Your glutes are a super important muscle group in your body. In fact, I’m starting to think the glutes (and entire posterior chain) are the most important muscle group in your body. A strong backside makes for a strong body and helps with stability which is especially important as we age or if you’re pregnant or newly postpartum. But did you know that if you neglect to train your glutes they could ‘forget’ how to function properly and actually cause problems as a result? Yes, you could be suffering from gluteal amnesia.
The gluteal muscles help power us through so many activities, from walking and carrying heavy things, to performing both cardio and strength exercises, or adjusting to the physical demands of pregnancy with reduced pain and feeling more stable post birth. When your glutes lose strength, other muscle groups in your back and lower body are forced to take on the extra work to compensate, setting you up for issues such as lower back, hip, or knee pain and these imbalances could lead to injury. So if you want to avoid that, make sure each muscle group is pulling its’ own weight.
So, wtf is gluteal amnesia? How do you know if you have it? What can you do to fix it? Well, I’m going to answer all of those questions for you!
What is it?
Gluteal amnesia is when your body forgets how to properly activate your glute muscles from either poor posture or lack of use.
Do you have it?
We’re so concerned with how much our brain can remember and do that we often forget about our body. Your body and your muscles have a memory, too! Your muscles will remember and respond to your activity. This works well for you if you have a balanced healthy lifestyle (healthy diet and exercise routine), but works against you if you are sedentary. If you spend a lot of time sitting, you could have gluteal amnesia.
What happens if you have gluteal amnesia?
You may lose the ability to move your hips through a full range of motion which adds stress to your knee, lower back, and even your shoulder joints and can lead to preventable injury. The good news is you can reverse this condition with the right corrective exercises.
Your glute muscles include the gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus and gluteus medius. Or main butt, middle butt and upper butt, respectively. These muscles control movement of your hips and knees. The gluteus maximus is involved in hip extension and external rotation and has another very important job-assists in maintaining an upright torso (good posture) which is highly important for people of all ages. The problem is when we sit too long the glutes are inactive and basically become couch potatoes. Because of less than perfect posture most of us have when sitting–shoulders slumped, back rounded, core disengaged–we could go an entire day without activating the glutes. We all love a good Game of Thrones binge session, but maybe just do some body weight squats every so often.
When we are too sedentary the hip flexors become tighter which leads to inhibited glutes which means your body isn’t moving as it should, some muscles are accommodating for others and this could lead to injury.
Other causes of couch potato butt..er..I mean gluteal amnesia are:
- Too many quadriceps dominant exercises. Add in some hamstring and glutes to round things out.
- Poor sitting or standing posture
- Tight hips or lower back
- Knee or back pain which can lead to muscle imbalance
Simple ways to test for gluteal amnesia
- Stand in a neutral position in front of a mirror while taking note of the position of your pelvis. If your pelvis seems to tilt forward, you may have anterior pelvic tilt which indicates your glutes are contracting properly.
- Lie flat on your back on the floor with your hands under your butt. Squeeze each glute independently. You should be able to feel each muscle contract.
- Feeling tightness in your hamstrings after you do a glute dominant exercises like deadlifts, pull-throughs or step-ups.
Exercises you should be doing to fix it
- Lateral steps
- Donkey kicks
One key to keep in mind for all glute work: Focus on driving from your heels which helps fully activate your maximus, the biggest and strongest part of the butt. To take the intensity level up a notch and add some resistance for serious glute strength use a high quality glute band. You can even do these exercises while on your lunch break, watching your shows or during the time your kid is happily playing by themselves.
And don’t forget about the foam roller! Rolling out your hip flexors and IT band (side of the leg) can help release the myofascial tissues that support your muscles and bones which can get knotted and painful.
Follow these steps to work your glutes 4-5 times per week and in about a month you will notice a change in how your muscles feel.