How To Fix Butt Wink During Squats
What is a Butt Wink?
First of all, what exactly is butt wink? Butt wink is an extra motion that occurs in your pelvis typically at the bottom of the squat. Your pelvis will posteriorly tilt, or roll and tuck under your bottom or “butt wink.” This motion puts the lumbar spine in excessive flexion. Although our spines are made to move, this extra motion can potentially contribute to low back and SI joint discomfort if performed under enough load, or repetition. High level lifters can have a butt wink, but for most new/low level lifters a butt wink is often indicative of faults in one of three areas mobility restrictions, mechanical alignments issues, and stability deficits. These three deficits can cause this extraneous butt wink motion during a squat and result in increased injury risk, or decreased performance.
There are many factors that can potentially be a cause of this movement fault. Often, we can first look at mobility restrictions as a leading potential cause. Tightness can come from several areas, muscle length, muscle tone, or joint restrictions. Most often muscle length/tone are the primary limitations and are most noted at the bottom of the squat. Tight gluteal or hamstring muscles may limit the amount our hips are able to flex, and we’ll notice that our low back rounds at the bottom to compensate. An easy way to see if glute muscular tightness is the culprit is to start someone on their hands and knees, with their feet flat on a wall. We call this the quadruped position, and it minimizes the load and stability needed to perform a modified squat. From here, push the hips straight back towards the feet. If we don’t observe rounding of the low back, muscular mobility restrictions are unlikely the cause and we look at other things. If not the glute, a variety of other muscle groups can have a heavy impact on squat form if tight as well. No matter the group, corrective mobility drills, warm ups, and stretches done over the long run will improve mechanics.
Everyone’s bodies are different. Our bony alignment is different, including the length of our femurs and the way they fit into the socket. These things change how we should move and expect to move. Each build will have optimal planes/orientations for performance and safety. Although we can’t change bony structures in the body, we can optimize our control to find the best mechanics for us. Our foot positioning may also play a key role in how we stabilize our pelvis at the bottom of a squat. Oftentimes people squat with a narrow stance, with feet facing straight forward. While this may feel comfortable for some people, many people feel like this restricts the depth they can achieve in a squat. By angling the toes outward slightly and spreading the feet apart to about shoulder width, this places the hip joint in a more comfortable position to flex, and limits the need for the low back to compensate. Finding the correct positioning, and movement patterns can be very complicated to self-diagnose. It is recommended that identifying these, and applying corrective drills/mechanics should be done in tandem with an experienced movement expert or lifter.
Besides a mobility and mechanical restriction, a lack of stability of the low back and pelvis may also encourage a butt wink. An easy way to see if a lack of stability may be a factor is to compare a body weight squat to a squat with a weight held out front. If there is a stability issue, the body weight squat should produce a butt wink towards the bottom of the squat, while squatting with a weight in front will act as a counter-balance and likely minimize or eliminate the butt wink. So we’ve learned it may be a stability issue…how do we address this? One great way to do this is to perform a weighted counter-balance squat, and slowly pull the weight closer to the body while you are at the bottom of the squat. You would hold this position for a few seconds and “own this position,” before ascending again. Once you master this without a butt wink, the next progression would be to reach the bottom of the squat and set the weight on the ground, and once again own this position for a few seconds before picking up the weight and ascending again.
A butt wink isn’t a direct roadmap to injury, but it can play a potential role in future injury while working under heavy loads. Elite level lifters may have a butt wink occasionally, but they have often times worked to address and eliminate the bulk of their deficits. However, more often than not a novice lifter has the butt wink due to one of the previously stated reasons. Each of those limitations increase injury rates, or limit performance. A thorough assessment or movement screen from a physical therapist can help determine if the root cause is a mobility, mechanical, or stability issue, and help your overall performance.
My name is Michael Gorze, DPT and I am a graduate of Southwest Baptist University. I have focused my continuing education on learning how to optimize performance and address mechanical faults through becoming a Champion Performance Specialist (C-PS). I am passionate about lifting in my own life, and this passion extends out to my patients. Progressive loading of patients/clients is essential to improve quality of life, performance, and reduce injury risk, and I am always excited to teach how to safely achieve these goals through lifting weights.
The information contained in cfaortho.com, somdortho.com, or caoperformanceandtherapy.com is neither intended as rendering medical advice nor as a substitute for seeking professional medical assistance. No relationship between The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics and its practitioners may be created through cfaortho.com, somdortho.com, or caoperformanceandtherapy.com. Any individual with specific questions regarding his/her individual health or treatment options should contact The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics and schedule an appointment with one of its practitioners.