Gluteal amnesia. Sure, it sounds funny – but it is real. The butt muscles have ‘forgotten’ how to work. If you work in manual labor, you have heard, “Bend at the knees and you will lift with ease.” But do you bend at the knees? More than likely, you bend at the waist and lift with the back – bypassing the butt muscles. Are you a regular exerciser who is prone to knee squatting? More than likely you are and you are bypassing the butt muscles. Do you sit all day? More than likely your butt muscles are disengaged for the majority of your day. Do you have tight and/or sore hamstrings (back of the thighs)? They are likely overcompensating for underactive butt muscles. These butt muscles are your gluteals.
Gluteal amnesia occurs when your body forgets how to properly recruit the gluteal muscles. You lose the ability to move your hips through their full range of motion and compensatory movements occur. Find a great, detailed explanation of gluteal amnesia here.
Common injuries associated with gluteal amnesia include patella-femoral (knee) syndrome, iliotibial band syndrome, disc herniation, chronic low back pain, recurrent low back strains, and piriformis syndrome.
What to do about it
There are a multitude of methods for eliminating gluteal amnesia – all require form correction and mind-body awareness during exercise. Dr. Lecovin outlines the corrective exercise techniques and I therefore do not need to repeat – read here.
However, his post is not exhaustive. A couple of other exercises include:
Mindful Step-up – Place one foot on the step – this foot NEVER MOVES. Driving through the heal of that foot, and without pushing off with the bottom foot, step up to a full standing position on the top of the step. Return the trailing foot to the floor, maintaining control with the working leg. If this is not harder than your traditional step-up, try again, mindful that your are NOT pushing off that back leg.
Wall squats – these are NOT your traditional wall-sits, sitting with your back supported on the wall. Stand facing a wall, with your toes no more than an inch away from the wall (yes, you are face-to-face with a wall. If you are looking at a mirror, you WILL know if you need to clean up your eyebrows). Your feet are slightly wider than shoulder width. Push your hips back and squat, as if to sit in a chair. Note: It helps to hold a kettlebell in your hands for counter balance and progress towards using no weight.
I have gluteal amnesia – moreso in my right buttocks than in my left. No one is immune. I happened to also have low back, hip, AND knee pain. But I do not let this stop me. I perform the above two exercises deliberately and regularly, and my symptoms of gluteal amnesia have diminished significantly. Combine these exercises with corrective exercise techniques – such as inhibiting (e.g., foam roller) and lengthening and you will be as good as new!
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