A few years ago a bright, successful local physical therapist and I invented and patented a piece of equipment to both prevent and address low back pain. During the year or so we spent developing it, a name consistently came up in the research: Dr. Stuart McGill. A professor with the University of Waterloo for more than 30 years, Dr. McGill is regarded as the world’s leading scientific researcher on low back issues. While that is obviously commendable, I’m mentioning him due to a term he coined and I love: Gluteal Amnesia.
Our gluteal muscle group (maximus, medius, minimus…) is the largest in the human body and often doesn’t work efficiently for a combination of reasons. When it doesn’t work properly to act on the ball and socket hip joint, the joints above and below take way too much of a beating as they try to compensate. Those joints — the low back region and the knee — are all too familiar problem areas as life moves along, and they’re subsequently leading candidates for “surgery-of-the-month.”
Those main reasons are because we sit way too much. We sit when we eat, in our cars, at our desks, when we watch TV, at sporting and other entertainment events, even when mowing the lawn.
Also, we don’t do enough. We don’t have to. Everything has evolved to be labor saving (a.k.a. fat producing). “Alexa, do stuff for me so I don’t have to even move at all.” Oops, sorry, back to my point. Glutes don’t work very much when just walking unless it’s up a very steep incline. So our largest muscle group is allowed to deprogram, to shut down, to not have enough work to do to stimulate development. Gluteal Amnesia.
To further complicate this, many of the supposed glute exercises I see are incomplete and only use about half of the necessary range of motion. This is a very important muscle group for function far beyond appearance in jeans and thong swimsuits (I’m just sayin’). Am I implying that low back and knee problems are often due to a lifelong lifestyle of a weak butt? YES.
Well then, what can we do about that? Start with getting up off it! It’s never too late for improvement (in just about anything actually…). After you’re up off it, target individual muscles that act on the low back, the glutes and the knees. Train them assertively. After a few months of that, safely and efficiently incorporate them into multi-joint coordinated movements, both with body weight and under load.
What’s the overall goal? To help us live our lives with a minimum of discomfort and pain. Scientific research has clearly shown we can reactivate, activate, develop and strengthen muscles at any age.
So, move better, feel better, and Get Your Butt Fit!