions, this is very important!

Reverse Lunge and Chop

  • Step back into a solid reverse lunge paying special attention to knee alignment, neutral pelvis and loading the glutes
  • As you drop into the lunge, reach your chest and arms to the opposite side once again creating a stretch
  • Drive up through the ground bringing the back knee up to 90 degrees and reaching your chest and arms up to the ceiling against it
  • This exercise works on the cross sling patterns necessary for great golf, separation and allows each side of your body to adapt individually

The moral of today’s post:  I beg you, please throw away the weighted golf clubs.  Please, please, please, stop taking golf swings with the cable machine.  Remember that there is so much more to a functional and powerful body than just a golf swing.  Train the body to work at it’s best, and great things will happen on and off the golf course!