This information originally appeared as a forum thread on my old site, GUS. In an effort to preserve the most popular (or perhaps important) information, before shutting down the forum, I worked it up into an article. Originally these questions about the infamous “buttwink” during the squat were posted on the Facebook page.
What is a ‘Buttwink’
Buttwink is a crude slang used to describe the problem of hips going into posterior tilt and the butt seeming to roll under the spine at the bottom of the squat exercise. This causes the lower spine to be in a supposedly vulnerable loaded position and causes getting out of the hole to be less than efficient.
The biggest reason I am presenting this is because having a buttwink (or ‘rollunder?’) makes it tougher to get out of the hole, especially during very heavy squats. The idea that the buttwink (or rollunder) is an automatic ticket to injury or pain in the sacroiliac region is not grounded in much direct evidence and having your hips roll under once in a while is not really a disaster. Curing the buttwink, however, will in the long run give you a much more efficient, and to my mind powerful squat.
Here are the questions that were asked:
Causes: Is it purely related to Hip Mobility and nothing else? Working on hip mobility over time only helps minimize this problem or does it completely eradicate it? I am assuming there’s an inverse relationship between the Lower back Rounding problem and the “depth” we are seeking to achieve. Is that correct?
No. It is not purely related to hip mobility. It is a myth that doing some hip mobility drills will just magically result in a perfect deep squat. Keep in mind that the term “hip mobility” usually refers to general mobility and this would imply that doing some general hip mobility drills would cure your roll under, during squat. But it would not. So what I am talking about here is specific mobility as related to the squat, as opposed to general mobility. There are many things that come into play during the squat that do not come into play during general mobility exercises. It is also related to stability and the ability to keep the lower back set and the hips open at the bottom of the squat is a very specific skill.
That skill is different depending on whether the exercise is loaded or not. For instance, a heavy loaded bar may force you down deeper than you can stabilize or have the mobility for, resulting in a “buttwink” that is not there with a non-weighted drill. Also, stability is related to the load, so just because you have a good deep squat with no weight doesn’t mean you can stabilize the load at that same depth when weighted.
Keep in mind, this is assuming identical amplitude in both conditions. Most trainees will tend to pull a good deal short in depth once load is added, so as not to lean forward and go into flexion. And the depth will tend to go a bit more shallow on each subsequent rep. If you take this trainee and put on enough weight, and tell them to got their deepest, the heavy bar can tend to force them into the roll under at the bottom, and they will go into flexion, even though this is not present at the same depth when unloaded.
On the other hand, and more often in my experience, the increased load will cause the trainee not to be able to go as low as they would go with a very light load. Basically, the pull up short because of an inability to “stabilize” the greater load at the greater depth, even though they actually do have the mobility to go deeper. This underscores how the concept of mobility, without the concept of force applied, is useless. Mel Siff mentioned this problem way back when in reference to the FMS screen and I share his view on that.
So, remember, when comparing two conditions, the performance must be held constant for legitimate comparisons to be made.
I read someplace there is a neural component to this as well and that training hip mobility trains your hip’s proprioception/ memory to maintain proper arch under loads. Is that how it works?
Sounds like a bunch of typical “should be so it must be” stuff. Great jargon and “theory” that, along with a quarter, won’t even get you a cup of coffee these days. Since you don’t do hip mobility under load, how could your “proprioception/memory” be trained to maintain arch under loads? The proprioceptive sense known as “kinesthetic awareness” isn’t a magical explanation as to how mobility exercises fix specific exercise related issues.
Symptoms & Consequences: What are the typical symptoms or consequences of this continued rounding under loads? Lower back pain perhaps?
Back pain could result. SI related issues could result. I don’t know as there has never been a systematic study of the ‘buttwink’.
Ashiem helped me understand the best way for someone with this problem to progress ahead, would be to work with less poundage on the OH Squats and Box squats. He also mentioned its important to completely stay off back squats meantime while in this phase of the program. Pls help me figure out a sample working (say for someone who squats 180-190 lbs) in terms of poundage, reps/ sets range (Periodization etc) and also the reasons for the same.
You’re making it much more complicated than it is and making a fundamental mistake. You are treating a mobility/stability exercise as if it is something that should be rigidly programmed and as if you are going for a PR at the end of some period, that PR being no buttwink. Instead of monitoring reps and set ranges, you will want to monitor performance. You do not want to use high reps, but simply use sets of 1 to 3, at first, so that you can work on the performance alone without incurring too much fatigue.
Yes, the overhead squat is the best way to begin addressing this. Once you go back to the back squat, the bar position will influence somewhat your ability to control the buttwink but the ability to do a good, deep, overhead squat is the basic fundamental starting point, after which the rest becomes gravy. It does NOT work the other way around.
To cure the buttwink, the truth is, you really do not have to think in terms of this one problem at all. All you need to do is develop a good overhead squat. I would usually say start with the “tweaking the overhead squat” article and do the drills and such outlined there. Once you can perform the swiss ball drill and go as deep as possible without letting your butt roll under, it is time to start with a dowel and perform the overhead squats facing a wall.
You move on to there by doing what a call the “two progressions method”. As you start to train the overhead squat, you will provide a great challenge to the core even before you begin loading it, but in order to really do away with the roll-under you MUST load the OH squat and work up the weight, then transition to front squats or back squats so that more weight can be used. The overhead squat, at first, is a specific mobility intervention but it soon becomes also a stability intervention. If you just do unloaded overhead squats as a mobility drill then you cannot guarantee your ability to stabilize a heavier load.
See, once you can use a dowel in facing close to a wall and go nice and deep with a good squatting position, this does not mean you can pick up a metal bar (training bar or Olympic bar) and do the same under load. If it turns out you can, then that’s great. If it turns out you cannot, you will continue using the dowel to work on mobility, while performing other drills, to be able to go as deep as you possibly can. At the same time, on a different day, you will work with a bar and you will go only as deep as you can stabilize the load and not have the hips roll under. For this, you want to use the empty bar and just work on increasing the depth until you can go well below parallel, and get the beginnings of a deep squat. Then, you should start loading the bar, maintaining only the depth you can do perfectly, till you get to about 60 or 70lbs then you will start going deeper and deeper with that load. Now, you would have been doing the dowel squats all along, going very deep.
To continue with that progression track (the dowel squats) you really need what is called a “training bar” or a “standard bar” which weigh about 15 lbs. You want to use one of those and begin loading those deep squats. The “two progression” are the dowel squats, which are deep, becoming loaded squats that you continue to slowly add weight to, and the heavy loaded squats, which you get to 60 or 70lbs and then go deeper and deeper. The idea is that the two progressions “meet” each other so that your 70lbs loaded squat goes to the depth you have for the dowel squats, and the weight you use on the dowel squats, which are not loaded, goes up to 70lbs or beyond. What you’ve done, as a result, is work the loaded mobility and stability from ‘both ends’. Once you’ve done this, you’ll never have butt wink again.
Any detailed descriptions of the Box squats available anyplace on our website? I am particularly interested in knowing it better.
I don’t have anything written. They could help once you’ve done the overhead squats and move back to back squats.
Oh, so it’s “that simple” is it?
Most trainees do not want to hear that the best ‘cure’ is just to perfect the squat overall. They want to hear that there is some little tweak that can be instantly adapted to cure the symptom.
I don’t think that everybody needs to be doing the overhead squat or that my way of using overhead squat drills is the only way to address this problem. However, the overhead squat itself is not that much more complicated than a front squat or a back squat, it’s just more difficult. We have more built in baggage against it to overcome. The upside is that overcoming that baggage benefits you all the way up the chain to heavier loaded squats.
We’ve had discussions before on this board about perceptions that the overhead squat is very technical, and so shouldn’t be used by everyone. It’s not. It’s not really “technical” at all, from a skill standpoint or from the standpoint of how complex the movement is.
Isn’t the Overhead Squat a more technical lift?
I think some of the misconceptions about the OH squat being highly technical comes from its association with Olympic lifting. I am sure some of this comes from the Crossfit association since Crossfit heavily promotes the overhead squat and has this connection with Olympic lifting..to the point there are a lot of folks calling themselves Olympic lifting coaches after getting a Crossfit certification.
The OH squat seems to be a derivative part of the snatch and people have this idea that snatch lifters do the OH squat a lot, which..you’d have to ask them but the ones I’ve known never do it, they just snatch. Although an absolute beginner learning to snatch might benefit from doing overhead squat as part of learning the snatch, it would be very hard to say that a dedicated snatcher (presumably proficient) would benefit from doing an overhead squat. It actually makes no sense because everything that is in the overhead squat that could help the snatch is already in the snatch.
I would surmise, but I do not know, that people think it’s like the front squat helping the clean. Well, that is about a limitation in leg strength. I.E. can you “squat up” what you can clean? Well, the overhead squat isn’t too good for developing leg “pressing” strength. It is a bigger challenge to the core and to overall mobility. I prescribe it because that combination of core stability and mobility it requires benefits the squat in general.
It is a challenge, but it is not inherently more difficult or technical than other squats.
Regardless, the “overhead squat” part of the snatch is the least technical part of the lift. It is, basically, a squat. Getting the bar into the overhead position is the technical part. By placing the bar on a rack, and then pressing it into position, you are eliminating the most technical part. After that, it’s gravy by comparison. I.E. simple. Simple things can still be very challenging.