Gluteal Amnesia: Funny Name, Serious Problem


You read that right – your glutes (gluteus maximus) may have amnesia.  For my clients who sit most of the day, it’s more the norm rather than the exception, and there’s a good chance that you’re suffering from it too!

The Victim

The phrase “gluteal amnesia” was coined by Dr. Stuart McGill in reference to low back pain patients who don’t use their glutes effectively.  Now, bad glute function could be a result of low back pain or a cause of it….maybe some of both.  But, even in the absence of low back pain, weak glutes will influence movement, which diminishes exercise results and increases risk of injury.

Bones and joints form an integrated kinetic chain and each link  has the power to influence other links.  Depending on the movement, that influence can be strong.  If the glutes don’t do their job, the chain starts to break down and other pieces have to take up the slack to compensate.  In the short term, that isn’t necessarily a big deal, but over time this leads to trouble.

Glute function tends to diminish slowly but steadily under “normal” conditions.  Sitting or standing for long periods over the course of weeks and months can leave them listless and apathetic.  In fact, sitting for hours at at time leads to tight hip flexors, which affects the glutes through altered reciprocal inhibition.  Basically that just means tightness on the front of the hip diminishes function on the back of the hip.  Ultimately, it leads to inefficient movement and accumulating problems.

If your job puts you in a chair for much of the day and you spend a fair amount of time commuting in a seated position, your glute function is probably suffering.  Simply not using the muscles enough can do the same thing.  Adults don’t tend to sprint and jump the way they did when they were young (two activities that require strong glute participation) and an underused muscle withers over time.

Luckily, restoring glute function is not complicated.  Breaking up periods of sitting into shorter stints helps.  In your local fitness center, roll and stretch the hip flexors to calm them down.  Then simple activation / strengthening exercises should bring the glutes back on line.  Here’s what the first part of that might look like:

Foam roll this…

and this…

and this.

Then stretch these…

Don’t forget to check out my post on glute activation exercises!

Learn something new!


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Michael Bento is an Advanced Trainer at the Clubs at Charles River Park. He holds a Masters degree in Human Movement and is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a Corrective Exercise Specialist and Performance Enhancement Specialist.

4 Responses to “Gluteal Amnesia: Funny Name, Serious Problem”

  1. […] Activation Exercises [VIDEO]October 01, 2012 by Michael Bento0 CommentIf you read my last post on gluteal amnesia, you’ve been waiting eagerly for this one to show you some activation exercises (at least I […]

  2. […] butt butt butt butt butt… (to overcome gluteal amnesia, one of the culprits of my fluke injury last […]

  3. Mike Bento says:

    Thanks Clare – I’m glad the pictures help!

  4. Good blog.  Helpful pictures to show us how to stretch the tight muscles causing the bottom to live up to its reputation as the laziest muscle in the body.