From our article 3 Reasons you struggle with Toes to Bar we have developed an understanding around why you struggle to perform Toes to Bar. However, knowing that one of these reasons apply to you is only step one of the process of becoming efficient at toes to bar. We must now identify your weaknesses, whether it be lack of strength and/or mobility in specific areas.
In this article we will be aiming to identify the area, or areas, that need to be developed to in turn achieve toes to bar. When doing this it is vital to be aware that more than one area could be considered a ‘weak’ . For example, an individual restricted in thoracic mobility will normally as a by-product be slightly weaker than desired in their shoulders. As a result they may fail to meet the set standards for the tests in the mobility and strength sections.
Below we have separated the three sections and gave a series of tests to complete in order to evaluate the areas which you may need to improve to help get one step closer to performing toes to bar.
Midline Strength Test
We all know that the abdominals play a massive part in the process of performing toes to bar therefore, a weakness in the midline is going to impact your ability to perform efficient repetitions.
A very simple yet effective test to rule out abdominal strength as being an issue is a max hanging knee raise test. To pass this test you should achieve +15 repetitions within 30 seconds.
Scapular Strength Test
The first strength test we will do surrounding the shoulder area will be focused on the scapula.
In test #1 we are checking to see if you have the necessary control of the scapular muscles. To complete begin hanging on the rig and think about pulling your shoulders to the floor away from your ears as shown.
To pass test #1 you should be able to complete 10 controlled repetitions without dropping from the bar. If successful, test #2 will require you to hang in an active position for 30 seconds unbroken.
Pulling Strength Test
A pre-requisite recommended prior to performing any gymnastic movement is to have a baseline of strict strength, and this will be no different for toes to bar.
In the hollow body pull-up, we simply want you to complete the bodyweight pull up with the feet together and remaining slightly in front of the bar throughout the movement. This standard is in place due to the transferability to Toes to Bar.
To pass this test you should be able to complete +5 reps unbroken. .
Failed the strength tests? Start our Ultimate Pull-up program today.
Thoracic Mobility Tests
When performing any gymnastic movement, the body will more than likely go into a position called the ‘arch’. This is a position which will allow the body to produce power if performed correctly. However, if an athlete is limited in their ability to push the head and chest through to find that arch position then the movement of toes to bar will be extremely difficult.
The seated trunk rotation test is simply looking at your ability to freely rotate left and right with a neutral spine. We recommend using a stick resting on the shoulders as shown. To pass this test, you should have +90 degrees of rotation in each direction.
The second thoracic test we recommend all athletes is the seated wall slide. To complete this test, you will be seated on the floor with the upper and lower back along with the head in contact with the wall. From this position the athlete will then create an ‘L’ position with thee arms so that the elbows and wrists contact the wall.
To pass this test you should be able to straighten both arms overhead without the wrists, shoulders, upper and lower back losing contact with the wall.
Hip Mobility Test
Toes to Bar require adequate hip flexion. In the supine Hip Flexion Test you will lie on the floor (face up) and pull one knee at a time towards the chest. A pass is the quad muscle (thigh) making contact with the chest.
Hamstring Mobility Test
Toes to Bar require a level of hamstring flexibility to allow for the legs to extend and the feet to touch the bar. To test hamstring mobility, we will use the seated L-fold. To perform this, you will be in a seated position with the legs extended. From here, reach reach overhead with both arms before folding forward in an attempt to touch the feet. A pass is contact with the feet without bending the knees.
When completing toes to bar there are two techniques which people adopt. The first technique is the straight leg toes to bar which involves an athlete performing the repetitions with the legs completely straight throughout. This is normally deemed the more difficult of the two techniques due to the demand for perfect timing along with a blend of strength and mobility. The second technique used to perform toes to bar is the tuck and kick. Is there a technique test for these? Technically no…in the sense that we don’t have a specific test that offers a clear pass/fail that you'll find in the strength & flexibility tests above.
However, if you have made it this far and successfully passed all the above tests then it is likely that you fall into the category of an athlete that is affected by overall technique in the movement. If so, read our next post where we will be giving drills to improve overall technique for the toes to bar movement. This will include drills for building a more consistent and powerful beat swing as well as building better timing, positioning and capacity in the movement - everything you need to bring your Toes to bar game to the next level.