Understanding the butt wink
If you are an avid lifter, I am sure you have come across the term ‘Butt wink’.
Typically, the ‘butt wink’ occurs when some goes into a squatting pattern. More specifically, when someone gets to the bottom of their squat.
What ends up happening is their hips go through a posterior tilt and their tailbone tucks under them, creating a flexed lumbar spine.
When squatting under load, it is important to maintain a neutral spine. Failing to do so and letting the lumbar spine round can:
- Increase the risk of SI joint issues
- Disk herniations
- Pars fractures
The picture below illustrates the difference between the a squat with no butt wink and a squat with butt wink.
Why does the butt wink occur?
Some of the most common reasons that someone might butt wink at the bottom of their squat is due to
- Poor hip mobility
- Poor motor control
- Poor activation of anterior core
- Structure of the hip (hip socket depth)
The truth is, there is not one sole cause of the butt wink. It can be a combination of 2 or 3 of the things mentioned above.
To keep this article straight to the point, we will go over the two most common reasons the butt wink occurs.
- stability issue
- mobility issue
If you do have a structural issue, this is something that cannot be changed and will not be altered by any amount of mobility or stability drills. Surgery or just squatting to what your anatomy allows you to would be the best solution (we choose the latter).
Here is a simple assessment that you can perform to see if your butt wink is being caused by a mobility restriction. We call it the Quadruped Rock Back Test. You start in a quadruped position on the floor. Rock back toward the heels and perform a horizontal squat (see in the video below).
Perform 5-8 reps and observe if there is a posterior tilt of the pelvis.
If you are able to rock back without restrictions and your lower back remains neutral, it is then safe to say you have sufficient mobility to squat.
This assessment resembles what happens at the ankles, knees and hips in a deep squat and is indicative of not having significant mobility restrictions.
For this assessment, we want you to just perform a simple bodyweight squat.
Either film or have someone observe 5-8 reps and note the point at which the butt wink occurs.
Next, you will now do the same exact squat only this time you will have a plate or light DB out in front of you.
Observe if holding the weight plate either stops or improves the butt wink.
If the butt wink disappears or improves, then we can be more inclined to say it’s a stability issue.
This is because the counter balance squat will allow you to reflexively recruit more muscles of the anterior core and will give you a false sense of stability.
If the movement improves, it is a clear indication that you need to improve your ability to brace and hold Lumbo-Pelvic alignment as you lower down into the squat.
To recap, these two simple assessments will allow you to be able to determine if your butt wink is caused by either a mobility or stability issue.
If after these two test you see no changes/improvements in your squat and you are still having the butt wink issue, then it can be due to a structural issue at the hip joint. Which we would recommend getting it checked out if you are adamant about squatting below horizontal.
Remember, there are many variations to attack the squat pattern and still get the same training effect. Don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole.
If you have a mobility restriction the key areas to focus on are ankle mobility, hip mobility and thoracic mobility.
If you have a stability issue, work on breathing and bracing exercises along with anti-extension exercises.