You know the feeling: After a long day working at your desk, you finally get up from your (hopefully ergonomic) chair to enjoy whatever your evening holds—only to find that you can’t feel your butt.
Dead butt syndrome, also called gluteal amnesia, is a real thing, and may manifest as numbness in the glutes, or a feeling of wobbliness as you try to stand up, says Dallas Reynolds, DPT, COMT, a physical therapist at ATI Physical Therapy in Illinois. Left unchecked, this can cause long-term glute weakness, which can lead to everything from back pain and balance issues to conditions as serious as a Trendelenburg gait (where the hips drop from side to side with each step), says Reynolds.
Reynolds says he’s seen dead butt syndrome on the rise throughout the pandemic with the uptick in the amount of time most of us are spending on, well, our butts. It’s those long stints in a seated position—where the hip joint is flexed, the hip flexors shortened, and the glutes stretched—that can “make it difficult for those glute muscles to turn back on,” he says. “If you think of a battery, if your glutes are supposed to be 100 percent charged, maybe now they’re only at 40 percent charge.”
To undo this, Reynolds says, we need to work in reverse, stretching what’s tight—the hip flexors—and strengthening what’s been neglected—the glutes. Luckily, it doesn't take long to get everything firing correctly again after a long day at your desk (or couch). Incorporate these five dead butt syndrome exercises from Reynolds and Los Angeles-based Barry’s trainer Taryn Brooks into your post-work routine to reboot your glutes.
1. Glute bridges
Bridges are an ideal antidote to dead butt syndrome because they both stretch out the hip flexors and activate the glutes, says Reynolds. Lying on your back with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor, drive through the heels to lift the pelvis off the floor. (Make sure you’re lifting through your glutes, not your back, he says.)
To advance, Brooks suggests adding three glute squeezes at the top of the bridge, placing a weight on the hips, or adding walk-outs (walking out one foot at a time at the top of the bridge, while keeping the hips high).
2. Monster walks with band
With a looped resistance band placed just under your knees, start in a squat position with the feet far enough apart to feel some resistance. Take small steps to one side, maintaining resistance on the band the entire time, then switching sides when you run out of room. See a demo starting at minute 3:18 of this workout:
Make sure you’re not sitting so low that the work goes into your quads, rather than your glutes, says Brooks. To advance, place the band around your shoes. Do three sets of one minute of monster walking, taking 30 second rests in between.
Lying on your side (ideally with your back against a wall, to prevent your hips from rotating), bend the knees at a 90-degree angle. Raise your top knee, keeping the feet together.
Start with three sets of 10, advancing by either lifting your bottom foot slightly off the floor, or by placing a resistance band just above your knees.
4. Runner’s stretch
Standing with your left leg bent and slightly in front of your straightened right leg, place your hands on your hips and lean slightly back as you push the hips forward, squeezing the glutes to feel the stretch in the right hip flexor. Hold for 30 seconds on each side.
5. Piriformis stretch
When the gluteus maximus is sleepy, Reynolds says the piriformis can end up overworked. To stretch it, sit at the edge of a chair with your right ankle crossed over the left knee. Grab the right knee, and pull it toward your chest, feeling the stretch along the outside of your hip. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
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