Stop Winking at Me

By: Nick Lape ACSM, FMS

Every person that I know wants to have a glorious back side. Why? Because, they all want to look great in their favorite pair of jeans. They want to know how people like Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez do it! So they search online and find the “best” articles they can on how to do the perfect squat. And what do you know, everyone starts squatting to get a little lift behind them. Here is the problem: most people either don’t squat down far enough OR they squat too far. Yes, there is such a thing as too far, especially when talking about a healthy spine. This is where we get what most fitness professionals call the ‘Butt Wink.’

No, no. Don’t be flattered. This isn’t the kind of wink that the guy or girl from across the bar gives you that makes your heart flutter. This is the kind of wink that can leave your lower back debilitated for quite some time. It occurs in your hips when you have gone past a certain range of motion in your squat. This ‘winking’ is when you drop too far into your squat and your hips tuck under causing stress on the disks in your lower spine. Doesn’t sound too fun, does it? If you answered “not at all” then you would be correct. Now the question is how do we fix it?

As we have all heard in the past, the key to fixing any issue is addressing what the problem might be. When talking about ‘Butt Wink’ there can be quite a few underlying causes, but for the sake of time, I’m going to only talk about the two most common causes. These two are tightness in the hip flexors (front of the hips) and a weak core that can’t help hold you upright. More often than not, when these two things begin to be corrected, squat form becomes better.

Now here’s how we can correct it. When hip flexors are tight, they can keep a person from being able to sit back into their squat, keep the weight in their heels, and ultimately prevent the muscles in their backside from engaging. We can remedy this by simply adding a heel lift. Squat with your heels on a pair of 10 pound plates and you will see a difference. The weights will displace your weight forward and allow you to lean back farther. It’s a simple fix. Now, you might ask, what happens when my core doesn’t turn on? Luckily, it’s another simple fix.  When your abs don’t turn on in your squat, it will have the same effect as tight hip flexors: you will lean forward. In order to get the core to engage, hold a weight in front of your body instead of behind your neck. This will not only act as a counter balance to make you sit back farther but your core will turn on as well.

Adding these two simple things to your squat can be a HUGE game changer. It can greatly increase the range of motion in your squat and allow you to get deeper without that ‘Butt Wink’. Will they keep you from ever winking again? No. Even while using these tools it is highly recommended to stand sideways to a mirror and watch your hips as you go down. If your hips tuck or ‘wink’ you have simply gone too far. My advice is to stop just before that happens. Stopping at that end range and adding these tools to your squat will keep you healthy and build that beautiful backside you’ve always wanted, or just use them to watch your squat numbers increase!