September 23, 2023

Ask a number of individuals to explain the toe-to-bar motion and also you’re more likely to hear a number of descriptions of how the end result needs to be achieved. That’s, truly getting one’s toes “to the bar.” You would possibly suppose the train was comparatively easy sufficient contemplating its self-evident identify, however that’s like considering there’s just one approach to “squat.”

Person outdoors doing ab exercise on equipment
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Whereas the motion has gymnastics roots, the toes-to-bar is carefully related to CrossFit athletes and the train options often in WODs (exercises of the day). Regardless of the motion’s erratic look, the toes-to-bar has potential advantages for athletes of any sport, in addition to physique-focused bodybuilders. This text describes method and programming issues for the toes-to-bar.


How you can Do the-Toes to-Bar Step By Step

A typical model of toes-to-bar includes well-coordinated motion of physique segments to realize quick and environment friendly efficiency —kipping. A variation includes action of your abdominals and hip flexors with immaculate body control — strict. The kipping version is described below.

Step 1 — Grab the Bar

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Choose an appropriate pull-up bar that’s strong, secure, and taller than your standing overhead-reach height. Take an overhand grip at, or slightly outside, shoulder-width and hang with straight arms. 

Form Tip: Consider using a “reverse hook grip” — After wrapping your fingers around the bar, squeeze your thumb over the nailbed of your index finger (and middle finger, too, if you’re able). 

Step 2 — Generate a Kip

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“Kipping” refers to the controlled act of swinging to generate momentum. For the toes-to-bar, initiate the kip by arching your back as you extend your legs behind you. Your body should form an extended or “arched” shape under the bar. Immediately reverse the movement by rounding your spine and pulling your legs forward to achieve a flexed or “hollow” shape under the bar. Without losing speed, transition again to the initial extended shape. 

Form Tip: When kipping, it’s helpful to think about pushing and pulling the bar horizontally even though the bar itself won’t move. First push backward, then pull forward, and then push backward again. This will help to incorporate your upper body, improve stability and positioning, and can help establish a rhythmic movement.

Step 3 — Carry the Kip into Upward Leg Movement

A person hanging from a pull-up bar, gaining upward momentum
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From the arched position, carry your trunk and leg momentum forward once again, but this time actively flex your low back and hips at the end of the kip to transition the momentum upward to the ceiling, not forward. 

Form Tip: Keep your gaze straight as you lift your feet. Following your toes with your eyes will only promote neck and spine extension, which will interfere with this phase of the movement. 

Step 4 — Touch Your Toes to the Bar

A person doing a toe-to-bar exercise
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As your low back and hips reach maximum flexion (i.e. maximum compression between your stomach and thighs), straighten your knees and touch your toes to the bar. Use control — you don’t want to kick the bar.

Form Tip: Quickly “flicking” your knees into extension at the top of the repetition rather than keeping your knees straight throughout the movement will promote movement efficiency and speed.

Step 5 — Return to the Extended Arch Position

Two people hanging from a pull up bar with arched backs.
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To smoothly transition into the next rep, allow a slight re-bend to your knees and drive your hips into extension downward. As your legs move below your waist, begin to extend your spine. Once you achieve the arched position, immediately transition to the hollow position to initiate the next repetition. 

Form Tip: Unlike the first repetition, subsequent reps should not require multiple forward and back kipping movements to generate momentum. Transition immediately from the hollow position into the upward leg movement of the next repetition.

Toes to Bar Mistakes to Avoid

Common toes-to-bar errors occur when form gets sloppy, when range of motion gets cut short, or when the distinction blurs between the kipping version and the strict version.

Swinging Too Far Forward

An athlete who allows their hips to travel underneath the bar during the “hollow” position (immediately before and during the leg lift) is unlikely to achieve a full repetition. Even if the repetition is salvaged, excessive swinging will disrupt the rhythm of the kip and interfere with the next repetition. 

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Avoid it: When transitioning from the “arch” position to the “hollow” position of the kip, avoid excessive forward motion of the pelvis by actively pushing yourself backwards. Keeping tension in your upper body and trying to move the bar can help.

Missing Full Compression at the Top

Achieving the end goal of touching your toes, well, to the bar requires full hip and low back flexion. Athletes who fail to achieve this fully compressed position may simply require technique remediation or supplemental mobility work. 

A person trying to do the toe-to-bar exercise.
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Avoid it: During upward leg movement, focus on powerfully pulling your knees toward your elbows. If this intent isn’t enough, it is acceptable to maintain a small amount of flexion throughout the upward movement phase. Then, at the last possible moment, complete the movement by reaching your feet to the bar. Athletes who lack the mobility to achieve the fully compressed position, may benefit from the hanging L-sit variation discussed below. 

Slowing the Descent

In contrast to the strict version (and most exercises in the gym), the downward movement phase of the kipping toes-to-bar is not intended to be slow and controlled. Coming down slowly kills your momentum and extinguishes the stretch reflex — Both of these features are needed to perform efficient reps in consecutive fashion. 

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Avoid it: Instead of attempting to control the descent with your hip flexors and abdominals, actively drive into extension during the descent — first from your hips, then from your spine.

How to Progress the Toes to Bar

Unlike traditional resistance training exercises, the toes-to-bar is not typically progressed via the addition of weight unless, of course, this occurs inadvertently after a big pre-workout meal. Rather, the toes-to-bar is appropriately progressed by increasing repetition rate, manipulating body position, and extending set durations. 

Perform More Repetitions Within a Given Time

In fitness competition, the rate of repetition completion is the most important factor, often aiming to complete as many repetitions as quickly as possible. Therefore, pushing yourself to complete more toes-to-bar reps in a set timeframe is a great way to progress this movement. Set a timer for 20 to 40 seconds and hammer out as many good repetitions as possible. Next session, shoot for one or two more reps in the same time. 

Lengthen Your Legs

Keeping a slight bend in the knees during the kipping toes-to-bar is acceptable and potentially beneficial because it increases repetition speed. For those less interested in competition and more interested in training abdominals and hip flexors, keeping your knees straight throughout the toes-to-bar is an appropriate progression.

Straight legs place your center of mass further from the working muscles (your abdominals), thereby increasing mechanical demand. To progress in this fashion, simply keep your knees as straight as possible throughout the forward/upward movement phase of the exercise.

Perform More Repetitions “Unbroken”

In CrossFit vernacular, “unbroken” refers to stringing multiple repetitions together without interruption. If fatigue or loss of coordination forces you to release the bar between reps, miss a rep, or perform an extra kip, your set of toes-to-bar is no longer unbroken. Performing unbroken sets builds muscular endurance and taxes coordination. 

To progress, simply establish the number of repetitions you can perform unbroken, then shoot for an extra repetition or two next time. 

Benefits of the Toes to Bar

In stark contrast to the complex movement and coordination demands of the toes-to-bar, the exercise requires one simple piece of equipment — a sturdy pull-up bar. Therefore, the following benefits can be reaped at any gym or local park. 

Full Range of Motion Training

The hips and trunk cycle through extremes of flexion and extension during the toes-to-bar. At these extreme positions, core and hip muscles are trained at long muscle lengths. Consistent training at long muscle lengths may reduce risk of muscle and tendon injury. For example, Nordic Curls, which train the hamstrings at long lengths are associated with reduced injury risk. (1)

Whereas extra dynamic workout routines like toes-to-bar haven’t but been studied for the aim of harm prevention, it’s believable they confer a protecting impact, making the abdominals and hip flexors extra resilient to strains.

Builds Ballistic Core Energy

Belly- and hip flexor muscle tissue expertise fast stretch instantly adopted by contraction throughout the toes-to-bar. This sequence engages a phenomenon referred to as the “stretch-shortening cycle” to provide a robust and environment friendly muscle contraction. Almost all sports activities and athletic endeavors depend on stretch shortening cycle muscle actions. And with coaching, stretch shortening cycle contractions could be enhanced.

So, whether or not you need to spike an unreturnable volleyball, launch a downfield soccer throw-in, or speed up previous your competitors on the cross-country ski trails, coaching the stretch shortening cycle by means of the toes-to-bar is probably going to assist. 

Motion Coordination Coaching

The kipping toes-to-bar calls for sequenced and managed motion of the trunk, hips, and shoulder girdle. Timing is every little thing, as momentum should be carried from one physique section to the subsequent. Dialing-in this coordination units the inspiration for different abilities requiring related actions. Gymnasts use toes-to-bar to show a clear kipping method for mounting above the bar. You would possibly use the toes-to-bar to construct as much as related actions, comparable to kipping muscle-ups, kipping pull-ups, or possibly even “the worm” (in the event you’re into breakdancing).

Muscle tissues Labored by Toes to Bar

The toes-to-bar trains muscle tissue of the anterior chain — the muscle tissue on the entrance of the physique. Muscle tissues of the posterior chain, such because the spinal erectors, multifidi, and hip extensors, assist to drive the physique into the backswing of the kip, however the anterior core predominates.

Abdominals and Hip Flexors

The duties of transitioning from the arched place to the hole place of the kip and driving the toes legs vertical to succeed in to the bar are achieved by the abdominals and hip flexors. Key muscle tissue embody rectus abdominis, exterior obliques, inside obliques, iliacus, psoas main, and rectus femoris. 

Grip and Shoulders

A robust grip and robust shoulders are non-negotiable attributes for the toes-to-bar. Finger flexors and thumb muscles must not only support the weight of the body, but contend with multidirectional forces produced during kipping.

A person hanging from a pull-up bar.
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While stabilizing muscles preserve the integrity of the shoulder, shoulder flexors and extensors rhythmically contract to facilitate kipping. Most notable are latissimus dorsi, regions of pectoralis major, and posterior deltoid, which help to create the hollow position and keep the trunk behind the bar during the leg lift. 

How to Program the Toes to Bar

The toes-to-bar is likely to pop up in prescribed CrossFit workouts during competitions and training. They can be programmed for day-to-day workouts in a variety of ways to suit your needs.

Part of a Complex

A complex is two or more exercises performed continuously with the same equipment. Complexes are an efficient and engaging way to build work capacity and develop movement skills. The toes-to-bar pairs well with kipping muscle-ups and kipping pull-ups, as the momentum from the kipping motion can be preserved throughout the entire complex. For a challenge, try six repetitions of toes-to-bar, followed by three reps of muscle-ups, then six kipping pull-ups

Progressive Skill Training

Dedicated practice is needed to achieve technical mastery of the toes-to-bar. Motor learning is likely most effective when unfatigued. (2) For finest outcomes, dedicate an early portion of your exercise to the toes-to-bar. Attempt three to 5 units of six to 12 reps, three or extra days per week

In case you are a CrossFit competitor, you’ll possible have to carry out toes-to-bar in a fatigued state. So make sure to problem your self every so often with longer units, brief relaxation intervals between units, or circuit coaching that features the toes-to-bar.

A part of a Multi-Mode Exercise

Within the sport of health (i.e. CrossFit), a number of workout routines are programmed in the identical exercise, typically in circuit coaching style. Generally, these workout routines are carried out as “rounds for time” (RFT). In an RFT exercise, a spherical consists of an outlined variety of repetitions for a number of workout routines. The athlete performs a chosen variety of rounds as quick as doable. For instance, eight rounds of 16 kettlebell swings, eight toes-to-bar, and 4 wall ball pictures. Monitor the time it takes to finish your entire sequence and purpose to beat that point subsequent exercise.

person in gym training with kettlebell
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One other widespread exercise design is EMOM or each minute on the minute. The workout routines are carried out for a prescribed variety of repetitions each minute for a chosen variety of minutes. The repetitions needs to be accomplished in beneath one minute, and any time remaining is devoted to relaxation. For fast exercise, strive a 10-minute EMOM of eight toes-to-bar, six push-ups, and 4 dumbbell entrance squats

Toes-to-Bar Variations

Novice athletes or athletes with objectives outdoors of CrossFit, gymnastics, and parkour could also be higher served by one of many following variations. 

Strict Toes-to-Bar (Hanging Leg Raises)

These with health objectives circuitously associated to gymnastics or health competitors could take into account the strict toes-to-bar variation, generally referred to as “hanging leg raises.”

By eliminating the momentum and stretch reflex generated by a kip, the strict variation forces your abdominals and hip flexors to behave in a slower and extra remoted style. This leads to greater ranges of muscle exercise within the rectus abdominis and obliques. (3)

Hanging L-Sit

Hanging L-sits are an isometric, or immobile, endurance train. The “L-sit” locations the mass of the legs at its furthest level from the hips and low again, which trains your abdominals and hip flexors. This train could assist to handle weak factors within the toes-to-bar.

Should you’re not accustomed to coaching your hip flexors at brief muscle lengths, don’t be shocked in the event that they cramp throughout your first few classes. Shake it out and get again to work.

Managed GHD Sit-Ups

To progress towards the kipping toes-to-bar, novice athletes ought to take into account the managed glute-hamstring developer (GHD) sit-up. In contrast to customary sit-ups on the ground or a sit-up board, this train trains your hip flexors and abdominals at lengthy muscle lengths.

This train may also be used as a development towards CrossFit-style GHD sit-ups, that are carried out extra quickly and with outstretched arms.

Mendacity Leg Lifts

Athletes unable to hold from a pull-up bar resulting from weak spot or tools unavailability would possibly take into account coaching their abdominals and hip flexors utilizing mendacity leg lifts. This train solely requires a bench or open ground area and a sturdy object to carry on to as a counterbalance to the decrease physique — a heavy kettlebell or dumbbell additionally works.

Be sure you preserve your low again pressed into the bench or ground all through every repetition to keep away from a lack of rigidity on the backside of the repetition.


Does the toes-to-bar work the ‘decrease abs’?

The toes-to-bar is a good stomach train for these bodily ready to take care of its calls for. And, sure, it would possibly bias the decrease parts of those muscle tissue.
The toes-to-bar includes resisted and highly effective trunk flexion, which undoubtedly works the abdominals. Rectus abdominis (the “six-pack abs” muscle) runs vertically from the underside of the sternum and ribcage to the pubic bone. The fibers of rectus abdominis additionally run vertically however don’t run your entire size of rectus abdominis, as a result of they’re interrupted by tendinous inscriptions that create the define of a chiseled six- (or eight-) pack. 
As a result of momentum of the kip and the stretched place of the muscle, rectus abdominis possible experiences peak rigidity throughout the fast eccentric contraction on the backside of the motion. Eccentric muscle contractions have been proven to elicit preferentially larger muscle progress on the distal finish of the muscle in different physique components. (
4) Due to this fact, the eccentric bias of the toes-to-bar might, theoretically, result in enhanced decrease stomach growth over time. 
A rationale primarily based on floor electromyography (sEMG) is mostly cited to help the toes-to-bar (and related workout routines) for “decrease abs” coaching. Leg raises lead to larger exercise within the decrease portion of rectus abdominis than the higher parts. (5) Related findings have been reported with hanging knee-ups, that are basically hanging leg raises carried out with bent legs. (6) As a result of similarities between these workout routines and the toes-to-bar, it’s pretty secure to imagine that the toes-to-bar, too, electromyographically biases the decrease rectus abdominis. 
Nonetheless, floor electromyography will not be a sound indicator of the quantity of muscle a dynamic train prompts or will finally stimulate to develop. (7)(8) For these causes, we should be cautious about inferring superior “decrease ab” hypertrophy outcomes from toes-to-bar.
Remember, toes-to-bar is a really quick motion. Though peak rigidity within the muscle is probably going fairly excessive throughout the eccentric transition of the kip, the abdominals don’t expertise extended time beneath rigidity. These interested by constructing muscle could also be higher served by a extra conventional train variation, such because the strict toes-to-bar or reverse crunch.

My grip fails first throughout a set of the toes-to-bar. Suggestions?

Hanging ab straps can be utilized throughout the strict toes-to-bar to scale back demand on the shoulders and grip. Gymnastics grips or chalk could help with grip points. Other than these modifications, it could be prudent to concentrate on constructing your forearms and lats to work as much as the toes-to-bar. Pull-ups and lat pulldowns are nice choices. 

The toes-to-bar is simply too laborious. How can I work as much as it?

Contemplate a progressive technique to construct the requisite power and management for toes-to-bar repetitions. Here’s a pattern train development utilizing Variations mentioned above: Begin by coaching your hip flexors and abdominals at brief muscle lengths utilizing hanging L-sits. Add lengthy muscle size work through managed GHD sit-ups.
Strict toes-to-bar, though tough, could also be doable earlier than kipping toes-to-bar, as a result of they’re much less advanced. Apply the ahead and again (arch to hole) kipping movement, in isolation with out the leg increase, on a pull-up bar. As soon as proficient, it’s time for the real-deal toes-to-bar.

Appropriated by CrossFit, however Not Restricted to “Health Competitions”

The toes-to-bar is a comparatively advanced train utilized in some CrossFit competitions and exercises. It may also be used to develop gymnastics abilities, be positioned in calisthenics packages, or it may be added added to an ordinary gymnasium exercise as a novel core train. 

Like every advanced train, mastery of the toes-to-bar takes observe and endurance. However when you dial in, you’ll be stringing collectively unbroken repetitions with ease with core power, and core growth, to point out for it. 


  1. Al Attar, W. S. A., et al. (2017). Impact of harm prevention packages that embody the Nordic hamstring train on hamstring harm charges in soccer gamers: a scientific overview and meta-analysis. Sports activities Drugs47, 907-916.
  2. Branscheidt, M., et al. (2019). Fatigue induces long-lasting detrimental modifications in motor-skill studying. Elife8, e40578.
  3. McGill, S., Andersen, J., & Cannon, J. (2015). Muscle exercise and backbone load throughout anterior chain complete physique linkage workout routines: the physique noticed, hanging leg increase and walkout from a push-up. Journal of Sports activities Sciences33(4), 419-426.
  4. Franchi, M. V., Reeves, N. D., & Narici, M. V. (2017). Skeletal muscle reworking in response to eccentric vs. concentric loading: morphological, molecular, and metabolic diversifications. Frontiers in Physiology8, 447.
  5. Pruthviraj, R., & Paul Daniel, V. Okay. (2017). Electromyographic evaluation of workout routines proposed for differential activation of rectus abdominis muscle parts. Int J Phys Educ Sports activities Well being4, 153-157.
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  8. Vigotsky, A. D., et al. (2017). Larger electromyographic responses don’t suggest larger motor unit recruitment and ‘hypertrophic potential’ can’t be inferred. The Journal of Power & Conditioning Analysis31(1), e1-e4.

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