MAVA is proud to announce our new collaboration with Dr. Nick Hagen at IIP Lab. Several times a week we will be tapping into Dr. Hagen’s immense brain to bring you movement science that you can apply to your training. This week we bring you some knowledge about the dreaded BUTT WINK!
The “Butt Wink” is the rounding of the lumbar spine or low back when going into squat positions. This can occur with front squats, back squats, catch positions, and even single leg squats. It is an indication that the hips are not loading correctly leading to low back compensation. It is important to note that a small amount of lumbar spine flexion with squat motions is expected especially with deep squats. There are many possible drivers of the poor movement pattern, the trick is finding out which is causing your butt wink.
Common factors include a lack of hip flexion (bending) and rotation (internal and external rotation) motion. If the hip can not move, as you go deeper into the squat the low back will round to compensate. The key with hip mobility training is to work all motions of the hip to free the entire hip capsule and work into progressive hip flexion ranges of motion. It is also beneficial to work in both unloaded and loaded hip mobility exercises.
Second, if core stability is not present, the lumbar spine will not have a base of support and will compensate by going into flexion or rounding to provide passive vs active support of the movement. Surprisingly it takes a significant amount of core stability and thoracic mobility to maintain an upright trunk with squat patterns. Planks and sit ups will not cut it.
Third, asymmetrical strength of the front and back muscles of the back and hip can cause a butt wink. If the hip flexor muscle are on over drive and the small back and side core muscles are weak it will lead to a lumbar spine butt wink. Also, motion and stability issues in your ankles and thoracic spine can cause more load to the low back and hip causing a butt wink.
Lastly, motor control or coordination of the movement can also cause a butt wink. Sometimes the individual has no body awareness of efficient low back/hip positions with squat motions. You can be as strong as an ox but if you don’t know how to use the joints it will do you no good. Your body knows movements, not muscles. So a great training tool is to replicate squat like motions (hip flexion, knee flexion, ankle flexion) in unloaded positions (on your back or hands and knees) to learn the movement. Then progressively load and challenge the movement until you are performing an efficient squat.
A butt wink is a warning sign of future pain to come. Assess it, fix it, re-train it.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE — A butt wink is a red flag of movement dysfunction. Address hip and ankle mobility + core and hip stability to reduce it.