About once a week at Industrial Athletics, the workout contains one of the more skillful moves we do in CrossFit training: Toes to Bar. For those who aren’t familiar with the movement, while hanging from a pull-up bar, you raise your legs up and touch your toes to the bar between your hands. Toes to bar are often more elusive for members than pull-ups because, unlike pull-ups, toes to bar require more than strength. For toes to bar to be done well, you must have strength in your hips, core, shoulders, and last; mobility in your hamstrings; and rhythm/coordination between your hips and shoulders. Additionally, there is no “banded pull-up” version of a toes to bar. In other words, there is no way to make the full range of motion easier by using bands or other implements. You must build strength, mobility, and coordination through progressions to build to the full range movement.
When you are working on your toes to bar, think of these steps: Core, Press Down, Technique, Timing
Core: To help develop core strength, you have to move yourself from a vertical hanging position to a lying position. Then work on straight leg raises or roll ups while focusing on using your ab muscles only.
Press Down: When you do toes to bar, you have to be able to “press down” on the pull-up bar while you are performing the movement. This requires a lot of shoulder strength. Hanging roll ups are a great way to build strength in your shoulders.
Technique: Kipping knee raises are a great way to start to develop your technique. You can combine a standard gymnastics kip while working on lifting your legs higher and higher as you become more comfortable with the movement.
Timing: Even when you can do a toes to bar, stringing them together is a matter of timing. You have to put everything together for multiple reps. To improve your timing, work on kipping straight leg raises. You want to focus on lifting your legs a little higher each rep while maintaining a good rhythm. See the video above.
If you are working on your toes to bar, give yourself time to develop. Don’t move too quickly through the progressions listed above. Remember strength, mobility, and rhythm are all necessary. If you are deficient in one of the three, the other two will suffer.