Is sitting destroying your butt muscles?


Did you know: Your butt muscles can affect your posture!

What? How is that even possible? Keep reading… I’ll tell you everything that you need to be doing to make sure that they are working at their best.


 

Background information

(To preserve any authority that I may have gained and to remain somewhat professional, I am going to refer to the butt muscles as their technical name, the “gluteals”.)

 

// What are your gluteals?

Gluteals

Image from Myfit.

Your gluteal muscle group consists of 3 different muscles:

  • Gluteus maximus
  • Gluteus medius
  • Gluteus minimus

Action: As a group, the gluteal muscles are responsible for the hip movements of abduction, external rotation and extension.

Function: Apart from providing some padding whilst you sit on it all day, the gluteal muscles play a vital role in the stabilisation of the pelvis. This is important as the position of the pelvis is the foundation of good sitting posture.

For this post – we are going to focus on the gluteus maximus (the biggest one of the lot). I’ll likely be covering the role of the other gluteal muscles in another post sometime in the future.

 

// How can your gluteal muscles affect the posture?

Posterior oblique sling:

postoblique sling

Your gluteus maximus is part of the stabilisation system called the posterior oblique sling (see above). It involves the latissmus dorsi/thoracolumbar fascia/opposite gluteus maximus.

If your gluteals are weak or not working properly, the latissmus dorsi is overly recruited which can pull the torso and/or shoulder out of position. Due to the attachment of the latissimus dorsi, over activity in this muscle can cause the shoulder joint to rotate inwards (AKA slouching of your shoulders).

In other words, it can cause you to have bad posture! We already know why we don’t want bad posture, right? If not, click here straight away.

Overactive hamstrings:

Failure to engage your gluteals will result in the over activity of the hamstring muscle.

This will cause the pelvis to be rotated backwards resulting in the slouched pelvis position. It is virtually impossible to maintain good posture with a poorly positioned pelvis.

Check out this post: Correct pelvic position in sitting to make sure you know how to position your pelvis correctly.

 

// Why are they inhibited/weak?

We sit too much. Way too much!

In fact, I bet you are sitting right now.

Please make sure you are sitting with the correct posture! Check out this post: Best sitting posture to make sure you know how to sit properly.

Excessive sitting places your gluteal muscles in a position where they become a) weak and/or b) inhibited.


Have you heard of Gluteal amnesia? It’s actually a condition where your gluteal muscles are inhibited and do not engage when they are meant to. The problem with this is that it means other muscles will have to compensate leading to postural and movement issues.


 

 

// Does everyone need to do gluteal exercises?

I wouldn’t say absolutely everyone… but I’m willing to bet a vast majority of you will benefit significantly from them.

To quickly assess if you have dysfunctional gluteals, try this test below:

Bridge start positionbridge end position

Glute bridge: Try out the exercise as shown above. Which muscles can you feel that are working? Can you feel it in your gluteals?… Or do your hamstrings completely take over?

(If you unsure, try doing this exercise with just one leg pushing off the ground at a time)

Most of you may feel their hamstrings activate more than their gluteals. This is what we refer to as being “hamstring dominant”. The hamstrings have compensated for the lack of gluteal control and are recruited as the key mover/stabiliser (which should ideally be your gluteals).

Did you just get a cramp in the back of your leg? Hamstring dominant people tend to get hamstring cramps doing this exercise.


Introducing PostureDirect.com‘s guide to gluteal power…

glutesbodybuilder

(I must admit – The above picture may be a slight exaggeration of how strong your muscles will look after doing these exercises.) 

I recommend doing these exercises every day until they become very easy. When you can do endless amounts of repetitions without feeling any fatigue, you know you have mastered these basic gluteal exercises.

First things first… we need to address some factors that may reduce the effectiveness of the gluteal exercises.

STEP 1 – THE EXERCISES BEFORE THE EXERCISES

a) Stretch your hip flexors

Tight/overactive hip flexor muscles will make it very difficult for you to engage your gluteal muscle group properly.

What causes tight hip flexors? Sitting for long periods of time without breaks will make your hip flexor muscles tight. (even more so with bad sitting posture!)

hip flexor stretch

Instructions:

  • Assume the position as above.
  • Make sure you feel the stretch in the hip flexor muscle (front of hip on the back leg). You may need to manipulate your position so that you feel the stretch in the right area.
  • Hold the stretch for a minimum of 1 minute. (If you are particularly tight in this region, I strongly encourage you to hold the stretch for 2 minutes)
  • Repeat at least 3-5 times on each side.

b) Stretch your hamstrings

If your gluteal muscle group is not functioning properly, it is likely that your hamstring muscles are compensating for it. For this reason, we need to down regulate the activity of the hamstring muscles group by stretching them out.

This will allow for the opportunity for the gluteals to function without being taken over by the hamstrings.

hamstring stretches

Instructions:

  • Assume the positions as above. Remember to keep your back straight.
  • Make sure you feel the stretch at the back of your leg where your hamstring muscle is located.
  • Hold the stretch for a minimum of 1 minute. (If you are particularly tight in this region, I strongly encourage you to hold the stretch for 2 minutes)
  • Repeat at least 3-5 times on each side.

c) Pelvis isometric reset

Ideally, our pelvis should be in a position of symmetry. Due to imbalances in muscles around the area, the pelvis can sometimes twist/rotate/tilt to one side.

To prevent unequal load to your gluteal muscles whilst performing the exercises, I recommend resetting the position of your pelvis.

Video from HEPtoGo

 

Instructions:

  • Lie down on your back with both of your knees bent in the air at 90 degrees.
  • Place your hand on top of one knee, and the other below the other knee.
  • Whilst applying an opposing force on both knees, use your leg muscles to keep your knee in the same position. (isometric muscle contraction)
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat on other side.
  • Squeeze a ball between your knees and hold for 5 seconds.
  • Complete 3-5 cycles.

 

STEP 2 – WAKE UP YOUR BUTT!

Since you have completed above exercises, it is now possible to commence the activation exercises.

(If you have skipped the prior exercises, go back and do them first!)

For many of you, there may be some difficulty activating your gluteal muscles. Your hamstring muscles have probably been doing most the work of your gluteals for awhile now.

Focus on feeling the gluteal muscles contracting as you are performing these exercises. If you start to feel the gluteal muscles start to burn, then you know you are doing them correctly!

a) Hip extension – Standing

Video from HEPtoGo

 

Instructions:

  • Whilst standing upright, extend your leg backwards until you feel your gluteals contract firmly.
  • Do not rotate or bend forward.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Alternate legs for 20 repetitions each.

Note: Maintain your upright posture. You should not lean forward when doing this exercise. Hold onto a support (eg. back of a chair) if you have issues with maintaining your balance.

b) Hip extension – 4 point kneel

Video from GetReddy

 

Instructions:

  • Whilst in the 4 point kneel position, extend your leg backwards until you feel your gluteals contract firmly.
  • Do not rotate your body. Only your leg should be moving.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Alternate legs for 20 repetitions each.

 

STEP 3 – PROGRESSION #1

Since you now know how to recruit and activate your gluteals correctly, it is time to commence the strengthening exercises.

a) Resisted hip extension – Standing

Video from SKLZ

 

Instructions:

  • Tie a resistance band to your foot. Have the other end tied to a stable object.
  • Whilst standing upright, extend your leg backwards until you feel your gluteals contract firmly.
  • Do not rotate your body.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Alternate legs for 20 repetitions.

Note: Hold onto a support if you have issues with your balance.

b) Bridge

Video from Mike Robertson

Instructions:

  • Lie down on your back with your knees bent.
  • Flatten your lower back to the ground.
  • By pushing off with your heels, lift your buttocks off the floor.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat 15 times.

c) One leg bridge

Video from thespotter123

 

Instructions:

  • Lie down on your back with your knees bent.
  • Flatten your lower back to the ground.
  • Hold one knee towards your chest.
  • With the foot still on the floor, lift your buttocks off the floor by pushing through the heel of the foot.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat 15 times on alternate sides.

d) Deep lunge

Video from Howcast

 

Instructions:

  • (see video)
  • Drive through the heel.

 

 

STEP 4 – PROGRESSION #2

a) Hip thrust (+weight)

Instructions:

  • Support your upper back on a bench and have your knees bent.
  • Place a comfortable weight on the front of your pelvis.
  • Push with your heels, lift your buttocks off the floor.
  • Engage the gluteal muscles and hold for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat 15 times.

b) Lunge +weight

[see lunge video above]

Instructions:

  • Exact same method as the lunge as noted above.
  • Hold onto weights in your hands.
  • Alternate sides.
  • Repeat 10 times each.

c) Hip thrust – Standing

Video from Remi Sovren

 

Instructions:

  • Tie a resistance band to a stationary object.
  • Whilst holding onto the band which is between your legs, place your body in a squat.
  • Thrust your hips forward.
  • Hold for 5 seconds as you engage your glute muscles.
  • Repeat 10 times.

d) Dead lift

Video from CrossFit

Instructions:

  • (see video)
  • Keep your back straight. Push your gluteals behind you.
  • As you extend to the up right position, make sure you engage the gluteals.

e) Supine lateral ball roll

Video from Ultimate surf training

Instructions:

  • Support your upper back on an exercise ball.
  • Keep your body straight and knees bent throughout all movements.
  • Proceed to glide to the side and hold.
  • Return to the middle and repeat on other side.
  • Repeat for 60 seconds.

 

EXTRA TIPS

Whilst you are walking, let your back leg remain extended for a split second longer. This will engage your gluteal muscle group. It should feel as though you are gliding as you walk.

If you remember to do this every time you walk, you will essentially be training your gluteal muscles everyday!

Since prolonged sitting can disrupt normal gluteal function, try to get up from the seated position every 60 minutes. This will help reduce the negative impact on your gluteals.

 

 


This post has been inspired by that 90’s hit song where the singer says…

“I like big butts and I can not lie!”

(… Have no idea what I’m talking about? Click here and you’ll know exactly what I’m walking about)


 

Until next post, I wish you and your butt muscles all the best!

Please leave a comment below! I would love to hear from you!

 

About

I am a physiotherapist who has personally experienced the pain as a result of bad posture. I would like to offer you some of the solutions that I and my patients have greatly benefited from.

View all posts by

11 thoughts on “Is sitting destroying your butt muscles?

  1. I’m 8 weeks postpartum and had frequent adjustments during the pregnancy for a tilted pelvis. I’m stretching my hips flexors and hamstrings. I believe I have an anterior tilted pelvis and an working on that as well as core since it’s likely very weak. My question is I’m still not feeling any glute activation except a small amount doing clamshells with a resistance band. I did yoga and do currently so I’m unsure why the glutes are so weak! Any suggestions on what I can do?

    1. Hi Brenda,

      If you have an Anterior pelvic tilt, the glute muscles are placed in a elongated position which makes it very difficult to engage them.

      Try this:
      – Whilst standing, tilt your pelvis backwards (posterior pelvic tilt). Think about tucking your tail bone underneath you.
      – Lock this position in with your core engagement.
      – Whilst placing the weight on the left leg, proceed to tap your right leg behind you.

      Can you feel the glute muscle firing there?

      Mark

    1. Hey Gino,

      Within the first couple of weeks, you should notice that you can perform many of the exercises with less difficulty.

      As you become familiar with how your body responds to what particular exercises, you can start to omit some exercises. This will allow you to focus on the main ones that you feel you get the most benefit from.

      Mark

  2. I know for sure that my glutes are not firing properly which has developed in pain around the glute med area and some plantar fasciitis pain. I definitely sit a lot because of my desk job, although I try to move around as much as I can by taking frequent breaks.

    What I am confused is if I should stretch the glutes or do activation exercises while focusing on stretching the tight areas (i.e- hip flexors, TFL etc). I have read that stretching inactive/weak muscles doesn’t help with the pain/soreness.

    your input will be appreciated.

    1. Hi Alec,

      I guess it really depends which fibre within the glute muscle is tight. (The glute muscle is responsible for hip extension and external rotation). The External rotation fibres tends to be more commonly tight.

      But to keep it simple – You do want to stretch your glutes in general, but strengthening (especially hip extension) should always be your #1 focus as they are weak from excessive sitting.

      Mark

  3. I stil get mixed messages about stretching hip flexors? Also, surely these exercises trengthen and further compress an already tight muscle?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *