Strength training is one of the best workouts you can do, with the benefits of lifting weights ranging from increased strength and bone density to improving body composition and athletic performance.
However, in order to maximize the effectiveness of your resistance training exercises and minimize the risk of injuries, it’s imperative that you use proper form and technique.
One of the common form errors that people make in the weight room is called a butt wink.
Aside from having a somewhat silly or cutesy-sounding name, a butt wink can actually be a dangerous technique flaw often seen when inexperienced (and experienced!) weightlifters try to tackle the barbell squat with too much weight, mobility issues, poor instructions, or muscle imbalances.
To help prevent injuries, it’s important to understand how to avoid butt-winking during squats.
In this article, we will discuss the common butt wink squat flaw and tips and exercises to avoid doing a butt wink during squats.
We will cover:
- What Is Butt Wink?
- When Does Butt Wink Occur During Squatting?
- Why Is Squatting With a Butt Wink Bad?
- What Causes Butt Wink?
- 6 Tips and Exercises to Prevent Butt Wink
Let’s get started!
What Is Butt Wink?
Many people, including experienced weightlifters, have never even heard of butt wink, nor do they have any idea that they are actually squatting with this issue.
Butt wink is a common faulty squatting mechanics issue that involves rounding the lower back (flexing the spine) during the lowering portion of the squat and then tucking the butt (pelvis) under the body at the bottom of the squat.
When Does Butt Wink Occur During Squatting?
This occurs during the descent portion of a squat, but the precise squat position for a butt wink to occur depends on the current mobility and fatigue level of the individual athlete.
For example, if your muscles and connective tissues are tight because you haven’t properly warmed up, you might butt wink while squatting, whereas you normally do not when your tissues are limber, or you might butt wink earlier on in the descent and not be able to reach the bottom of your squat without a butt wink.
Similarly, if it’s the end of a heavy set of squats and your core and glutes are tired, you might butt wink while squatting, whereas you normally don’t, but your neuromuscular fatigue allows faulty squat mechanics to take over.
With that said, there comes a certain depth while squatting that some people cannot attain without butt wink.
Why Is Squatting With a Butt Wink Bad?
If you squat with butt wink under heavy loads, you greatly increase the risk of back injury while simultaneously reducing the power you’re able to generate during the squat.
Let’s look at what happens when you butt wink while squatting.
Tucking your butt as you sit down into the bottom of the squats creates what is known as a posterior pelvic tilt.
A posterior pelvic tilt refers to a pelvis that is oriented in a way that tips it backward with the front of the pelvis higher than the back (like your tail is tucked).
The tilt of your pelvis refers to the relative position of the pointy parts on the front of your pelvis at the hips, called the Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (ASIS), and the pointy parts in the center of the back of your pelvis, called the Posterior Superior Iliac Spine (PSIS).
You want your pelvis to be neutral, which means that these bony landmarks are level with one another.
When the ASIS is higher than the PSIS, you have a posterior pelvic tilt.
You can mimic a posterior pelvic tilt by placing your hands on your hips and then tucking your bum under and tipping the top of your pelvis backward as if trying to spill water from the bowl of your pelvis.
When you have a posterior pelvic tilt, the hamstrings and glutes tend to be tight, while the hip flexors and erector spinae along the spine may be weak.
The posterior pelvic tilt seen with a butt wink during a squat is bad because the pelvis and lower back are connected. Consequently, when your pelvis starts to tilt backward, the spine flexes, and the lower back becomes rounded instead of neutral or flat.
This puts the spinal stabilizing muscles, like the erector spinae and multifidus muscles, along with the vertebral disks, spinal nerves, and vertebrae themselves, at an increased risk of injury.
While less of a serious concern than potential back injuries, another drawback is that butt wink reduces your power potential, thereby decreasing the amount of weight you can lift and the explosive speed at which you can perform your squat.
The increased risk of injury and loss of power while squatting with this issue are both due to the fact that the posterior pelvic tilt and spinal flexion reduce your ability to maintain pressure and brace the core to properly stabilize the spine and core as a whole.
Additionally, you want the spine to be neutral when you load it with a compressive force, as you do with a barbell squat or weighted squat because this optimizes the alignment of the vertebrae and discs to accept a compressive load.
When your low back is rounded and your pelvis is tucked, you can no longer brace your core effectively, and the compressive load on your spine is transferred along a curve, rather than a straight line.
This allows the discs to bulge or slip, which is why a butt wink during squatting is associated with an increased risk of serious back injuries.
A butt wink under no load is certainly less of a cause for concern, but even repeatedly doing light squats with butt wink—and definitely heavy squats—can cause disc bulges or other serious back injuries.
If you do believe you have either injured your back due to squatting or have specific faulty movement patterns or muscle imbalances that are contributing to butt wink squats, it’s highly recommended that you work with a physical therapist to prevent further damage and debility.
Fixing your squat mechanics by addressing this issue is critical for both preventing injuries and improving your ability to lift more weight safely for better gains.
What Causes Butt Wink?
There is some controversy about whether a lack of strength and/or a lack of hamstring flexibility causes butt wink.
Although hamstring tightness is frequently blamed for causing this issue because the hamstrings do not lengthen appreciably during a squat, tight hamstring are unlikely to be the primary cause.
Rather, butt wink is typically caused by poor posture, a weak core, your squat stance and technique, your mobility-immobility, and your anatomy.
For example, if you have deep hip sockets, your hip mobility is compromised, or your squat stance is too narrow, it’s more likely that you will butt wink.
Ultimately, the cause is often multifaceted, involving an interplay of several of these factors.
6 Tips and Exercises to Prevent Butt Wink
The following are tips to help prevent butt wink while squatting:
#1: Widen Your Stance
Widen your squat stance so that your feet are a little wider than hip-width apart. This will give you more mobility in the hips to deepen your squat.
#2: Work On Ankle Mobility
Tight ankles are one of the key causes of butt wink because if your Achilles tendons are tight, your dorsiflexion is limited.
This means you cannot deepen your squat without lifting your heels. This can prevent support up the posterior chain, causing poor posture, spinal flexion, and a posterior pelvic tilt.
#3: Mobilize the Hips
Runners’ lunges can improve hip mobility, which may limit squat mechanics. Additionally, hip external rotation exercises, like performing fire hydrants in the quadruped position, are an excellent exercise to prevent this issue.
#4: Strengthen Your Core
Perform anterior pelvic tilts and strengthen the core with exercises like bird dog and dead bug to help increase pelvic stability and control.
#5: Perform Thoracic Mobility Exercises
Thoracic mobility exercises, such as planks with a thoracic spine rotation, side planks with reach unders, medicine ball chops, and spinal twists, can improve the mobility of your spine and prevent the back from locking up when you squat.
#6: Brace Your Core
Try to keep a neutral spine and brace your core during the entire squat movement.
Squatting in front of a mirror, or asking a friend to video your form, can help you identify if you are butt winking while squatting.
If you have been able to address the issue and can continue to perform squats in your workout routines, check out our 20 different squat variations.