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Tips from Coach John: Improve Your Toes to Bar

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It seems that every workout involving high level skills such as toes to bar, double-unders, or handstand push ups has a tendency to go awry depending on your proficiency with those movements. We’ve all been there. You’re cruising through the cardio piece or you’re cycling the barbell like your last name ends in –dottir, you grab the rope or jump on the bar and suddenly you’re stopped in your tracks.

When it comes to skill training, the only real way to get better and be able to consistently depend on the skill is to practice, practice, practice. I know, it is about as cliché as my old baseball coach telling me “to see the ball to hit the ball.” (For what it is worth, Coach Tommy, that old saying has been debunked!)

Toes to bar is a mid-level skill that takes repetition to get right. Here are a few pointers to remember as  you’re practicing, as well as some common faults you may experience.

Initiate the kip with your shoulders and not your legs. This one is quite common, especially under fatigue. This generally happens when we get one or two unbroken reps then begin to swing uncontrollably. Remember to bring your chest through when you swing (arch position/superman) and bring your chest back while actively pushing away when you swing back (hollow position).

Get behind the bar. When stringing reps together, get your chest behind the bar when you bring your legs up. This is achieved through an aggressive “push away” from the bar (first image below). If the hip is in line with or in front of the bar and you’re turned upside down, chances are you’ll lose your rhythm and momentum (second image below). This will cause that dreaded “double kip,” where you hang, reset, then have to kip again to get another rep. That second kip will become awfully tiring when tackling a workout with 25-50 toes to bar!

Pull those legs down hard!! Letting your legs drop and slow down after touching the bar will destroy your rhythm. When your toes strike the bar, remember to aggressively kick your legs down. The momentum you get from kicking down will quickly get you back into that arch position so your swing can carry you back to your hollow for another rep!

Yes, I know that’s a lot of stuff to think about in what seems like nanoseconds, but you won’t have to think about it if you practice! Get on the bar when you can and as often as you can.

– Hang from the bar with active shoulders, keeping your stomach and butt tight and toes pointed down. Hold that hollow position for 10 seconds, progressively adding time as you get stronger.

– Practice your kipping swing, going from hollow to arch for 5 reps.

Do these little things three to four times a week and you will become that much more efficient with your kipping skills.

The more you drill these movements and improve your shoulder/midline strength and stability, the better you will perform on the bar. Happy practicing!