How to Train the External Hip Rotators for Performance and Injury Prevention

by Pete Holman |  Date Released : 23 Sep 2016

Exercise 1: Manual Clamshell

The traditional clamshell exercise using an elastic resistance band is an excellent way to strengthen the external rotators. However, performing a manual clamshell gives the trainer insight on quality of movement (especially deceleration) and allows the trainer to compare strength from left to right, identifying any asymmetries. Additionally, because valgus collapse occurs during deceleration, the manual resistance clamshell allows the trainer to apply more force at a higher rate of speed during the eccentric part of this exercise. To perform the manual clamshell:

  • Have your client in side-lying position with knee’s bent.
  • Place the palm of your hand on the lateral knee or thigh.
  • Create a downward resistance force while the client abducts and externally rotates the hip.
  • At the top range of motion reverse the pattern creating more eccentric force.
Manual Clamshell StartManual Clamshell Start Manual Clamshell FinishManual Clamshell Finish

Exercise 2: Rotary Cone Drill

The manual clamshell is an effective way to activate the external rotators and get the client familiar with proper firing patterns. However, once the rotators are activated, its time to get the client in a more functional posture. The rotary cone drill challenges the hip rotators in the transverse plane and gets the client used to decelerating the body in single leg support. The drill also has a “game-like” feel which keeps the workout novel. Look for a qualitative difference from left to right during this drill and simply add sets or reps to the side that needs more work. To perform the rotary cone drill:

  • Place 7 cones in a semi-circular orientation on the ground.
  • Instruct client to stand on the right leg, hinge down from the hip picking up the farthest right cone with their left hand and return to an upright position.
  • Hinge down stacking the retrieved cone on the farthest left side: repeat until all cones are stacked.
Rotary Cone Drill StartRotary Cone Drill Start Rotary Cone Drill MiddleRotary Cone Drill Middle Rotary Cone Drill FinishRotary Cone Drill Finish


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Pete Holman

About the author: Pete Holman

Pete Holman is a Physical Therapist, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and three time U.S. National TaeKwon-Do champion. Pete specializes in biomechanics and movement training at Aspen Sports Medicine, and has trained and rehabilitated professional athletes from the NFL, UFC, Olympic Skiing and Snowboarding teams and numerous X-Games events.

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