You love jogging and pounding the pavement, but suddenly, you feel a sharp pain in the butt. The culprit? Dead butt syndrome. Called gluteus medius tendinosis by those in the sports medicine community, this condition is an inflammation of the tendons in one of the larger muscles of the butt, known as the gluteus medius.
The gluteus medius, along with the abdominals, are essential for stabilizing the hips and pelvis, especially while running. Weak gluteus muscles don’t adequately support the pelvis, resulting in the hip flexors having to do all the work, which leads to tight hips. When hips are constantly contracting, this leads the gluteal muscles to further relax, a process known as reciprocal inhibition. Tight hips can occur from excessive sitting, often a casualty of our sedentary lives, as well as too much of one exercise, like running without any cross-training, which leads the muscles not used during running to weaken — which can cause a major pain in the butt.
Never fear, however; there are exercises to fix dead butt syndrome so you don’t get that telltale pain the butt the next time you hit the pavement for a jog.
Squats are a great way to work your butt, and with so many variations, there’s no way you’ll get bored of this exercise. For a double-whammy, try a squat and lift, which works both the gluteal and abductor muscles, which include the gluteus medius.
» Do it:
Step 1: Begin with your feet under the shoulders and hinge the hips backward so you come into a crouched squat. Keep the arms in front of you however you want so you can keep the chest lifted.
Step 2: Push out of the squat on one leg as the other leg lifts out to the side, completely extended. Crunch that same-side oblique to stay balanced. Replace the foot and repeat.
Want more squat variations? Check out our There's More Than One Way To Do A Squat video and learn proper form on six squat variations.
Lunges are often thought of as a leg exercise, but depending on the kind of lunge you do, you can get a great butt workout, too! An alternating side lunge is another great way to work both the glutes and abductors.
» Do it:
Step 1: Begin in your neutral standing position with the dumbbells at your sides. Feet should be shoulder-width apart. Roll the shoulders back and down and lift your chest.
Step 2: Step one foot out to the side and bend the leg into a lunge. The knee must stay behind the toes. The other leg is straight. Your chest is lifted still. It's tempting to drop your chest, so look straight ahead and keep the shoulders back.
Step 3: Bring the lunge to the other side first by pressing through your heel to your standing position. Send the other leg out to the side. The farther you step out, the deeper you will need to lunge. The dumbbells stay in front of you, on either side of the lunging leg.
A yoga classic, the bridge pose is a triple threat, working the abs, butt and hips. Position is key in this pose, as it’s easy to overarch the back. To avoid this, keep your abdominals strong, which will prevent your hips from lifting too high.
» Do it:
Step 1: Lie on your back with the knees bent and feet on the floor. Rest your arms at your sides, palms down.
Step 2: Exhale, squeeze the glutes and lift up into your bridge. Press into the heels and activate the lats to stabilize. Perform 3 sets of 15 to feel the burn.
If you’ve ever been to a kickboxing class, you know that kicking is a major butt workout. Try combining a front and side kick to work both the glutes and the core, ensuring muscles around your pelvis are stabilized to prevent pain.
» Do it: front kick
Step 1: Come into a staggered position with feet at hip-width, one in front and one in the back. Put most of your weight in the front leg, keeping the knee behind the toe. Fists are by the face in fighting position.
Step 2: Bring the back leg forward into a knee lift. You want the foot to come under the hamstring first, bringing the heel toward the butt before opening up in your kick. Keep the standing leg bent for good support and protection of the knee joint. The same-side arm will begin to drop the elbow to the outside of the kicking leg.
Step 3: Explode into your front kick, going only as high as you can. You want the leg to extend straight out in front of you. Drop the same-side elbow to the outside of the leg and maintain the bend in your grounded leg. Bring the heel toward the butt again as you reverse the kick, and find your staggered stance with fists by the face.
» Do it: side kick
Step 1: Begin with the feet together, putting most of your weight into one side. Since your opponent is on the side of you, you need to protect your face by crossing the opposite arm to your cheek and using your other arm as balance.
Step 2: Lift the kicking leg off the ground with a completely bent knee. For power, bring the knee up to hip-height and crunch it toward the body, foot flexed.
Step 3: Use that momentum and push the leg out to full extension. Lean deeply to the opposite side and keep your grounded leg slightly bent for good support. Reel the leg back in by first sending the heel to your butt, then tapping the foot on the ground next to the other foot and repeat.
This Pilates classic is a great way to work the gluteus medius, and you only need 10-15 reps to really feel the exercise working for you. Add a resistance band to the move for even more of a challenge.
» Do it:
Step 1: Grab a resistance band and lay down on your right side with your legs straight. Wrap the band around your ankles.
Step 2: Lie on your right side with your legs straight, your left leg on top of your right. Use your right forearm as a kickstand, holding your upper body above the floor.
Step 3: Keeping your legs straight, raise your right leg as high as you can. Focus on keeping your knee straight. Lower your leg back to the starting position.
Step 4: Lift as many times as you can on this side for 30 seconds. Switch to your left side and complete as many side leg raises with band as possible for 30 seconds.
Sweeping skaters are a great move to target your glutes and thighs, and the graceful move will make you feel like ice-skating queen.
» Do it:
Step 1: The sweeping skater is a bigger version of your traditional skater jump. From standing, cross one leg in front of you, toe pointing forward and drop down into a lunge. Reach your opposite hand all the way down to the floor. Let the chest drop, but don't round the back.
Step 2: Jump up, swinging your arms overhead. You'll make a big "swoop" or circle with your arms. Get both feet off the floor at the same time as you switch to the other side.
Step 3: Your feet will switch at some point in the air, leaping from side to side. Cross the opposite leg in front of your body, lunge and touch the floor. Modification: Skip the jump and step from side to side.
While running might be your favorite form of cardio, it’s worth including a cross training session of cycling or rowing into your fitness routine to ensure you’re working your butt muscles and making up for the tip hip flexors and strength imbalances that running can cause.
Incorporate these moves into your weekly strength routine and you’ll be on your way to a pain-free butt.