A Glute-Wake-Up Exercise Every Runner (and Frequent Sitter) Should Know
I once worked out with a running coach who said that a huge chunk (scientific, I know!) of running injuries could be attributed to “dead butt” syndrome. It’s a real thing, and a diagnosis many runners have heard from sports medicine doctors and physical therapists. Here’s what happens: For those of us who spend much of our day seated, our gluteus medius muscles weaken. Over time they sort of “forget” how to switch on, which they need to do in order to keep our pelvis stable and our spine in proper alignment. For runners especially, this imbalance can force other muscle groups to overcompensate to keep things moving. Folks with dead butts (RIP) may experience stiffness and pain throughout the lower body: hips, knees, ankles, even toes.
If your butt is so dead that you suspect you have an actual injury — legit pain that inhibits movement — please talk to a doctor or physical therapist about diagnosing and treating the injury. But if you’re just experiencing stiffness or generally don’t feel wonderful when you move around, or you’re starting a running routine and want to prevent injury, something that can help is strengthening the glutes, and warming up the gluteus medius in particular, before you go for a walk or run.
A great way to revive the gluteus medius is the lateral monster walk, a move you might enjoy adding to your warmup, your workout, or even your “taking a break from sitting at my laptop” routine (try it in the kitchen while you wait for the kettle to boil).
It’s ideally done with a mini-band, or a resistance band tied in a loop (if you don’t have one, try a pair of leggings, tights, or pantyhose tied in a loop), and you can place it around your ankles, your quads, or even your feet — experiment to see what feels best. Just don’t place it around your knees as that’s too much pressure on a sensitive joint. You can do the monster walk standing fully upright, or in a full or partial squat; squatting may make it feel more challenging, but may also be a bit gentler on your knees.
Here’s how to do it:
Place the band around your ankles, quads, or feet, with feet separated enough that the band is taut (but not stretched). Tuck your tailbone to activate your glutes and protect your low back. Lower yourself into a squat position, then step to the right, maintaining a wide distance between your feet and making sure not to drag either foot. Take as many steps as you have space for, then go in the other direction. If you can, do at least 10 reps in each direction. If it feels great, perform three sets of 12–15 reps in each direction.
If this move isn’t accessible to you but you still want to work on your gluteus medius, you can also try clamshells lying on your side.
For more moves you can do with a resistance band, check out this full-body resistance band workout:
A Full-Body Workout That Only Requires a Resistance Band
Maintain your strength and your distance
As Elemental’s executive editor and an ACE certified personal trainer, I’m suggesting a simple move each Monday to start your week on the right foot. Have a great one, and see you next week.