The Butt Wink = tilting the pelvis back and flexing the low back in a way that damages the lower back due to a lack of adequate hip flexion.
Now, my title is a little bit of a misnomer because it's not always possible to "fix" the butt wink. However, there are definitely methods to address it and limit the negative impact of this particular compensation has on the body so you are not quite as prone to the following conditions:
- Low Back Pain
- Vertebral Disc Bulges and Herniations
- Sacro-iliac Joint Dysfunction
It's not always possible to completely "fix" the issue because it's caused by a loss of stability in the pelvis and lumbar spine. I like to describe this loss of stability and control using the following analogy:
Have you ever unbent a paper clip? Once you unbend the paper clip, it will never go completely back to normal will it? No. Not only that, but the more you bend it, the weaker it gets until finally it breaks. Well unfortunately, that's the way it goes with our body and the butt wink is a prime example of it.
But don't dismay, there is a progression of specific steps that you can do to regain control and limit your possible exposure to injury. We'll go through that here in this video:
Butt Wink Corrective Progressions:
All of these corrective exercises should be applied either throughout your day, at the beginning of your workout, or even as prep before performing full squats during exercise. 2 sets of 10 repetitions should be sufficient for this to be effective. It's important to look at the quality of your performance of these movements more than the quantity of your repetitions.
1. Happy Baby Pose
Begin with this nice easy version of the classic yoga pose. Do not allow your sacrum to leave the ground. Don't forget to breathe.
2. Supine Squats with Core Activation
Start by laying down flat on your back. Squeeze both hands into the floor then lift your knees toward your face as high as possible without allowing your sacrum to raise of the ground. Don't forget to breathe.
3. Quadruped Squats with Core Activation
Start in the 4-point position--hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Put a water bottle or rolled up towel in your lower back to prevent you from losing the neutral and protected spinal posture. Sit back until your butt is approaching your heels. Don't forget to breathe.
4. Kneeling Squats with Bar Overhead
Now we're supporting about two thirds of your body weight--this is progression to more advanced maneuvers. Awesome. Sit your butt towards your heels. Don't forget to extend the hips (and clench the glutes) at the top of the movement. Don't forget to breathe.
5. Full Squats while Cutting Off Depth Before Losing Neutrality (or before you Butt Wink)
Finally, our destination. Most people will reach a specific point where they have to cut off their squat depth, otherwise the pelvis will tilt (aka butt wink). You can see on me, it occurs just north of parallel. I hope for you it's deeper than that. Realize that when you are coaching clients that we're all different, and we need to keep our spine neutral to protect it from lower back pain. There is no shame is cutting off your depth of squat, or using a box as an aid to keep you from going lower.
For people that are prone to butt winking all the time, I'd recommend considering front squats or goblet squats as an alternative which can bring the center of gravity forward and will allow you to keep your spine more neutral and more protected.