5 Ways to Wake Up Sleepy Glute Muscles

You’ve been sitting all day long and research tells us your waistline is going to pay dearly, but who knew the desk life would also turn off signals to our backsides?

Have you noticed how many people have very flat looking butts? A big reason is because of inactivated gluteal muscles. And the really problematic part is not how they look, but the fact that it is a HUGE contributor to chronic low back pain.

Here are 5 ways to wake up “sleepy glutes”.

Gluteal amnesia or “dead butt syndrome” means that your butt muscles forget how to activate correctly. As time goes on, having a major muscle group in your body like the gluteal muscles NOT doing their job correctly creates a myriad of symptoms:

  • Low back pain

  • Hip pain

  • Knee pain

  • Muscular imbalances

  • Postural distortion

The exciting news is that gluteal amnesia isn’t permanent if you’re willing to do the work! Follow this 5-exercise regimen to help wake up, activate and strengthen this important muscle group.

** To view the exercises, watch the video below. Read the descriptions that follow if you’re the reading type :)

Glute Exercise #1: Glute Bridge

This exercise is not only an easy move to begin with for nearly everyone, it also has the benefit of being one of the top exercises to activate the glutes. Start with your body weight. If this is easy for you, progress to single leg glute bridges.

START WITH SETS OF 5 AND WORK UP TO SETS OF 10 OR MORE.

Glute Exercise #2 Clam Shell

Start simple on this movement and focus first on “feeling” the glutes. Lie on your side with knees stacked on each other and knees bent above 90 degrees. Keep feet stacked on each other. Gently and slowly raise the top knee up in the air about 45 degrees. Keep your hand on your upper hip to make sure you’re not staring to lean back or open that hip up as you’re clam shelling. Once you’ve mastered activating the correct area, add some resistance with a band around the knees.

START WITH SETS OF 5 ON EACH SIDE AND WORK UP TO SETS OF 10 OR MORE.

Glute Exercise #3 Bird Dog

This “standard” exercise for lower back health can also help wake up the glutes. It’s simple and everyone can do it giving themselves doubling the benefit. I give this exercise to ALL my low back patients.

Start in table top position ie. on all 4’s. Make sure the hands are directly under the shoulders and the knees are hip width apart and under the hips.

Extend the right arm outward and the left leg backward. Hold for 3 seconds. Now lower and repeat with the left arm and right leg extended. That’s one set.

START WITH 5 PER SIDE AND WORK UP TO 10 PER SIDE.

Glute Exercise #4 Donkey Kicks

You’ve probably seen these in every Jane Fonda video, or they might even bring back memories of your favourite 80’s movie…but they work. I would recommend watching the video for this exercise because most people I see doing donkey kicks are actually doing them in a way that puts their backs at risk and don’t accomplish what they think they’re trying to accomplish (ie. building beautiful butt muscles).

This is a glut activation exercise. As such, it must be slow and controlled with the pelvis in neutral position. Your low back should never arch. Keep your knee bent, and raise your foot toward the ceiling by squeezing the glut muscle.

Your knee and foot will not go all that high. If your thigh is parallel with the floor, you’re likely lifting it too high causing your pelvis to rotate and your back to arch.

START WITH SETS OF 5 AND WORK UP TO SETS OF 10.

Glute Exercise #5 Squat

This is another fundamental low back and lower body strengthening and activation exercise. There are lots of different variations for every level of ability.

Plant your feet hip width apart. Focus on the feel of your heels. I want you to make sure this movement is coming through your heels and not off your toes.

Gently lower your bumb toward the floor, feeling your weight on your heels. Your thighs should go below your knees, ideally getting to the point where your hamstrings and calves are resting on each other (think tribal squatting). If squatting is easy for you, feel free to add some weights for more resistance.

DO SETS OF 5 WORKING UP TO SETS OF 10.

**ONCE YOU’VE DONE ALL 5 EXERCISES, REPEAT AGAIN SO YOU’VE DONE 2 SETS.


The idea of “sleepy glutes” is kind of funny, but the devastating effects we’re beginning to see on our health is no laughing matter. Doing the work to activate those glutes and wake them up will not only make you look healthier but feel healthier too!

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HI! I'm Dr. Shawna Dingman and I operate Elevate Women's Health Centre in Port Perry. I am the co-owner of Elevate Health Centres with my husband, Dr. Craig Dingman. 

Speaking of family, I'm a mom of 3 amazing kids: Jackson, Jenna and Cole.  I've always been passionate about the care of women and children, probably because I began my career as a pediatric and pregnancy chiropractor as a young mom with an infant!  Aside from clinical practice, I also coach women chiropractors who want to have practices that are a great fit for their families.  In my "spare" time, I love to cottage with my family, hang out with the kids, CrossFit at our local gym, read a book, catch a great show on Netflix, go for a run or have coffee with friends.