Fix Your Butt-Wink When Squatting

Our approach to personal training and physio rehab

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The “buttwink” is one of the most common faults you see at the gym when squatting, and it doesn’t take a health professional to see that it can put incredible stress on your low back. The sudden deep flexion at the lower lumbar vertebrae at the bottom of your squat looks very dramatic, and knowing the mechanics of how disc injuries occur can make most of us wince, especially when there is weight on the bar. This is how to fix your butt-wink when squatting!

To avoid the potential risk associated with this, many trainers and therapists will have you work within your working range by defining an end-point or performing box squats instead. Many athletes don’t require lifting heavy through a full range of motion and working in this range may be fine, but as a result our muscles and fascia may adapt to the range that it is used to working in and therefore create restrictions if not attempting to progress this range. This video will show you how to fix your butt-wink when squatting!

Others personal trainers and physiotherapists may do the opposite and focus on work on the restrictions that are causing the butt-wink to occur. Often these involve the hips, ankles and posterior chain, which you can work to mobilize or use heal lifts / lifting shoes to compensate for the restriction temporarily to teach your body to become more comfortable in the deeper positions.

The above 2 fixes keep us safe and as long as they are done with the goal of working towards strength and mobility into the bottom of our squat can be beneficial with time. Mobility is very important when it comes to move safely in full ranges of motion. However, as I have mentioned in many previous blogs and videos, our soft tissues will tighten to the range of motion the body feels strong and safe in, and working on proper activation in the bottom of our squat is the best way to have lasting mobility.

So what is the best cue to fix this problem? Tuck your tailbone!

But isn’t this what we are trying to avoid??

Yes… but we can’t just think of the bottom portion of the squat to fix this issue. Setting ourselves up in proper position during the eccentric (down) portion of the squat with prevent us from giving the people behind us a wink when we get there.

If you look at most people who have the buttwink fault, they often start in a “hyperextended” position to overcompensate for the flexion occurring at the bottom. In this position, the glutes and abdominals are stretched into and are unable to activate (try hyperextending your back and squeezing your glutes) so that when we get to the bottom of the squatting, there is very limited activation of the musculature surrounding the low back and pelvis. As a result, the sacrum and low back tilt, putting the gluts in to a position where they can activate properly to propel ourselves up from the bottom of our squat.

Having our glutes activated through the entire range of our squat will slightly flatten our back (without rounding it into flexion), and makes sure the glutes stay activated at the bottom position. You should find (if done correctly) that when the glutes are activate in this position, the pelvis and low back are stable, and it actually becomes near impossible to tuck your tailbone any further than the position it is currently in. 

For those really struggling to appropriately activating their glutes, my favorite recommendation is performing “pause squats” for 2-3 seconds at the bottom position. Even with a light weight or no weight at all, your body requires the use of your bodies largest muscle to propel yourself up. This takes out the conscious effort of having to think and make sure you are isolating the muscle appropriately and instead have you focus on good positioning while working in a real life movement you perform everyday. 

So my key take-aways from this:

  1. Squeeze your glutes to tuck your tailbone before your descent (this cue should also engage you abdominals naturally)
  2. Perform pause squats in the bottom position to improve glute activation and comfortability in the bottom of the squat

How to fix your butt-wink when squatting!

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