Do These Deep Squats Make My Butt (Wink) Look Big?

Today, I'd like to talk about a serious topic: butt winking.  Yes, you read that correctly.

Contrary to what you may think, the "butt wink" is a very scientific term (ok, not really), and it happens when someone is trying to twerk while squatting.  And for those of you who may not be as familiar with Miley Cyrus (that means you, Mom), a butt wink is when someone tucks their pelvis/butt under at the bottom of a squat.  

It's actually a pretty common flaw in someone's squat, but before you start "dancing with Molly," there's something you should know: a butt wink can be a serious "wrecking ball" to your squat and spine.



(Epic self-five for not one, but TWO Miley references in one sentence!)

So, Miley references aside, what actually is a butt wink?  And, more importantly, how does one prevent it?

Before I get there, allow me to go off on a small tangent which was the impetus for this post..

Inside every commercial gym that I've ever visited, "fitness snobbery" has always been rampant.  If you're unfamiliar with that term (as I literally made it up about 2 days ago), it usually consists of bros (or ladies) thinking the following thoughts to themselves:

"Hokay, who has the biggest Biceps?  THIS GUY (pointing at themselves while flexing in the mirror)"

"I'm lifting the most weight here, Booya!"

"Yeah, they're squatting heavier than me....but at least I'M rocking an ass to grass squat!"

Now, I'm all about trying to push yourself, but trying to measure yourself to others can get tricky - especially in something as individual as a squat, where biomechanics can fundamentally change how someone moves.  In fact, very few people I've worked with are ready to for ass to grass squats on day one.  Why?  Because a butt wink has severely limited their safety and mobility.

Dat butt wink.

Dat butt wink.

OK, so rant aside, let's get down to business.  What actually IS a butt wink?

A butt wink is when someone's butt/hips/pelvis goes through a full range of motion at the end of a squat.  Rather than keeping a neutral and straight spine as someone descends down, the lower end of someone's vertebrae go through a full range of motion at the bottom off a squat.  Does it look good?  No.  Is it good for you?  Helllll no.  

In fact, if that's what happens when you squat, you better hope someone around has a catchers mitt to catch your vertebrae.

Instead of flexing and going through a full range of motion, your pelvis and lower back should remain stable.  Just because they CAN move, doesn't mean they should.

Some see a beautiful woman running, while I see extension with rib flare until next Tuesday.  It's a gift and a curse.

Some see a beautiful woman running, while I see extension with rib flare until next Tuesday.  It's a gift and a curse.

So, how do we cure a butt wink?  Often times, the most common cause of a butt wink is someone being super extended.  To put that in plain terms, someone's hips are tilted forward, they've thrown their shoulders back, and their spine resembles a bit of a question mark.  In fact, it's a lot like the woman on the right.

Instead of squatting with this titled pelvis, I'll often tell my clients that we want to "close the eggshell" when we squat.  If you picture an eggshell that you've just cracked in your hands, we want to focus on putting the two halves back together, so we can keep that yolk inside our bodies.  

By that point, I'm usually salivating over the thought of my Dad's somewhat-world-famous omelettes....but people seem to get it.

In order to "close the eggshell" we want someone to use their abs to tuck their ribs down, or exhale all of the air out of their lungs before they squat.  This way, our starting point is neutral, rather than starting in extension and full of air.  It gives us much more room to work with, and a happier looking squat tends to ensue.

(Please notice I didn't say you'd have a happier time performing squats....they're still a brutal exercise when done heavy.)

If someone is still butt winking/twerking up a storm, however, it's time to look elsewhere.

Look kids, it's #science!

Look kids, it's #science!

Sometimes the butt wink can be caused by other restrictions such as poor ankle mobility, the lack of core stability, or even poor t-spine mobility just to name a few.  However, sometimes it's also caused by genetics, and that's where it can get a bit tricky.

As we're all built differently, our hips and femurs can take many different shapes and sizes.  While much of this can be determined by your DNA and origin, squatting deep may just not be for some people. 

And more #science as to why squatting deep may not be for you.

And more #science as to why squatting deep may not be for you.

On that same note, other people may actually have a bony impingement in their hip that they've developed through bad joint mechanics. No matter how hard they try, no amount of stretching or foam rolling is going to help.  For these people, squatting deep is simply not an option, and focusing on something like a deadlift (hint hint, wink wink) would be a better call.

The next time you're in a gym setting and see someone squatting shallow, maybe think twice before dropping your fitness snobbery.  While quarter squats are never OK, not hitting full depth is OK too.*

*Unless you're Miley which case, get out of the gym and please institutionalize yourself immediately.