Millions of people suffer from back and knee pain and your butt could be the cause of it all.
Most people lead a pretty sedentary lifestyle and are sitting on their butts way too much. Whether it be from a long day sitting staring at a computer screen or a long commute sitting in traffic, people’s butts are not being used as intended and it can lead to many other issues throughout the body.
Prolonged periods of sitting weakens the glutes and tightens the hip flexors. This can lead to pain in many other areas in the body because the body compensates for the lack of strength and stabilization. Over the years this lack of glute strength is one of the most common problems I fix.
Since I’m always talking about how important the glutes are to my clients and boot campers, one of them came to me a few weeks ago when she heard about Dormant Butt Syndrome (DBS). Yes, this epidemic was actually given a catchy new name by physical therapist, Chris Kolba.
But just because it has been given a new name, doesn’t mean it’s a new problem. In fact one of the first postural deviations I learned about was a similar thing called the Lower Crossed Syndrome (aka Pelvic Crossed Syndrome.) This is associated with something called an anterior pelvic tilt meaning that you have tight hip flexors and a tight lower back. When someone has it, it looks like they are arching their lower back and sticking out their butt. While Lower Crossed Syndrome is a postural deviation and not exactly the same thing as Dormant Butt Syndrome, the two go hand in hand.
A few years ago gave a similar name was given to a similar problem by Dr. Darrin Bright. He called it Dead Butt Syndrome.
It doesn’t really matter what name you want to call this condition, it’s a very common issue that can lead so some serious problems and injuries. The good news is that it can be fixed with some stretches, some exercises for glutes as well as some time and consistency.
How Dormant Butt Syndrome Begins and why it’s bad
When talking about the glutes, it is made up of three muscles; the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus. All of these muscles work together to extend, rotate and stabilize the hip joint. They are the main muscles that help us to stand upright and when working properly, the gluteus maximus should be the biggest and strongest muscle in the body. (The piriformis is located in the same region as the glutes and aids with the external rotation of the hip.)
One of the reasons that sitting for a long time is bad is that the glutes remain in a lengthened position that whole time. They aren’t made for this (remember their main job is to keep us upright) so the body starts to adapt to this dysfunctional posture.
When your muscles remained in a lengthened position for a long time, they get weak. This means they are not able to their job properly and other muscles around it need to pick up the slack. When the wrong muscles start firing, this is an incorrect movement pattern and can lead to injuries and pain. As an example when the glutes are weak and can’t to their job of extending the hips, it is usually the lower back muscles the end up extending the lower back to keep us upright.
On the other side of the glutes are the hip flexors and as the name implies, they are responsible for flexing the hip. The hip flexor is made up of many muscles which include the psoas major, iliacus, rectus femoris, tensor fasciae latae (TFL), and the adductors.
In a seated position, the muscles in the hip flexor are in a shortened position and over time they get overactive and tight. Because they get used to being in that shortened position, they will fight to remain there even when they aren’t supposed to be.
If you try to stand up and the hip flexors are tight, this is where you’ll start to see the butt-out posture. It’s because the hips are shortened and instead of extending the hips with the glutes, the body chooses to extend the lower back to stand upright. Constantly flexing the hips and extending the back can lead to lower back and knee pain.
So having a muscle imbalance in one area of the body and lead to imbalances and pain in other areas and this is why it is important to address any issues as soon as you are aware of them.
Strategies for Correcting Dormant Butt Syndrome
If the main causes of DBS is that some muscles are tight and other muscles are weak. Correcting it will involve stretching and strengthening.
Here are a few of my favorite strategies to help these problem areas.
Stretching: Targeting the Hip Flexors & Quads
I like to stretch the hip flexors in a few different ways the first is with Self-Myofascial release (SMR) and the second is with a static stretch.
You will need something like a foam roller to do some SMR stretching. With this you want to address the all the hip flexor muscles. Remember that the hip flexors includes the adductors as well as the rectus femoris, which is one of the muscles in the quadriceps.
To do this you are going to lay on a foam roller (or something similar) with the front of your leg. When foam rolling you are looking for tender spots that need to be loosened up. You should focus on the area around the hip joint but also search for spots on the inside and front part of the leg to address your adductors and quad.
Normally with SMR once, you find a spot the needs to be worked, you will hold it there until the pain goes down by 50%
Check out my foam rolling video by clicking the link here or check it out above. ( I don’t target the hip flexors in the video but the principles will be the same.)
The static stretch I like for this area is a couch stretch. Basically this is a kneeling stretch for the hip flexors with your back foot elevated on something like a couch or a box. You can use a wall or even grab your own foot if you don’t have something like a couch.
This will not only stretch out the hip flexors but also loosen up the quads. Adding a resistance band to pull the hips forward and open that hip socket is another great variation of this stretch.
Mobilization: Release the tight muscles in the glutes
When the glutes are lengthened for a long period of time they get weak and stretched out but this also create tightness of the muscles.
To address this area I like to use a lacrosse ball to do some SMR of all the muscles in the posterior hip region including the glutes and piriformis. To perform this stretch I will cross my leg over my knee to open up the muscles in the area. I will then roll on a lacrosse ball with the glute that I just opened up.
Once again roll around til you find the areas that are tight and just hold that spot til the pain reduces by about 50%. This was one of the stretches in a video I did about some lacrosse ball mobilization techniques.
Strengthening: Exercises for Glutes (my top pick)
There are many exercises for glutes that help to strengthen that booty and get the muscles firing again.
Squats at or below depth are a great choice and so are deadlifts as well as many other mulit-joint exercises. If I had to a narrow it down to what I think is the best single exercise for the glutes it would have to be the hip thruster.
This exercise is all about hip extension and really activates the glutes.
There are a few different variations but the one I like the best is with your body on a bench and with a barbell on your hips. Basically all you do is lay with your shoulders on a bench with your feet on the ground and all you need to do is to raise and lower your butt.
Other variations include using bands or a dumbell instead of a barbell or with your back on the ground instead of a bench.
Sounds pretty simple and it is, but you might get some weird looks when you do this in a gym, I know I do. This isn’t one of your traditional exercises so most people won’t know what the heck you are doing, but trust me when I say this is the best exercise to work that butt.
You will need some sort of padding for this exercise because it can be painful since the weight is resting on your hips. This will become more and more important especially when you start to use real weights. I like to fold up a workout mat and place it between the bar and my hips.
Changing your Lifestyle: Get off your Butt
All the stretching and strengthening in the world is great but if you keep putting yourself into a bad position then your progress will be very slow.
Since sitting is one of the main culprits of DBS, the best solution is to stand up as often as possible. I recommend about every 30 minutes.
So there you have it. Those are a few tips to help get your butt out of dormant mode and back into beast mode. As with everything, consistency is key and you should stretch and exercise as often as possible and remember to stand up every so often as well.