What Are Toes-to-Bar?
There are two different types of toes-to-bar: strict and kipping.
Strict toes-to-bar: Keeping the lats engaged while pressing down on the bar, you focus on tucking your pelvis under and using your lower abs to drive your feet up to the bar. Strict is an excellent way to build overall body strength, from your core to your grip.
Kipping toes-to-bar: Kipping toes-to-bar is the same concept of the strict, but you are adding in a kipping motion to help give yourself momentum to get your feet to the bar. This puts you in a steady flow. Kipping adds speeds and tends to use more energy.
There are many benefits to doing toes-to-bar or some toes-to-bar variation. The complete movement requires you to use a considerable amount of muscle strength, control, and coordination. It improves your grip, shoulder, and back durability. Not only does it help build more of a solid base of support for our larger muscles, but it also carries over to our hip flexors, obliques, and upper/lower abs.
How Do You Do Toes-to-Bar?
The toes-to-bar exercise starts with two prominent positions – the hollow body hold and the bow/superman hold. Once you master these two positions on the floor, you can then bring them to the bar.
Don’t quite have toes to bar well enough to use them in a workout for time? Tear your hands or fatigue your grip so that toes to bar are not an option today? There are so many different variations of the toes to bar that you can use as a modification. Here are some modifications you can try:
Make sure your quads are prepped for this! This type of toes-to-bar makes for a quick cycle time but uses a ton of lat engagement. So, for workouts that are fast and are lower in toes-to-bar volume, try out this option.
This swing allows an athlete to keep their straight leg for the majority of the swing but will transition to a short ‘flick’ to kick the toes to the bar. This is an excellent option if an athlete has good hamstring flexibility and wants to move through the toes-to-bar as quickly as possible, without fatiguing the lats as soon as a knees-to-armpits style swing would.
Take it to the floor
You can take it to the floor and do V-ups, tuck-ups, or straight-legged sit-ups. Keep it as challenging as you can manage to move through. Usually a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio for subbing in the movement: Toes-to-Bar.
Sometimes the neutral hand position and the give of the straps is just what you need to get those feet up there for the tap. Give these a try for something a little different!
Hanging Knee Raises
These are an excellent option for those with the grip endurance who want to practice their kip swing but can’t quite get their toes to the bar, or for when touching them to the bar throws you offbeat in a timed workout. All parts of the movement remain the same except the toe kick, so they are a great way to practice and still get a great workout stimulus.
Knees-to-Chest or Elbows
These are another excellent option for those with the grip endurance who want to practice their kip swing but can’t quite get their toes to the bar, or for when touching them to the bar throws you offbeat in a timed workout. All parts of the movement remain the same except the toe kick, so they are a great way to practice and still get a great workout stimulus!
No matter which option you choose, look at the stimulus of the workout, and try to pick one that goes with it for the day. All of them are good for you and are going to benefit you in one way or another!
Toes-to-Bar Strategies for Workouts
You don’t have to be a gymnast to be good at toes-to-bar. It’s about playing your own game and knowing what you as an athlete are capable of. In any workouts, but especially competitive workouts like the Open, you want to have a plan on how to keep yourself moving continuously throughout the workout to achieve the highest possible score.
Here are a few different strategies you can use for toes-to-bar. Test them out to see which ones help you move the fastest and most efficiently throughout the workout.
1) Quick Sets with Short Rests
A quick set is different from athlete to athlete but what it means, no matter the rep scheme you use, is that you can knock it out and jump right back up into the next set with only a short rest in between. You know yourself best, so whether it’s sets of 8, 4, 2, have a number in your head for your sets that you know you can hit every time you reach for the bar. Clustering your reps this way is always better than doing a big set and staring at the bar for 20 seconds before you go again because, over the course of the set, you will spend less time on this station.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with going to quick singles on any movement, toes-to-bar included. You would be surprised at how fast you can push through them as well as conserve energy. Whether it’s saving your lungs, grip, or just resting time in between, singles should always be something you can fall back on if your strategy from the start doesn’t go as planned. If you go with this strategy, YOU MUST get back on the bar right away for your next rep – rests should be only a second, maybe two.
3) Never Go to Failure
Toes-to-bar is one of those movements that when they go, they go. Stay in your lane, focus on you, and push yourself to your athletic abilities – not to the skills of those around you. The last thing you want to do is burn out because that makes it harder, if not impossible, to get back up on the bar. Smart sets lead to a high performance so never push your set to the point of failing a rep or losing your kip rhythm.