• Kacy Seynders, PT, DPT

What is "Dead Butt Syndrome", and Do I Have it?

As a runner, you’ve probably been told by someone in your circle, be it a coach, training partner, Physical Therapist, Doctor, etc., that you need to strengthen your glutes. Terms often used to describe poor glute activation with running are “dead butt syndrome”, or “sleeping butt syndrome”, both of which are not a very nice way to describe our bodies. 

So instead of calling our backside some not-so-nice names, let’s learn why the glutes are important, and what to do to if they aren’t quite living up to their full potential. 

Relevant anatomy

The “glutes” include three muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. The glute max is a powerful extensor and external rotator of the hip, while the glute med and glute min play a larger role in hip abduction and stability of the pelvic girdle. Spatially, the glute max overlays the glute med and min and is much larger in surface area. 

What does that mean for you, the runner? In summary, the glute max helps you push off the ground to propel forward, and the glute med/min works to keep the pelvis level while supported on one foot. When working appropriately, strong glutes help you move forward faster and avoid inefficient movement from side to side. 

Put your glutes to the test

While there are many ways to assess the function of the glutes, we’ll focus on three different tests here. 

Bridge: Start on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Push into the floor with your feet, and lift the hips as high as you can without arching the lower back. While your hips are lifted, straighten out one leg. Note how that feels in your body and assess the position of your hip bones. The most common deviation I see clinically is that the hip opposite the support leg drops closer to the floor. Repeat on the other side and compare between sides. We associate this “drop” with the inability of the glutes to 

maintain the bridge height and level pelvis while supported on one leg.