Dead Glute Syndrome Part 3: Next Steps

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Two weeks ago we covered Dead Glute Syndrome, what it is and why it matters. If you missed it, click here.

Last week we discussed the first move to do to overcome Dead-Glute Syndrome, the bilateral prone leg-raise. If you still don’t feel your glutes contract, I recommend starting here.

Dead or Sleepy Glute Syndrome. A physician's take and moves to overcome at Belle of the Barbell.

Building up from here:

One-Side Prone Leg-Raise

The next move I would work on is the one-side (one-leg) prone leg raise

Once you are comfortable flexing your glutes together while laying face down, work on doing the same thing but with one leg at a time. Like I said before, you’re working with very little mind-muscle connection here so once you’ve built it up a bit together, halving the amount becomes a new challenge. 

One side prone leg raise to help dead or sleepy glute syndrome on Belle of the Barbell

Steps are as follows:

  1. Lie face down on anything: exercise mat, bed, couch, floor, etc
  2. Focus on squeezing your butt to lift one KNEE 2 inches into the air for 10 pulses
  3. Switch to other side for 10 pulses
  4. Repeat for 3 rounds

Tips:

  • If you don’t feel the activation in the glute at any time, go back to the bilateral leg raise

I really like this video describing this exercise if you want to learn more:


One-Side Leg Abduction

In addition to the unilateral prone leg raise, I would also add lying unilateral leg abduction at this time.

The prone leg raise works primarily the gluteus maximus. There is some gluteus minimus and gluteus medius activation but with chronic dead-glute syndrome, this is likely lost. I’d recommend adding in some work on re-activating these upper-glute muscles at this time. 

One side leg abduction to help dead or sleepy glute syndrome on Belle of the Barbell

Steps are as follows:

  1. Lie down on your side on any surface. Bend bottom leg for stabilization.
  2. Lift your top leg high into the air by contracting your upper glute muscle
  3. Pulse the leg higher into the air, focusing on the top part of your glute muscle on that side
  4. Do 10 pulses on each side and repeat for 3 rounds

Tips

  • Propping yourself up on your bottom arm puts the glute medius and glut minimus into partial flexion which, as I’ve discussed before, makes it easier for your brain to find the lost muscle.
  • Starting with the leg raised has the same effect of starting at the point of near-maximal flexion so you have the best shot at targeting that lost muscle.
  • Start with just pulses for about 7 days and gradually increase the range of motion in small increments. Drop the leg 2 inches, then lift to very top several rounds, then drop 4 inches and lift, etc.
  • Your glutes medius and minimus are located along the upper part of your buttocks so this is where you should be feeling the contraction, NOT the side of your hip.

Donkey Kick

Finally, after about 7 days of these two exercises, at this point I would add on the hands-and-knees donkey kick.

As you may assume at this point, I think it is critical to start with the glute fully flexed, pulse up to activate until comfortable you are getting full activation, then slowly move to larger rang of motion.

Donkey kick exercise to help dead or sleepy glute syndrome on Belle of the Barbell

Steps are as follows:

  1. Get down onto hands and knees
  2. Donkey kick one leg back and up into the air so that your thigh is parallel to the ground and your knee is flexed at 90 degrees
  3. Pulse the leg higher into the air, lifting the knee about 2 inches, focusing on your glute muscle on that side
  4. Do 10 pulses on each side and repeat for 3 rounds

Tips

  • Starting with the leg raised has the same effect of starting at the point of near-maximal flexion so you have the best shot at targeting that lost muscle.
  • Start with just pulses for about 7 days and gradually increase the range of motion in small increments. Drop the knee 2 inches, then lift to very top several rounds, then drop 4 inches and lift, etc.

Once you get to the point of being able to start with your knee on the ground and ACTUALLY FEEL the tightening of your glute through the WHOLE range of motion lifting it to the top, you are in a good position to proceed with many other glute-focused exercises. Even for those however, I would recommend starting in whatever position the glute is mostly fully flexed and pulse small movements while focusing intently on glute flexion. Gradually increase range of motion until you feel the glute activation through the whole range.


I still do three rounds of ten reps of all three of these exercises before every leg day and it’s an excellent leg-day warm-up.

Below is an infographic to pull up on your phone for your next leg-day at the gym.

I’ve been doing this for over a year now and still I feel like I have difficulty activating my right side the first couple moves so know that it can take time to rebuild the mind-muscle connection. Don’t give up and be consistent.

Happy Lifting!
Dr. Elle, MD
Belle of the Barbell

Leg day glute activation warm up for dead sleepy glute syndrome on Belle of the Barbell!
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