A squat is a natural human movement that strengthens your bones, muscles and joints.
Toddlers squat often and easily to pick up dropped toys or watch a ladybug move across the path. In Africa and Asia, people often squat for long periods to talk, eat, do daily chores or go to the toilet. In the Western world, however, we’ve replaced natural squatting with lounging on chairs and sofas.
Most of us now only squat when we’re doing a workout. And because it’s a complex and unfamiliar movement, it’s easy to get it wrong. One of the most common squat errors is the butt wink.
What Is the Butt Wink?
At the bottom of your squat, your hip joint is hopefully lower than your knees and your back is in a nice, straight line. It takes stability, flexibility and strength to hold this position and, if it all seems too hard, your body may look for a shortcut.
The butt wink is one of those shortcuts. Instead of keeping a straight back, your pelvis tilts and tucks underneath you, making your lower back curve towards your calves. That’s called the ‘butt wink squat’.
Does the Butt Wink Matter?
Yes, it does. This incorrect technique stretches and bends your lumbar spine and that has the potential to cause other injuries. Many of us squat with weights, adding extra pressure added to the spine.
- Disc injuries
- Stress fractures
- SI joint problems
What Causes the Butt Wink?
There are a few possible explanations for butt winking. It could be due to:
- Mobility issues that limit the range of movement in your ankles, hips and, possibly, flexibility issues relating to your hamstrings
- Stability issues like weak core muscles that don’t allow you to brace and hold your lower back and pelvis in the right position
- Structural issues relating to the depth of your hip sockets.
What Causes My Butt Wink?
If you tend to butt wink when squatting but don’t know why, then there are some ways to find out.
Perform a Horizontal Squat to Test Mobility
A horizontal squat resembles an upright one because it uses the same ankle, knee and hip movements you use when going down into a squat. It’s a good way to test your movement without pressure.
Kneel on the floor with your feet flat against a wall then roll backwards so your hips are above your heels. Do this a few times and see if your pelvis tilts. If there’s no tilt, then you probably have enough mobility to do a proper squat without a butt wink.
If there is still a tilt, then you may benefit from doing other exercises to increase mobility in your ankles, hips and upper back.
Perform a Counter Balance Squat to Test Stability
You’re going to perform a few careful, controlled squats without weights. You might want to film it on your phone or get a friend to watch you. Was there a butt wink?
Now, get a weight plate and hold it in front of you while you do some squats. The weight plate acts as a counter balance and provides some extra stability.
If holding the plate makes your butt wink disappear, then it’s worth spending some time improving your lumbo-pelvic stability.
Get Advice on Underlying Structural Issues
If your struggling to address butt wink, it could be due to your hip joints themselves. No amount of stretching will alter these. It’s best to discuss these issues with a professional.
Check Your Squat Technique
Sometimes, the answer to butt wink as simple as mastering the right squat technique. Many gyms run technique classes to help people with this and there are plenty of training videos online too.
Key tips are to:
- Begin with untilted hips and a straight spine. Beginning in the right position makes it easier to continue in the right position.
- Breathe deep into your belly and push the breath down even deeper to engage the muscles that stabilise your lower back.
- Keep your core engaged as you squat.
- Use a lighter load of weights for a while so you can build your strength and master correct technique.
How We Can Help With Butt Wink
Here at The Brisbane Spine Clinic, we can assess your squat and determine what’s causing your butt wink. Then we can develop specific exercises to help you improve your mobility, flexibility and stability so that you can squat safely.
Please make an appointment today.