I’ve been hearing about a new syndrome that at first made me laugh… until I realized I might have it. It’s called Dead Butt Syndrome (hence the laughter), otherwise known as gluteal amnesia, and if I don’t technically have it, I’m certainly a good candidate for it.
Basically, dead butt syndrome (DBS) is when your glutes forget to do their job (or even what their job is) from lack of use. Specifically, the gluteus medius, which is supposed to help stabilize the pelvis, doesn’t fire. This can cause lower back pain and hip pain, or even knee and ankle pain, as your body attempts to make up for the imbalance. Unfortunately, DBS is very common.
When one muscle on either side of a joint contracts, a nerve signal is sent to its opposing power to relax. So, when you spend hours sitting on your butt, your hip flexors are contracting while your glutes rest. Over time, your gluteus medius will lose strength. This can result in difficulties such as getting out of a chair or less stability while walking.
My day job of sitting at a desk and writing almost certainly contributes to my low back pain, weak glutes, and tight hamstrings. And adults can sit an average of 8-10 hours a day! But even marathon runners can develop DBS by overusing their quads or hamstrings and not engaging their glute meds enough.
The good news for me is that we do lots of glute med work in PIH classes. Skater on the reformer, standing leg pumps on the chair, and side-lying leg lifts, to name just a few. And there are so many things we can be doing at home (and at work).
Walking work meetings and standing desks are next-step ideas. But having proper seated posture and putting your trash bin where you have to take a few steps to reach it are even easier steps to take. Likewise, getting up from a seated position to walk around for a few minutes (or go up and down a flight of stairs) every 30-60 minutes is great to do (set an alarm or a reminder!), not just for your butt, but for your whole body. Prolonged sitting increases our risk of depression, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and more. To increase your glute muscle strength, here are a few of my favs to try (and here are even more ideas).
Rocker: This is great prep work, and also feels great post-workout! Sit on the floor with your weight on one glute and your knees bent. Your feet can be up or on the ground. Roll side to side, front to back, or in small circles to release your glute muscles. You can do this while leaning on your hands, or, to get further up your glutes, lean back on your elbows.
Bridge: Lying on your back, arms by sides and knees bent, engage your core and glutes, then press into your heels to raise your hips toward the ceiling until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees. Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps. An advanced version would be to “walk” while your hips are up. This exercise allows the glutes and hamstrings to function together, but with a larger emphasis on the glutes.
Side Steps (Lateral Walk): This can be done with or without a band (I did it while I brushed my teeth this morning!). If you use one, place the band in a comfortable spot between your ankles and knees and stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Maintaining a tight core, step left foot out to the side, followed by the right. Do 3 sets with 10-15 reps per side. This helps to recruit the gluteus medius.
Deadlift: Start standing with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a pair of weights in front of your thighs, palms facing your body. Keeping knees slightly bent, press your hips back as you hinge at the hips and lower the weights toward the floor. Squeeze your glutes to return to standing. That’s one rep. Do 3 sets with 8-12 reps. This exercise does a great job of using the hip extensors (glutes and hamstrings) in a way that lengthens them.
Here’s to keeping our butts “alive!”