What is dead glute syndrome?
Dead Glute Syndrome is a term for the problem where our brains forget how to activate the glutes. It is not an official medical diagnosis but is rooted in real medical physiology and pathology.
More specifically, the brain loses it’s mind-muscle connection with chronic disuse of the muscle. We spend so much of our lives sitting down. So many jobs require sitting at the computer all day, then we come home and sit to watch television or amuse ourselves on our phones.
All of this sitting puts the glute muscles persistently in a relaxed and stretched state.
The brain and body are wired to preserve energy as much as possible. The human body is built for times when food wasn’t as readily available and we could go days without eating. There just hasn’t been enough time in our food-secure modern world to evolve past that.
Because the body tries to preserve energy as much as possible, the brain only maintains active connection to things we use often. Remember when you used to know statistics from high school because you did it every day for homework? How it still feels like it’s there in your brain somewhere and it feels like it would be easy to relearn, but you would have to intentionally sit down and learn it again?
You still have some minimal connections to that part of your brain but your brain has essentially stowed it away in the storage unit down the street since you don’t use it anymore.
Maintaining/repairing the brain cells that keep that connection easily accessible takes energy that he brain thinks isn’t worth it anymore so it minimizes the connections as much as possible.
That same process happens with the muscles in the body. Muscles that are chronically not used for months and even years often, the brain gradually decreases its connection to that part of the body. Although the connection still exists and can be strengthened again, it takes intentional, focused effort to rebuild.
To move the hip joint, there are several other muscle groups that take over in this case and “compensate” for the lost gluteus contribution. These include primarily the hamstrings, but also several smaller muscles in your hip joint and back.
Why dead glute syndrome matters
First of all, from a purely cosmetic standpoint, no matter how many deadlifts or hip thrusts you do, your butt won’t grow 1 inch if your glutes aren’t doing the work. The glutes need to be activated to be pushed to their limit to force them to build more mass. Dead Glute Syndrome inhibits this. Additionally, the muscles that compensate for the glutes are often the hamstrings and this means you are likely building your thighs when doing leg work instead of your glutes which can get your legs looking out of proportion quickly and be very frustrating. Subscribe to my email list to get next weeks post about overcoming dead-glute syndrome in your inbox as soon as it’s published.
Dead glute syndrome is also important because it can cause and/or contribute to injuries, especially in the knees and lesser so in the hips. The compensating muscles pull on your joints in ways they aren’t meant to go and can end up causing significant pain. Both hip and knee pain when squatting, dead lifting, etc are likely at least partially due to poor glute activation. Much of knee pain when doing running or jumping exercises is from excess internal rotation of the knees and knees bent improperly inwards because of weak glutes which externally rotate the legs and pull the legs outward.
This is just one of the many, many health problems caused by our modern, sedentary lifestyle. While working to overcome this issue in particular, whether it is for cosmesis or for pain/injury avoidance, we can also be more aware of just how detrimental this lifestyle is overall and make other efforts to combat it.
Stay tuned for how to overcome dead glute syndrome next week!
Dr. Elle, MD
Belle of the Barbell