Corey Olson was just 27, but his 6’3″, 250-pound body felt twice as old. His back hurt all the time, from the moment he woke up and headed to work. It hurt when he sat at his desk for eight hours straight every day, and after work when he’d step gingerly into the batter’s box at his weekly beer league softball games. Just looking at a barbell in the gym sent a shudder down his spine. Olson exercised regularly and played sports all the time, but his back pain was always there, to the point that he thought something might be very wrong. Exasperated, he sought the advice of a trainer, who pointed out the problem: Olson had a weak ass.
Olson isn’t alone. American men so commonly let their backsides slide that it’s even a syndrome: glute amnesia, when your butt muscles go to sleep and become weak. We can thank our sedentary lifestyle for letting our largest, most metabolically active muscles turn into pillow cushions.
“No matter what sport or day-to-day activity you’re doing, good glute strength is crucial for endurance, power, and pain prevention,” says Jordan Metzl, M.D., a sports medicine physician in New York City.
Four months after Olson started targeting his glutes, his back pain was virtually gone. “There were so many other positive cascade effects, too,” he says. “I was more flexible, my posture improved, and I had more muscle. Everything from walking up the stairs to playing softball felt better.”
Your butt consists of three distinct muscles—the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus—that attach your torso to your legs along a number of points, including the sacrum, pelvis, and femur.