By Cyndi Myers
Let’s talk about butts. I’ve always been obsessed with my butt. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a more, let’s say, “muscular” butt. Ok, ok, there may be more filler than muscle now that I’m 53, but that’s not the point. In high school, my friend Greg and I - both athletes - were always teasing ourselves and each other about our “bubble butts”. No one else, it seemed, had the round rumps that we both inherited, and we reveled in our camaraderie. Little did we know our bulbous backsides were benefiting our entire bodies in ways we didn’t even care about back then.
So, what’s so special about our bubble butts? Let’s take a closer look...
Comprised of three muscles - gluteus minimus, medius and maximus - our glutes are the largest and strongest muscles in our bodies and work together to stabilize our pelvis and maintain proper movement in our hips. Strong glute muscles not only improve athletic performance, but because your glutes attach to the muscles in your back and hips, a firm booty can also help prevent low back pain, hamstring, knee and groin pain. Unfortunately, over the last century (and especially over the last two years), the human lifestyle has evolved from a very active way of life to sitting in front of a computer for hours on end. While the advent of computers and the Internet have fostered a broader world economy and greater connectivity to the world in general, it has not been all that kind to our bodies.
It’s no secret that sitting on your derriere all day is not good for your health. In fact, many health studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time can lead to a number of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression and poor dietary habits among others. But, did you know that a sedentary lifestyle or being confined to a bed when facing an illness, could also be the cause of Dead Butt Syndrome?
What IS Dead Butt Syndrome and How Do I Know If I Have It?
Given that, for so many of us, work requires us to sit for long periods of time, chances are you may be suffering from Dead Butt Syndrome. Yes, that’s a thing! But what exactly IS it, and even more importantly, how can you bring your butt back to life?
The clinical term for dead butt syndrome is gluteus medius tendinopathy, but the inner child in me prefers “dead butt syndrome (DBS)” or “butt amnesia”. While my inner child giggles at the thought of DBS, it actually can become quite serious in some cases.
According to the World Health Organization, “60 to 85% of people in the world - from both developed and developing countries - lead sedentary lifestyles, making it one of the more serious yet insufficiently addressed public health problems of our time.” Not only does physical inactivity lead to the more serious diseases we’re all familiar with, but it also leads to muscular atrophy, i.e. dead butt syndrome, which in itself can lead to a whole host of other health issues.
Your hip flexor muscles (on the front side of your hips) are responsible for lifting and bringing your legs forward when you walk or run, while your gluteus medius muscles stabilize your pelvis and help with hip rotation. And because everything in our bodies is connected, when you sit for long periods of time your hip flexors shorten and the opposing muscles - your gluteus medius - lengthen and lose strength. When this happens, your glutes, or your butt, essentially become inactive. As your body tries to work through this imbalance, other muscle groups in your back and lower body are forced to take on the extra work, setting you up for potential low back and hip pain, as well as foot, ankle and knee problems.
Butt Seriously, Folks…
As you can see, taking your butt seriously is pretty important to your overall well-being. Here are some ways you can activate and maintain strength in your backside even if your job requires you to sit for long periods of time. And, if you’re bed-ridden because you’re in the midst of an illness, do what you can to move your body, even laying down or sitting up on the edge of your bed.
7 Easy Ways to Activate and Strengthen Your Booty
Get up and walk around, do some squats or take a trip up a flight of stairs periodically throughout your day. When I was confined to the hospital during my bout with leukemia, I made sure - no matter how awful I felt - to walk around the hospital corridors and/or to do some seated exercises on my bed. And, if you’re not great at creating a routine or need that extra reminder, set an alarm on your phone every hour to give you that nudge telling you it’s time to move your body. This helps stimulate blood flow throughout your entire body, especially to the tighter muscles like your hip flexors.
Stretch your hip flexors! Kneeling on the floor, place one foot flat on the floor in front of you. Lean toward that leg, keeping your upper body straight, pulling your belly button in and tucking your backside under (foreword). You should feel the stretch in your hip area on the side with the leg that’s on the floor. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides. Do 3 sets of 30-second holds per side.
Invest in a standing desk, or walk around your office while you take your phone calls.
Work your glutes any time, anywhere! Stand up tall, tuck your tailbone and squeeze your glutes as hard as you can for 5 seconds. Release, then repeat 10 times. You can do this simple strength work multiple times per day (I’m doing it as I write this blog!), or even laying down in bed!
Glute bridge. Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent, pointing toward the ceiling. Place your arms by your side and make sure your feet are about hip width apart and as close to your booty as possible. Lift your hips up and squeeze your glutes (and abs!), putting your weight in your heels to avoid knee injuries. Hold this position for 5 seconds, then lower and repeat for 3 sets. Work your way to longer holds and more sets by doing these bridges regularly. This exercise activates the glutes while giving a good stretch to your hip flexors, all without the need for equipment. It’s especially great for beginners!
Side-lying leg lift. Lie on the floor on your side, with the same side arm extended on the floor above your head and opposite hand in front of your body for support. Lift and rotate your leg so your big toe points toward the ground, then squeeze your glute and raise it up and back diagonally. Return to start. Do 10 reps, then switch to the other side for 3 sets on each side. Working the sides of your body is equally important!
Strengthen your glutes with more active strength-building exercises such as squats, forward AND reverse lunges, step-ups and hip thrusts. We have created a video with some glute exercises to get you started. Leslie guides you through each exercise and offers modifications if your body needs to adjust. Also, greatist.com has some excellent glute exercises with animated video clips for demonstration. You can find them in the article 24 Killer Butt Workout Moves Using Just Your Body Weight.
As always, before you do any kind of workout, make sure you’re doing an active warm-up to raise your heart rate, increase blood flow and provide oxygen to your muscles. Warming up also improves your performance and range of motion, reducing your risk for injury. Simply marching in place for a few minutes will do! Also be sure to stretch after exercising. Stretching not only maintains muscle flexibility, but it also helps reduce the accumulation of lactic acid that builds up in your muscles when you exercise, which in turn reduces muscle soreness. Bree Argetsinger (aka Betty Rocker) has a great stretching video to guide you through some excellent lower body stretches.
So, get up and start shakin’ that booty! Your whole body will thank you!
*DISCLAIMER: As with any exercise program, if at any point during your workout you begin to feel faint, dizzy or have physical discomfort, you should stop immediately and consult a medical professional.