Dead Butt Syndrome Is a Real Thing—These 4 Exercises Can Bring Your Glutes Back to Life

Here's what happens when your butt loses its memory (so to speak) and how to help prevent it.

You've heard of amnesia of the brain—but your butt? Turns out, there's such a thing as gluteal amnesia, also known as dead butt syndrome, and avoiding it may help prevent pain and increase your performance in various activities. It's well-known that sitting too much is bad for your health and can also be bad for your butt. Here's what happens when your butt loses its memory, so to speak, and how to prevent it.

What Is Dead Butt Syndrome?

Gluteal amnesia is exactly what it sounds like: Your glutes forget their purpose. (That is: keeping us upright and propelling us forward when we walk.) The gluteal muscle becomes neurologically inhibited and doesn't activate when it should," says Jeff Fishel, MS, DC, a chiropractor in Arcola, Illinois.

That may not sound like a big deal until you consider how this might work against you. "If the glute muscles are weak, other parts of the body may take additional stress, which can potentially result in injury," says W. Kelton Vasileff, MD, a sports medicine physician and orthopedic surgeon at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. That could include tight hip muscles, hamstring injuries, lower back pain, and even injuries to the cartilage in the knee. Gluteal amnesia can also decrease your performance in any activity you're doing, whether that's weight training, running, or playing tennis, Fishel says.

What Causes Gluteal Amnesia?

The main cause of gluteal amnesia is a sedentary lifestyle (which is why—no joke—this is also called "chair ass"). "It most likely affects individuals who are sedentary and/or those who sit for prolonged periods of time without taking breaks," says Jericho McMatthews, Beachbody super trainer in Los Angeles and creator of Morning Meltdown 100. If you're working long hours at a desk job, regularly commuting long distances, or making a living through commercial driving, there's nothing funny about the very real possibility of dead butt syndrome.

And side sleepers, heads up: "Sleeping on your side in a fetal position can add to the weakness of these muscles," Dr. Vasileff says.

How to Read the Signs of Dead Butt

There are some telltale signs of dead butt syndrome (aka your glutes have stopped firing). They include an anterior pelvic tilt (you'll know if you look at yourself sideways in the mirror and see that the spot at which your belt buckle would sit is pointed slightly down to the ground versus straight ahead) and unusual cramping or pain in your hamstrings during workouts, McMatthews says. Tight hip flexors, poor posture, and weak abdominals are also common factors with this condition.

Check for dead butt syndrome by doing a pelvic bridge on the floor, Fishel says. Lie face up on the floor with your feet on the floor, ankles below your knees. From this position, lift your hips up until they're level with your knees. If you feel any tension in your hamstrings or lower back, chances are you have gluteal amnesia.

4 Key Exercises to Wake Up Your Glutes

The good news is that you can prevent—and overcome—this by taking walking breaks from sitting and opting for the stairs whenever possible, McMatthews says. You can also secretly work your glutes without even leaving your chair by sitting tall with your shoulders subtly pulled back and abdominals tight. To do it, gently tuck your tailbone and squeeze and flex one butt cheek at a time for five seconds. Alternate cheeks, repeating ten times per cheek (20 times total).

Try these four exercises designed by McMatthews two to three times a week with at least 24 to 48 hours between workouts:

1. Glute Bridges

Lie face up on the floor with arms by your sides, palms pushing into the floor, and knees bent with feet on the floor, feet hip-width apart. Gently tucking your pelvis and driving your heels into the floor, lift hips straight up toward ceiling. Squeeze your glutes as you do this. Lower and repeat 15 to 20 times.

2. Rainbow Taps

Get on all fours on the floor, knees under your hips and wrists under your shoulders. Keeping your spine neutral and your core engaged, extend your right leg straight behind you as if reaching to touch the back of the room. Engage your glutes as you lift your right leg up and over to the left, tapping the floor outside your left leg, and then moving it in an arching motion—but not higher than hip height—to the right, tapping your toe on the floor again. Repeat 15 to 20 times before switching sides.

3. Tabletop Hip Adduction

Begin on all fours on the floor, knees below your hips, wrists below your shoulders. Keeping your core engaged and your spine long, slowly lift your right leg to about hip height (picture a dog at a fire hydrant) and lower. Repeat 15 to 20 times before switching sides.

4. Side Plank Clamshell Thrust

Get on your right side on the floor, propped on your right elbow with your right elbow under your shoulder and your knees together, bent to 90 degrees. Pushing down through your forearm, lift your hips straight up to the ceiling as you squeeze your glutes and drive your hips forward. As you do this, lift your left knee to the ceiling, keeping your heels together. Release and repeat 12 to 15 times before switching sides.

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