I am trying to go all the way down on squats. It seems that if my heels are way up I can keep my back straight and prevent "butt-wink". So, the logical solution here seems to be the stretch my calfs.

Maybe I am being paranoid, but my ankles are already pretty flexible, so I am afraid this is the wrong approach, which leads to two questions.

  1. Is there a standard for ankle flexibility? Is there a "too far" where it becomes a bad thing?
  2. What is the other major inflexibility point causing "butt wink". I keep reading things about "hips", but that's way too general.

2 Answers 2


"Ass-to-grass" (ATG) squats are unnecessary except perhaps for Olympic weightlifters. Moreover, for the vast majority of lifters, ATG squats decrease stability and force-production by slackening the hamstrings. Consider the following excerpt from "Analyzing the Squat":

For most people, dropping the hips deeper would require slackening the hamstrings proximally by allowing them to pull the pelvis out of alignment, rounding the lower back. Rounding the back would diminish the hamstrings ability to maintain hip extension; it would decrease the back’s efficiency, as a force-transmitting lever, making it less rigid; and it would expose the lower back to injury.

Please consider squatting only to the depth at which each of your acetabula is lower than the top of its respective patella.

For safety's sake, you must keep your feet entirely on the floor while squatting, especially with a load in addition to your bodyweight.

  1. There is no meaningful standard for ankle flexibility other than "Can I do what I want to do?" I'm unsure whether it's possible to have problematically-excessive ankle flexibility.
  2. "Butt wink" often results from failing to take a toes-out stance and to abduct (that is, "push out" laterally) the thighs/knees during the squat. The more parallel you keep your thighs, the more likely you are to (perhaps unintentionally) flex/round your lumbar spine and pelvis ("butt wink") to avoid one or more of the following:
    1. impinging tissue between each femur and its nearby ASIS
    2. pressing your abdomen/belly into your thighs
  • I like the answer, but would be interested in your source for decreasing stability/force production.
    – JohnP
    Feb 16, 2018 at 14:39
  • I did some reading on the topic yesterday and there are some recommended standards for ankle flexibility here: t-nation.com/training/… I need to do more research before I decide whether or not that's valid. I am now thoroughly confused though. Didn't the fitness community collectively decide "knees don't go past ankles"...and then there is this image: fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/11501/…
    – VSO
    Feb 16, 2018 at 14:53
  • 1
    Thanks, @JohnP. I added a block-quote and source hyperlink pertaining to the hamstrings and the squat bottom position. Feb 16, 2018 at 15:13
  • @VSO, I think you're thinking of the phrase "knees shouldn't go past the toes". I humbly suggest that you ignore that phrase, and think instead about the fact that most humans position their knees past their toes when doing something as simple as arising from the ground/floor, and have managed to do so for millennia while preserving knee function. Feb 16, 2018 at 15:16
  • As a side note, I am interested in squatting for functional purposes - it seems like A2G finds a lot of applications in real life, which is why I would rather do those despite them not being ideal for moving more weight in competition or whatever.
    – VSO
    Feb 16, 2018 at 15:23

There is no meaningful standard for ankle flexibility other than "Can I do what I want to do?" I'm unsure whether it's possible to have problematically-excessive ankle flexibility.

"We squat primarily to gain strength, not primarily to practice "real-life" activities. The distinction is important."

I could not disagree more with those two statements and based on the high quality of some of your answers I'm surprised you'd write that. I'm posting this not to piss you off but hopefully show you a huge piece of the puzzle you're at least somewhat not fully grasping...

Below was written by Grey Cook. There is no one I'm aware of higher in the Athletic Movement Field.

"If you’re squatting wrong and it’s not killing you, it can make your hip flexor spasm stronger. It can make your swayback worse. It can make your rounded shoulders harder to bring back.

When you go into your workout with underlying dysfunction (i.e. limited DF as the original posted asked about), remember this:

Exercise is trial by fire. We want to optimize the situation and then temper the steel. We don’t do it the other way around.

That’s sort of what’s behind the statement. It’s not a contradiction. When I’m talking corrective exercise, there’s not a lot of stress or load, because we should be learning to manage bodyweight. Managing balance without a load is natural. Everybody does that as they’re learning to walk.

What’s unnatural is to load a squat that doesn’t have any integrity to it. There’s no situation where a baby would think, ‘I can’t really squat that good right now. Maybe put a mini backpack on me and see if that helps my balance?’

This is another form of what we’re doing at the gym when we throw on quantity to clean up quality. If you want to clean up quality, clean up quality. If you want to reinforce quality, then throw on quantity.

The idea is if you have less-than-optimal integrity in your getup, go light until you recapture integrity. Then get heavy again, because that’s the best way to see if you can hold integrity and manage quality.

Once quality has an acceptable base, start exploring greater levels of quantity—strength, speed, stamina, endurance—and see if you can maintain a minimum level of quality."


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