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Are Your Glutes Dormant?  How to Strengthen Your Glute Muscles

Posted by Jill Derryberry on Jun 27, 2023 8:45:00 AM
Jill Derryberry
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Have you heard of Dormant Butt Syndrome?  Some news articles and magazines have tried to make it sound even more catchy to get you to click on the headline – calling it “Dead Butt Syndrome” or “gluteal amnesia”.   It may sound strange or even silly, but it is a real condition, and it can cause real problems!   


Dormant Butt Syndrome (DBS) refers to when the gluteal muscles are weak, and the hip flexors are tight.  If your glutes are too weak, they may stay that way and forget to, or lose their ability to, fully contract and do the work they should.  This may cause other muscles around them to take on too much during movement or exercise which then could imbalances and result in injuries or pain in other parts of your body, predominantly the back, hamstrings, hip, or knee.  DBS can also cause balance issues and contribute to conditions like sciatic nerve compression and subsequent pain. 


The gluteal muscles (glutes) are a grouping of muscles that make up the buttock area.  These muscles include the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus.  The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body.  It’s one of the primary muscles used in many of our day-to-day activities like standing upright, squatting, bending over, walking, and running.  The gluteus medius and minimus muscles work together and are responsible for rotating the hip, moving your leg out to the side and for stabilizing the hip and pelvis during weight bearing activities.   


The hip flexors are the muscles that run from the front part of your lower vertebrae in your lower back, to the pelvis and then connect to your femur (thigh bone).  They are important in this situation because they are the muscles that help to move your legs along with your glutes.  When your glute muscles aren’t working properly, the work of the hip flexors is doubled.  Plus, they are probably already in a tight and shortened position because your glute muscles are lengthened and relaxed.    


If your gluteus medius is underactive or weak, it can alter hip, knee and lower back function and can result in low-back pain (Cooper et al., 2016; (Philippon et al., 2011).  A clinical commentary published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy cites multiple studies that show that weakness of the gluteus maximus has been implicated in injuries like knee pain, low back pain, hamstring strains, ankle injuries and more (Buckthrope et al., 2019).  (I love that this article refers to DBS as ‘sleepy glutes’.) 


What causes DBS?   


An inactive lifestyle is thought to be the main cause of DBS and underactive or weak gluteal muscles.  Too much sitting or laying down for long periods of time, can cause your glute muscles to relax and lengthen too much and in turn cause your hip flexors to tighten.   


DBS can also be due to the glutes not working when they should.  Even if you have an active lifestyle, your glute muscles could be not engaging when they should.  This could be because of a muscle imbalance or alignment being off or an underlying nerve issue.   


Symptoms of DBS 


DBS can be the cause of discomfort or pain in many parts of the lower body.  The pain is usually in one or more of the body parts that form a chain when we walk or run or bend like the back, hip, knee, or foot.  It can sometimes cause feelings of tightness or a dull ache in the glutes or the tendons around the hip joint.  Of course, pain or discomfort in any of these areas could also be caused by other issues so it would be best to speak with your doctor to be sure DBS is the cause.   


Treatment for DBS 


The best way to prevent or treat DBS is to activate your glutes and keep them strong.   Talk with your doctor about if you may have DBS.  With your doctor’s okay, you may be referred to physical therapy or a personal trainer for exercises to fire up your glute muscles.  Here are a few ideas on how to prevent DBS and keep your glute muscles active and firing!   


  1. Don’t just sit there! – stand up and walk around at least once every hour.  If you have an Apple Watch, it probably reminds you to stand if you haven’t enough in the last hour.  Don’t ignore it.  Even standing for as little as 2 minutes each hour can make a difference. 
  1. Mix up your position throughout the day.  Some examples include sit on a stability ball instead of a chair for part of your day, stand while reading instead of sitting, go for a walk while meeting with a coworker, or walk around your office while on the phone. 
  1. Perform lower-body and glute-focused exercises two to three times a week as part of an overall full body strength training program.  Some glute focused exercises are included below.  Please note this is not an all-inclusive list of ways to strengthen the glutes.   


Glute Exercises 


Banded Lateral Walk  


Place a mini resistance band a few inches above ankles but below the calf muscle, and stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Maintaining a tight core, step left foot out to the side, followed by right. That’s one rep. Do 3 sets with 10-15 reps per side.  This exercise can also be done without the mini resistance band if you don’t have access to one. 


Romanian Deadlift 


Start standing with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a pair of weights in front of thighs, palms facing body. Keeping knees slightly bent, press hips back as you hinge at the hips and lower the weights toward the floor.  Don’t go lower than when your back is parallel to the floor.   Keep back flat.  Squeeze glutes to return to standing. That's one rep. Do 3 sets with 8-12 reps. 


Glute Bridge 


Start by lying on your back, arms by sides and knees bent.  Heels close to the body.  Engage core and glutes, then press into heels to raise hips toward the ceiling until body forms straight line from shoulders to knees. Hold for two seconds before lowering back to start position. That's 1 rep. Do 3 sets with 10-15 reps. 


Sumo Squat 


Start standing with feet wider than shoulder-distance apart, toes turned out slightly, holding a dumbbell or Kettlebell with both hands. Bend knees and push hips back to lower down into a squat. That’s 1 rep. Do 3 sets with 10-15 reps. 


Ultimately, having strong and active glutes will help reduce the risk of pain and injuries in the back and lower body.  There are many different exercises that can strengthen the glutes.  Ask a LivRite personal trainer if you have any questions and for assistance with any of these exercises. 




Cooper, N.A. et al. (2016). Prevalence of gluteus medius weakness in people with chronic low back pain compared to healthy controls. European Spine Journal, 25, 4, 1258–1265. 


Buckthorpe, M., Stride, M., & Villa, F. D. (2019). ASSESSING AND TREATING GLUTEUS MAXIMUS WEAKNESS – A CLINICAL COMMENTARY. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 14(4), 655-669.