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Exercises to Improve Toes to Bar

In the previous blog post we discussed a variety of reasons why an athlete struggles with toes to bar. We made the conclusion that an athlete will either lack the necessary strength, mobility or technique. In this post we are going to take a deep dive into exercises and drills to improve performance in each of these areas.

Mobility Requirements

Inadequate mobility as we know will hinder your ability to perform toes to bar. In the movement of toes to bar an athlete will explore two positions known as the arch and pike position.

The first position is the arch, and this is when the body creates a reverse ‘C’ position with the head in front of the bar and the feet behind. The smoother the arch the more energy produced. What we mean by this is when an athlete moves into their arch position, we want a solid, smooth line from hands to feet symbolising tension. If there is a break in the chain for example, a knee bend, then the energy produced is significantly less. This, in turn, is where mobility comes into the equation.

An athlete who is limited in thoracic or shoulder mobility will struggle to hit this desired position therefore, hindering their ability to produce a powerful kip needed in consecutive toes to bar.

Exercises to improve thoracic and shoulder mobility:

The second position is known as the pike. This is the shape the body makes when the toes touch the bar. To mimic this position an athlete should stand upright with their legs straight before folding at the hip aiming to touch their toes without bending at the knees. The limitation for this position will be an athlete’s hamstring mobility. If an athlete has limited range of motion in the hamstrings it will be extremely difficult for them to touch their toes of the bar without an excessively big kip. Below are two simple exercises that will help improve hamstring mobility.

Exercises to improve hamstring mobility:

Strength Requirements

A lack of strength can be a major factor in reasoning why an athlete struggles to perform toes to bar. To recap on our previous post, we concluded that a certain strength level is required to allow for toes to bar to be performed in an efficient manner. A lack of strength will result in a diminished ability to perform a powerful kip or to control the eccentric portion of the movement.

Firstly, if you have less than 8 strict pull-ups, we have just released the ultimate pull-up program that would help you improve in this area. Through this program you will have a tailored plan that will either get you your first strict pull up or improve the number of repetitions which you currently have, allowing you to tick off that prerequisite strength marker for toes to bar and be one step closer to consecutive repetitions.

On the other hand, if it was the midline strength test which you failed we suggest you aim to utilise these movements below to build strength and control in that region.

Exercises to improve midline strength:

Technique Requirements

Congratulations if you passed all the mobility and strength tests in our previous post. The good news is that it is probably your technique which is deterring you from performing toes to bar. When performing toes to bar we utilise a kip swing to allow us to create momentum to, therefore, touch our toes of the bar. Nailing the positions of the kip swing to create the necessary height needed for toes to bar and understanding that once we touch the bar it is important to return to our arch position with speed are two of the most common technique flaws seen in athletes attempting toes to bar. Below we have linked a number of drills that will improve kip efficiency and timing to help improve your toes to bar.

Drills to improve Toes to Bar technique:

1. Banded Beat Swing. In this drill we are aiming to keep tension through all positions.

2. Kipping Leg Raise. In this drill aim to be consistent with the height of your leg raise and the speed at which your legs travel down.

3. Kipping Sequence: 2 Kip Swings + 1 Toes to Bar + 2 Kip Swings. In this drill the aim is to be consistent with your kip swing especially after returning from the toes to bar attempt.

Still Need Help Getting your Toes to Bar?

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