‘Butt Winking’ could be misconstrued as something that happens when we’re a little apprehensive about something, say right before an exam or a competition of some sort, but I have pleasure in telling you it is nothing of the sort in this instance. Rather ‘Butt Winking’ in the fitness industry is a completely separate thing, it is a term used to describe the rounding off of the lower back as a result of your butt dipping forwards at the bottom of a squat (both front and back squats). This shift from the conformational biomechanical alignment of the spine significantly increases ones risk of injury.
Why does it happen?
The butt wink happens for several reasons, but always stems from poor squatting technique. This might be caused by reduced flexibility in the upper hamstrings, glutes and ankles. It might also be the result of poor core strength and inadequate chest cavity and intra abdominal pressure (partly attributed to poor breathing practices). Another reason might be because of a tight hip capsule i.e. the ligament that joins the top of the leg to the pelvis. A common cause of hip flexor complaints is overexertion and hyperflexion of the hip capsule. Simple hip capsule stretches reduce the risk of injuring this area, as well as increasing flexibility when squatting.
Hip Capsule Stretch: Try stretching your hip capsule by laying face down on a hard surface and bringing your knee up toward your shoulder on the same side of the leg. It is important that you maintain a straight back at all times to maximise the hip stretch. Finally move the foot of your bent leg under your straight leg trying to bring the foot up to above the knee if you can (this may take some time), and try to push your hip down to the ground. Hold this for 10-20 seconds.
Why does it matter?
It matters for 2 main reasons 1.) You curve the lower lumbar region significantly increasing the risk of injury when under load, and 2.) You lose power…when your back rounds off at the bottom of a squat you immediately lose tension in the Lumbopelvic Hip Complex (LPHC), and this loss of tension means torsion and potential energy is dissipated. So ‘arse to the grass’ as people like to put it is worth diddly squat (pun intended) when squatting because if your arse touches freshly trimmed grass then you’re probably rounding your back off. Past 90 degrees is the minimum, any more than this is great, but going to the point where your butt starts to wink is too far and needs correcting.
How to correct it
Well aside from stretching as stated above, you can also perform mobilising stretches such as Good Mornings which help to elongate the upper hamstring. A great bit of advice from one of my favourite guys on the internet, Elliot Hulse, is to use some kinaesthetic tape (e.g. rock tape). Hulse suggests applying 2 pieces of tape from the lower back just above the top of the glutes, and run it up to just below the lower lats (best done when lying down). He then suggests squatting as normal, lowering yourself into the squat and waiting for the tape to feel as though it may tear, when this point occurs this is a good indicator that you may well be butt winking! You should adjust your position to relieve the tension on the tape and maintain this for the rest of the squat.
Livestrong.com (2013). Hip Capsule Stretches. Retrieved 26th February, 2014, from http://www.livestrong.com/article/120054-hip-capsule-stretches/
OlyGuru, (2014). How to fix the butt wink. Retrieved 26th February, 2014, from http://www.olympicweightliftingguru.com/2013/10/03/how-to-fix-the-butt-wink/
Yo Elliot, (2013). How to stop the butt wink when squatting. Retrieved 26th February, 2014, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQSjIWEhvV0 (NOTE: Strong Language throughout)