5 Reasons CrossFit Athletes Struggle With Toes To Bar

Toes To Bar are a gymnastic movement which starts with hanging from the bar and involves kicking your legs up to touch the metal. Harder than they look!

Toes to bar sounds easy, but many people struggle with the movement. No matter how advanced of an athlete you think you are, you can still have trouble with toes to bar when in the middle of a WOD.

The valid rep consists of moving from a full hang (extended arms and hips) to touching the bar with both of your feet inside the hands. When kicking back, the feet must reach behind the bar (CrossFit Games Open standards, 2014).

The following article and how-to video are presented together with our partner site

Let’s have a look at the five reasons, why you’re toes to bar don’t work well, 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 you’re working on your basics way too little.

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 is about timing, rhythm and using the momentum to kick up. For a proper kip, see our how-to video above.

toes to bar

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 built progressively by 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: 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. For more information, read our guide to hand care: Crossfit hands: perfect guide to preventing and treating rips.

You can also try using different gloves or grips. We recently had a review of those: Hand Protection: Grips Review – do I need them?

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