Dead Butt Syndrome is a common cycling condition that can be treated and prevented by following these simple steps.
Dead Butt Syndrome (DBS), known clinically as gluteus medius tendinopathy, and often referred to as ‘gluteal amnesia,’ is a common condition amongst cyclists. While I have often been accused of having my head ‘you know where’ during races, that is not quite what I am alluding to here.
When a cyclist spends a prolonged period of time in the saddle, they may develop numbness in the muscles deep to the glutes, which can become stiff, and that soreness travels to the hips, lower back, and knees. Those deep glute muscles essentially ‘shut down’ and forget their main purpose, which is supporting the pelvis and keeping your trunk in proper alignment while pedaling.
As cyclists we spend a tremendous amount of time with our trunk maintained in a bent forward position, which causes the muscles on the front of our thighs (hip flexors) to tighten, and our glutes to lengthen.
Coupling that with the significant pressure the saddle puts on a localized area, causes the smaller muscle of the buttocks, the gluteus medius, to develop inflammation (tendinitis) and even bursitis (inflammation of a fluid-filled sac that eases movement within the hip joint).
Perhaps most significant for cyclists, however, is the profound weakness associated with DBS. It is believed that the glutes account for more than 25% of our pedaling power, greatest at the top of the pedal stroke as we apply downward force.
Ineffective contraction of the glutes hampers performance, and can also cause the surrounding muscles, in an effort to compensate for the weakness, to fatigue more rapidly.
With proper treatment and exercise, you can revive your dead butt and jog its memory. Here is a Four-Step approach to show you how.
Step One: Perform a Foam Roll Routine
By rolling the muscles of your legs, they will be more relaxed making it easier to stretch, thereby improving your flexibility. In addition, when rolling the glute muscles the spasm which occurs due to being overworked will decrease too. Here’s how:
Step Two: Perform a Stretching Program
By adding hip flexor and hamstring stretches to your daily routine you can counteract the negative effects of prolonged periods in the saddle. Here’s how:
Step Three: Perform a Muscle Activation Routine
By performing a muscle activation program of your glutes prior to athletic activity, you can provide a stimulus to inactive muscle groups to facilitate their function. By focusing on the glute muscles and visualizing them to fire, the strength of contraction improves through enhanced fiber recruitment. Here’s how:
Muscle Activation Routines should be performed in the following way:
- Take it slow and controlled, making each repetition a maximal contraction through a full range of motion.
- Focus upon concentrating on the muscles you intend to activate.
- Perform 8-10 repetitions and two sets of very little to no resistance.
- The key is to warm up and engage the proper muscles without pre-fatiguing them, which can make them less active.
Step Four: Perform a Strengthening Routine
A program created to improve and maintain the strength of the glutes, hip extensors, and core will prevent the negative side effects of DBS and improve performance. Here’s how:
The glutes are arguably the most important cycling muscles, and the muscles most negatively impacted by prolonged periods spent bent over in the saddle.
In addition, all the sitting we do at work and home adds up, contributing to hip flexor tightness and elongation of our glutes.
This, in turn, results in glute muscles that ‘forget’ how to work and become ‘dead’.
By following the Four Step approach outlined above, you can awaken your tired tush and give your bum a boost!
How about you?
Have you ever experienced DBS? What did you do to resuscitate your rump? Your fellow virtual cyclists could use the help.
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit, and through its work and the pages of this site, Chris is committed to helping others with his bike. His gain cave is located on the North Fork of Long Island where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two college student children.