A call for cross-training: Dealing with dead-butt syndrome


I’m not one of those guys who likes to say, “I told ya so.” But in this case, I told ya so.

Last year, I wrote a couple of pieces emphasizing the need for runners and weightlifters to cross train in areas that might not be all that comfortable or natural to their pastimes. I said weightlifters should run. And I also said runners should lift.

A recent post from a New York Times blog would seem to agree with me on the latter.

The writer spoke of suffering from something called “dead-butt syndrome.” Medically, it’s called gluteus medius tendinosis. The condition is an inflammation of the tendons that are attached to the gluteus medius, which is one of three muscles that make up your glutes.

People who suffer from dead-butt syndrome often experience hip pain severe enough to knock them out of their training.

When you’re a distance runner, the range of motion in your glutes is rather small. Instead of getting those high knees and really digging into your stride like a sprinter, the motions are much more compact. A repetitive motion over a run, repeated for months or even years, will cause imbalances that leave some parts of your lower body more “trained up” then other parts. This is where the gluteus medius gets affected.

The post describes the degenerative process in this way: One muscle group overpowers the other, causing tears, which lead to scarring. If not treated correctly, the cycle perpetuates. Eventually, you will alter your gait, which will cause a whole other range of problems in your legs, from your quads, hamstrings, Achilles tendons, heels, knees, calves, ankles, feet or toes. The writer quotes a doctor thusly:

“Whether they’re recreational weekend runners up to the elite marathoners, the majority of runners I see have weak gluteus medius and gluteus maximus muscles,” said Dr. David Webner, a sports medicine doctor at Crozer-Keystone Health System in Springfield, Pa.

How to remedy this? The simple answer is to make the gluteus medius stronger. And how? Get in the weight room.

A good strength training regimen for the legs, along with other remedies like stretching and deep tissue massage, will help break up the scar tissue, according to the Times post.

Long term, mixing in some lower body weight training will prevent the condition from recurring. Mix in some squats, lunges, bench step-ups and Romanian deadlifts (here’s a leg workout for your perusal). You might also consider mixing in some sprints on a weekly basis.

Dead-butt syndrome can derail your training and lead to other maladies that can set you back. As much as you might be loath to sacrifice a day of running to get into the weight room, it’s worth it in the end. You’ll be stronger for it, and you’ll prevent an injury that has sidelined a lot of runners just like you.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088


8 thoughts on “A call for cross-training: Dealing with dead-butt syndrome

  1. I’ve been amazed at how fun cross-training can be. And deep tissue massage I can get from my grid roller, which I HIGHLY recommend…it’s painful, but primes my muscles before a high-intensity workout and (in my opinion) increases performance. Thanks for the post.

  2. I thought at first this might be about getting off your butt and workout but the cross trraining I love. I feel I get a total workout with adding weifhts to my running. Good stuff.

  3. Pingback: Four ideas on dealing with injuries during training – proactiveoutside

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