In my years of working with clients, I’ve noticed a very common theme among many of them: Weak glute (aka buttock) muscles. This is so common in fact that there’s even an official name for it—Dormant Butt Syndrome. In this post, I’ll break down why the glutes become weak, how they can affect other muscular functions in the body and exercises to strengthen weak glutes.
What are the glutes and why are they important?
Before we get to the exercises to strengthen weak glutes, its’s important to understand what exactly the glutes are and how they function. The glutes are a group of three muscles in the buttocks. They are incredibly important for everyday activities like walking, getting up and down from a chair, going up and down stairs, running, picking up heavy things and much more. That’s why it’s so important to make sure they’re strong. Let me give you a quick example to explain further.
Imagine that you’re part of a group of 10 people who need to clean a house. Five of you decide to just sit around and not do anything. How do the other five people feel? I’d imagine pretty overworked, cranky, and not happy! This is what happens when your glutes don’t work…everything else has to work harder and the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints in the rest of the body get overworked.
What aches and pains can be caused by weak glutes?
Do you have pain in your hamstrings, hip flexors, low back or knees? Dormant glutes could be the culprit! Without the glutes being strong and active, all the parts of your body around them have to work much harder. Over time, this takes its toll. While it may seem odd, you heard me right—your hamstring tightness might not have anything at all to do with your hamstrings. When the glutes are weak, the hammies have to work so hard to pick up the slack. That meniscus surgery you had for your knee? Unless you had a traumatic injury, that could have been from weak glutes. The back spasm you had when you bent down to pick up a tissue? Yep, years of weak glutes could be the cause there too.
Why do the glutes go dormant?
There are three main reasons the glutes don’t work as they should.
- 1. People are chest breathers and don’t properly use their diaphragms.
If you’ve read any of my other blogs or social media posts, you know that I talk a LOT about breathing, the diaphragm, and the core. This is one of the reasons why! When you are a chest breather and don’t properly use your diaphragm, you can’t properly use your core. When you can’t properly use your core, you can’t properly use your glutes. This would be like trying to reach a high shelf by standing on an exercise ball instead of a step stool—it just doesn’t work because you don’t have the setup you need.
- 2. There is an imbalance in pelvic tilting.
Most people live in a position where their pelvis is tilted forward and low back is arched too much. This is actually related to the diaphragm like we just talked about! “Undo” some of that forward tilting by tilting your pelvis backwards (aka posterior pelvic tilt). To do this, think about pulling your pubic bone up towards your ribs and flattening your low back. This will make it easier for your glutes to turn on.
- 3. People sit a lot.
You can’t use your glutes well by sitting on them. If a muscle is allowed to get lazy, it tends to stay lazy. So get up, move, and wake your glutes up throughout the day.
Exercises to Strengthen Glutes
To help strengthen your glutes and KEEP them activated, we must address the cause of the issue. In most people, that is poor breathing patterns and a weak core. Do yourself a favor and FIX THIS before doing anything else. Not sure how? Check out my Connecting the Core guide and this blog post about the diaphragm.
My favorite exercise for activating and strengthening the glutes is the bridge. To get into position, lay on your back with your knees bent up and feet flat on the ground. Flatten your back on the ground and engage your core. Then, squeeze the glutes and push through your heels to lift your hips off the ground. You should feel your glutes working. If you feel most of the work in your thighs, hamstrings, or low back, you are doing it wrong. Start over and really focus on squeezing the glutes as you bridge.
Want more guidance on how to have a strong core and glutes? I created the Bulletproof Your Core Program specifically for you. You’ll learn exactly how to activate your core and strengthen it through my 4-phase program. Best part? It only takes 10 minutes a day. Drop me a comment to let me know how your core strengthening exercises are going, or do your BFF a favor and share the program with them!