There's a common misconception among squatters that allowing your butt to "wink"at the bottom position is detrimental and will lead to injury.
What exactly is butt wink in squatting?
Butt wink is the tilting of the pelvis down and backwards at the bottom of the squat. What this means is that your butt and pelvis might tuck under you at the bottom. While having a butt wink may change things slightly in your back and spine while squatting, it isn’t always or usually dangerous. Here's why you shouldn't always worry about a little butt wink in your squats:
It's a natural movement for most people. Due to variations in our back, hip and ankle mobility, different lifters will experience different degrees of butt wink at the bottom of a deep squat. If someone has a butt wink only with very heavy loads or it develops while progressing quickly, then that should be addressed. But if you are having success with your lifting with your current form without pain, you likely don’t need to change anything!
There's no evidence it causes injury. Studies have shown that a small amount of butt wink does not produce higher forces on the back and spine compared to lifting with your back perfectly straight. It’s also good training for squatting and lifting items during your day to day activities which probably won’t happen with a perfectly straight back!
Trying to force a different squatting pattern, especially over a short period of time, can cause more problems - by causing other parts of your body to compensate.
What to do instead of trying to fix your butt wink:
You can focus your attention and your ankle and hip mobility, so that those joints can also help you get to a depth
Understand that everyone’s squat form looks different! One form is not inherently better than another. Our spines don’t need to be perfectly straight and protected. They can safely adapt to gradual progressive challenges and allow us to tolerate more of our day to day activities and sports.
If you’ve avoided squatting because of your butt wink or something else, use modifications like squatting to a box to develop confidence and strength. Then, progress depth and weight from there.
What To Do to Fix Your Butt Wink:
Remember, having a butt wink isn’t always bad. But, if you’re having pain at the bottom of the squat, started happening when it wasn’t happening before, or only happens when you are at your heaviest weight, there are some things you can do:
Work on your hip mobility. It’s best to work with a professional on this one but hip mobility plays a big role in mobility at the bottom of your squat. If your hips aren’t moving enough, something else is going to take the movement instead and that’s usually your pelvis. Have a physical therapist or personal trainer work with you and check and see what specific mobility you might need to work on.
Work on control and stability. Pause squats (where you pause and hold for 3-5 seconds at the bottom), tempo squats (very slowly lowering and very slowly rising), and goblet squats are all great ways to work on the stability and control at the bottom of your squat. If you’re able to keep good form under most weight but not under heavy weight, this is probably a great place to start.
Stop 10% sooner. Everyone’s anatomy is different. Some people can squat deeper, some people can’t squat quite as deep. If you’re having trouble controlling the bottom of your squat, the best thing to do is don’t go quite as deep until you can address the strength or mobility issues. A great way to do this is to squat to a box and just tap your hips to the box without totally resting on the box.
The key takeaway is that while not universal, butt wink is a natural, safe squatting pattern for many lifters. Butt wink itself is not something to fear or "fix". If you've avoided squats due to form concerns, start slow and build up your technique progressively. If you are experiencing pain, or other issues with your form and would like some guidance or are looking for help getting back to the squatting or other activities that you love, we would love to help!