There are normally two different categories for athletes who struggle with toes to bar. You are either frustrated with your inability to get your toes to touch the bar or you are someone who can do a repetition but then you need an awkward kip in between each rep.
No matter which category of the two you fall into, it is a definite that at some point the question “Why can’t I do these?” has popped into your head. The short answer to this question is that you are more than likely lacking the necessary strength, mobility or technique needed for the movement.
An athlete who is consistent with toes to bar will have an elegant blend of strength, mobility and technique that enables better rhythm, timing and capacity. If you possess all of these then you are likely to be extremely efficient with your toes to bar. However, if one of these are considered ‘weak’ then it is likely that it will be that area that is affecting your ability to perform efficient repetitions.
Strength as we all know is an important pre-requisite for all gymnastic movements and this is no different for toes to bar. It is a common theme that most athletes who fail to string consecutive repetitions together have inadequate eccentric strength in both their shoulders and abdominals.
In the arch position of the kip swing we utilize the stretch reflex through the shoulders and abdominals to then “snap” back into a hollow body position to then make contact with the bar. This, however, is only the case for athletes with solid eccentric control also known as the phase of the movement where our legs are swinging back down. An athlete who lacks control in this portion will have a “clunky” or “loose” kip swing instead of that compact swing which in turns diminishes that ability to snap towards the bar making consecutive repetitions extremely difficult to perform. A common occurrence then for an athlete who lacks this strength is that they will resort to a kip in between each repetition to find their control.
Not having the adequate mobility will impair an athlete’s ability to perform toes to bar. Toes to bar requires an athlete to have adequate hip and thoracic range of motion to allow for efficiency in the movement. If an athlete doesn’t have the necessary thoracic range of motion or the ability to bring their knees to their chest, then they will struggle to perform consecutive toes to bar. This will be due to a lack of mobility stopping them from either getting into the correct positions for an efficient kip swing due to their limited thoracic mobility or being unable to touch their toes of the bar due to reduced hip flexion. Without adequate mobility an athlete will essentially be fighting against their own body throughout each repetition looking for ways in which they can compensate for a lack of mobility.
Okay…If you have gotten this far and the above two areas aren’t a problem, then it is more than likely your technique which is hindering your ability to perform consecutive toes to bar. When performing toes to bar it is essential for an athlete to be behind the bar as the feet touch. If an athlete does not actively press down on the bar and get into this position, then they will find it extremely difficult to consistently perform repetitions without losing their kip swing or feeling like their timing is completely wrong.
WHAT TO DO NOW?
If you have identified one of these areas as being something you need to work on, read our article 3 Reasons Why Your Can't do Toes to Bar (Pt.2) to learn how to test your strength, mobility and technique so you can get closer to consecutive toes to bar!