These toes to bar abs workouts will help you to progress and improve your core strength. If you find toes to bar difficult, we have also included a 5 step progression for you to follow that will help you RX them in no time at all! Have fun!
Click on the blue NEXT and BACK buttons below to browse through the workouts. Scroll down for all the tips and tricks.
MOVEMENT PROGRESSION FOR TOES TO BAR
Toes to bar can be a tricky movement to RX.
They aren’t necessarily a skill that you may have learned when you were younger, since they’re a very CrossFit®-specific movement. And I use the word tricky, because they really aren’t always as easy as some athletes can make them look.
So let’s take a few minutes to breakdown the toes to bar movement, into a progression format. Whether you have no idea where to even start with toes to bar, are having issues stringing them together, or working on being able to do more in a row, then you’re in the right place.
Toes to Bar Progression
Step 1: Beat Swings
Let’s start very simple. Adjust your hands on the pull-up bar to be about shoulder width, while keeping both your core and legs tight. Once you are hanging, make sure that your shoulders are activated. Swing back and forth, changing from hollow position, to arch position.
If moving back and forth from the hollow and arch positions is difficult for you, try dropping from the bar and trying this drill on the floor to get more comfortable with the two movements, and how your body adjusts between them.
Toes to Bar Abs Workouts Step 2: Kipping Levers
We are now going to build off of beat swings, yet start to build the elevation while still in the hollow body position. During this step, make sure you’re mindful of activating your lats. This is going to help with getting a higher lever.
Kipping levers should not be using your legs. If you do find yourself using your legs, you are probably forcing a kip (not good). Think back to the basics of tight legs and core, so that while levering back, your feet move a bit in front of the bar, still together.
The lever portion of toes to bar is vital, since it’s what ensures that you are able to get your torso far enough back from the bar, creating the space that you need to then bring your legs and feet up to touch the bar. No lever, and odds are your kip will start to look like you’re a monkey!
Toes to Bar Abs Workouts Step 3: Knee Raises
Feel read to move on from kipping levers? Great, let’s start focusing on getting your knees up. Don’t forget about the importance of lat and shoulder activation, and while levering back, lift up your knees towards your chest.
This movements of knees to chest (not touching your chest, just towards it) should be fluid, so that you can continue with the movement several times in a row.
Important: Knee raises does not mean knees to elbows. Your knees really only need to be coming up to around your belly button in order to get the feeling for this step in the toes to bar progression. As long as you are able to start lifting your legs (knees) to that point while maintaining your kip and control, then you’ve achieved the goal of step 3.
Toes to Bar Abs Workouts Step 4: Knees to Chest
Now it’s time to actually get those knees all the up to your chest, and past your belly button. Fluidity is going to be key once again. While moving into this step of the progression, think about aiming for your elbows, while kipping harder than in the previous steps. Kipping with more force will make sure that are able to get your torso out of the way as you past under the bar, so that your knees can then touch your chest.
Remember: Active both your shoulders and lats to achieve a strong kip.
The timing of your kip will also change at this point, as bringing your knees up higher is going to take longer. Focus on staying balanced and controlled: just because your kip is changing, doesn’t mean you should be adding any extra movement to the movement such as swings between reps, etc.
Sidenote: This is sometimes a point of contention, and you may be coached differently in your gym… but I personally have no issue with bending your knees during this step. In the long run, it’s going to help you cycle through the movement easier.
Toes to Bar Abs Workouts Step 5: Toes to bar
It’s time to Rx TTB! Keeping everything in mind from the previous four steps, the only thing that is going to change is finally getting your toes up to that bar.
Try not to overthink it; a good cue to keep in mind is ‘flicking’ your feet up towards the bar. Don’t lose your strong, engaged kip, and from knees to chest, flick up both of your feet (at the same time) to touch the bar.
Something worth mentioning about this final step is that once again, the timing of your kip will change as you add more movement. Keep this in mind, and if necessary tweak your timing. This is going to be achieved through simply practicing the movement.
Let’s take a quick look at the different cues we’ve mentioned for learning TTB.
- Arch to hollow kip
- Pull down on bar & get shoulders up, tuck Knees high
- At the apex, flick toes to the bar
Kipping Toes to Bar: The Missing Piece
More often than not, if I’m working with an athlete who can’t seem to get it to ‘click’ when stringing together toes to bar, it’s because they’re missing a crucial part of the movement:
Pulling through the bar.
This cue is absolutely crucial when entering the arch position of toes to bar (explained in step one). As your body moves back under the pull-up bar to begin another rep, think about pulling your head and torso through (almost as if your arms are creating a window). Simultaneously, your feet should pushed back behind your body. This will help to build for a strong arch, setting yourself up beautifully for the next rep.
By the way, pulling through the bar into a strong arch is a movement that’s important for a bunch of CrossFit® gymnastics movements, including pull-ups and bar muscle ups. So next time you find yourself struggling to string together reps, and nare losing your kip, keep this cute in mind:
Toes to Bar Progression: Conclusion
If you’re working on toes to bar and find yourself with extra time before or after your next WOD, try working through the toes to bar progression laid out above. It might help you find what that missing piece of the movement is, and before you know it, you might just be stringing together toes to bar with ease!
Check out the next page to find out why you might be struggling with toes to bar.
REASONS WHY CROSSFIT ATHLETES STRUGGLE WITH TOES TO BAR
Let’s have a look at the five reasons, why your toes to bar don’t work well, and aren’t strong and efficient.
1. Your core strength needs more work
Proper core strength is the foundation of all movements, not just in Crossfit, but in any other sport as well. Core’s function is not just stabilizing the spine and our bodies during the movement, but also in generating the force to initiate and perform the movement. Ask any gymnast how much time they devote to core stability and strength, and you’ll realize your working on your basics way too less.
Before kipping, strict core strength should be built with exercises like planks, hollow rocks, hollow rock holds, side planks, good mornings, deadlifts, GHD extensions, hanging knee raises (strict knee to elbows), strict toes-to-bars, L-holds, seated L-sit and other similar exercises.
2. Not doing a proper kip
Don’t focus just on hanging and lifting the legs up to the bar. Instead, also pay attention to moving the shoulders, chest and hips back and forward, and pulling the bar down to the feet. As feet go up, shoulders rise. Toes-to-bar are about timing, rhythm and using the momentum to kick up. For a proper kip, see our how-to video above.
3. Kicking your legs out
After touching the bar, bring your feet straight down and back. Don’t kick your legs out. Reach back to gather the momentum again, bring your knees to elbows first, and then kick with your feet up. Bigger angles and extended legs (knees) will lead to burnout faster. Great efficiency tips can be seen in this tutorial from Chris Spealler.
4. Weak grip strength
Grip strength is a common issue, not just for toes to bar, but all bar related exercises. It can be build progressively with working on your core strength. For extra training, you can incorporate exercises with thick barbell (deadlifts, farmers walks) or thick pull up bar (pull-ups, chins ups).
Great exercises for developing grip and upper body strength in general are active hang, one arm active hang, switch grip hangs and other exercises from Ido Portal.
5. Toes to Bar Abs Workouts: Calluses and hand rips
Holding on to the bar while performing high rep toes to bar can be extremely aggressive for the skin. Even if your hands don’t rip, blisters and calluses can develop. It starts with a grip: try gripping more with your fingers, so less skin will be squeezed between the bar and your fingers.
Like your muscles, joints and tendons need to slowly adjust the ” training stress”, so do the fists and fingers. Eventually the skins will get more resistant. But even then, tears and calluses will appear.