Gluteal Amnesia: Got Weak Glute Muscles?

Weak glute muscles contribute to many different health issues, such as low back pain, poor balance, and ankle instability.  I’m sure that everyone reading this has heard of amnesia, which is “a defect in memory, esp one resulting from pathological cause.” (dictionary.com)  But (no pun intended, Lol) I bet that most of you have not heard about gluteal amnesia which is when the glute muscles have a defect in their memory (the muscle doesn’t remember how to fire correctly) that is usually caused by an injury or muscle imbalance. 

One of the biggest problems I deal with as a personal trainer is getting my clients to buy into the idea that their weak glute muscles are a major cause of the pain and problems that they are dealing with.  The reason that this is such a big focus for me is that I think that most people could avoid a lot of pain and suffering and prevent injuries if they would just strengthen their glute muscles properly. They usually end up paying for those weak glutes with lower back pain, poor balance, and ankle instability .

Research is showing that “Poor endurance and delayed firing of the hip extensor (gluteus maximus) and the abductor (gluteus medius) muscles have previously been noted in individuals with lower limb instability or low back pain.” (1)  Another study found that there was a significant delayed response of the gluteus medius muscle in individuals with chronic ankle instability compared to normal controls. (1) The following statement is anecdotal (my own personal observations – not based on scientific research) in nature.  For the last decade I have observed that most people are unaware that they are using their low back, legs, and/or feet to move their body from here to there and everywhere and to perform all kinds of different tasks, instead of their glutes.

The other day I had a client come to my class that I had not seen in years (probably 4 or more years). I ended up spending the majority of the class helping her to understand that she was not in the proper position and that she was not using her glutes properly, that she was using her lower legs and feet to do the work that the butt should be doing. She later made a comment to one of the other participants about how all I did the whole class was to talk about whether she was using her glutes or not. She also said that she thought it was great because she could really feel the difference when she performed the exercises with the proper form and that she was actually able to do the exercises when she did them correctly. She has continued to return to my classes on a regular basis and is seeing a difference in her ability to move properly.  By the way, she is 77 1/2 years old, so if she can strengthen her glutes, so can you! Lol  Two final thoughts, I propose that you leave the “amnesia” to the soap stars and get your glutes working.  And if you are already doing butt exercises are you doing them with the correct form and are they truly effective in helping you get the results you’re looking for and need?

(1) Nadler SF, Malanga GA, Feinberg JH, Prybicien M, Stitik TP, DePrince M; Relationship between hip muscle imbalance and occurrence of low back pain in collegiate athletes: a prospective study. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2001;80:572-577.

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