I am still in the process of fixing my butt wink so I can return to squatting heavy weights and I wanted to share what has worked so far and what has not worked just in case someone has the same problem and is doing an internet search.
I’ll start with what has either not worked or had only a minimal effect. Stretching my hamstrings has not seemed to help. I did this three times a day for several weeks and was able to tolerate a bigger stretch in the hamstring stretching position, but it did not transfer to a deeper squat.
Foam rolling has not seemed to work, at least not directly. I’ve foam rolled my hamstrings, my glutes, my TFL, and my hip flexors. The muscles started out painful during the initial rolling but after multiple sessions, there were few, if any spots that produced pain. I know rolling supposedly increases “tissue quality”, but I didn’t see any ROM gains in the squat. It may have helped me recover from training faster so I could train more frequently, but I can’t say for sure.
I also have done a lot of dynamic stretching drills for the hips. These have had a moderate impact and I feel they are more useful than passive stretching exercises. I can’t point to one that really improved my squat depth but they all seemed to make my hips a little more mobile.
I have also found strengthening the abdominals to be helpful. I started out with front and side planks but they became easy and I began doing ab rollouts. The ab rollouts really increased the “stiffness” of my abs.
One video clip I found suggested that lack of motor control was the problem and the solution was to concentrate on bracing your abs and actively pulling your hips into flexion on the descent. I found the bracing to be a good tip.
Actively pulling my hips into flexion would theoretically tilt the pelvis anteriorly and preserve the low back arch, but I didn’t notice much change in the depth I was actually able to achieve before my back rounded when I did this. Maybe it would work better if my hip flexors were stronger?
Several articles (on this website and other sites) suggested that front squats, overhead squats, or squatting with a weight held out in front of you were helpful at decreasing butt wink. One theory was that front squats and squatting with a weight held out in front increased anterior abdominal muscle activity and this stabilized the pelvis so the hamstrings didn’t feel the need to fire to stabilize the pelvis from the other end.
Since the hamstrings stayed loose, the pelvis was not pulled posteriorly resulting in butt wink. I tried this and surprisingly, it helped. It wasn’t a miracle cure but I was able to go a little deeper in a front squat or with a weight held out in front of me. I learned how to contract my abs in the same way so I could do a bodyweight squat without any extra weight and hit the same depth.
I found overhead squatting to help the most with buttwink. I’ve done overhead squatting every day with only the bar for less than a couple weeks now and I’ve seen the greatest gains in mobility. I believe the thoracic extension of the overhead squat is what helped me preserve my low back arch the most. I used to pay greater attention to keeping my chest up, but during the Squats and Milk program (a.k.a. 20 Rep Squats), I was more focused on getting enough air, so I developed the bad habit of not bracing my thoracic spine into extension.
In summary, to eliminate butt wink, focus on bracing the anterior abdominals and also bracing your thoracic spine into extension. Practice this with overhead squats and progress to activating the same muscles with bodyweight squats. Do this daily–frequency is important to increasing mobility and learning a new motor pattern.
If anyone has their own experiences with fixing butt wink, please share.