The perils of prolonged sitting have well been established. You have probably heard that ‘sitting is the new smoking’ and it’s true.  It can boost your chances of developing everything from heart disease to cancer and diabetes, and can even take years off your life. But there’s one side effect that you may not have realized is linked to parking your tush in a desk chair all day.


Canadians are sitting so long that their butts are literally falling asleep.

“Dead butt syndrome,” or gluteal amnesia, is a condition that occurs when your glutes get inflamed and forget how to function normally. This can lead to hip pain, lower backache and problems with your ankles. 


When your glutes shut down due to lack of activity and stimulus, it causes strain on other muscles and joints and produces an effect where weaker muscles have to do the job of the stronger gluteus maximus. Left untreated, this can lead to something called “synergistic dominance,” where the smaller helper muscles of the hip and leg are now taking over movement and controlling the forces loaded on the hips, spine and low back.


Unlike our feet, our glutes aren’t designed to bear weight for long periods. Spending so much time on your backside decreases your body’s ability to use your incredibly powerful gluteus muscles when they’re needed.


Having trouble picturing what I am talking about?  How is this for an analogy from Kelly Starrett, a physical therapist and founder of Stand Up Kids??


“If you imagine making a panini sandwich where you take high pressure and high temperature and make a grilled cheese, sitting on your glutes all day is a little like this.”


In case it’s not obvious, you don’t want a panini for a butt…

How to Know if You Have It
1) The primary source of the condition is inactivity, so if you’re plopped in your desk chair for hours on end each day, chances are you’re increasing your risk.

When your glutes shut down due to lack of activity and stimulus, it causes strain on other muscles and joints and produces an effect where weaker muscles have to do the job of the stronger gluteus maximus. Left untreated, this can lead to something called “synergistic dominance,” where the smaller helper muscles of the hip and leg are now taking over movement and controlling the forces loaded on the hips, spine and low back.

2) Muscle tightness in the hips (specifically your hip flexors) is also a major culprit of dead butt syndrome. If you don’t have proper flexibility, you are “literally squeezing the juice or ‘power’ out of the gluteus maximus because movement is so challenged that the glutes can’t access enough force to engage fully.


3) Choosing the wrong exercises or not executing them properly can also contribute to the condition.


When an exercise fails to activate the targeted muscle, those smaller muscles mentioned earlier end up taking over the movement. This makes those smaller muscles become stronger, further robbing the gluteus maximus of the stimulus it’s now starved for.

How to Ward Off a Dead Butt
The best way to prevent dead butt syndrome is to keep yourself active and healthy. If you sit for prolonged periods of time, take frequent breaks to stand up, stretch and walk around as a means of keeping the posterior muscles active throughout the day.  Are you one of those people that just lose track of time and forget?  My best advise, keep a large bottle of water at your desk and sip on it constantly. Not only are you getting hydrated you will also be forced to get up on a regular basis and go on a quick walk to the closest powder room.


The gluteus maximus was built for power and speed and needs to be fed a regular diet of climbing, squatting, running, lunging and walking if it is to be kept in peak condition, or at least appear in top shape.


(To all of our Personal Training members…did you read that last line carefully??  We don’t make you lunge just for the sheer joy of watching you sweat, they really are good for you!)

If you are suffering from low back or hip pain and are wondering if a dead butt might be the root cause then give us a call.  We can help ensure you are doing the right exercises to safely activate the glutes, release your hip flexors and get you pain free in no time!