June 23, 2013

Wake Up Your Gluts

One of the biggest buzz phrases in the fitness industry is a condition known as “gluteal amnesia”.   Dr. Stuart McGill, an expert on spine biomechanics, coined the phrase.  It refers to the disconnect between the brain and your gluteal (butt) muscles. This leads to poor hip movement and back, hip and knee problems.  Most believe this condition is a result of too much sitting and a sedentary lifestyle.  Even those who work out regularly can have faulty movement patterns if the majority of their day is spent sitting.  Inactivity leads to tight hip flexors and hamstrings, and causes errors in the muscle firing sequence. Your gluts are essentially turned off.  This is intertwined with an inability to extend the spine (there is some debate about which comes first; the gluteal amnesia or the difficulty extending the spine). Whatever the cause, the pain felt on spinal extension causes many to avoid this movement, leading to a cycle of more rounding.
Your first step to fixing the problem is of course, to get off your butt.  Set a timer on your computer to remind you to get up and walk (even just around your desk) every 15 minutes.  If you watch tv, get up on the commercials, or set a timer to get up every 15 minutes (just avoid the fridge).  Correct your standing and sitting posture; try to avoid locking your knees or slumping your shoulders.  When at the gym avoid forward flexion exercises, especially abdominal crunches, curls or sit-ups.  Skip machines that make you sit, and opt for those that keep you standing.  Next week I will focus on some exercises that will actively engage your gluts, to help you look and feel better.

McGill, S.M. 2007. Low Back Disorders: Evidence Based Prevention and Rehabilitation (2nd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.