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Toes To Bar: The Most Common Open Movement

The 2022 CrossFit Open is upon us, and athletes around the world, whether high level competitors or everyday gym-goers, have begun preparing for the 3-week, initial qualifying stage of the CrossFit competitive season. For athletes that have participated in the past, there are certain memorable elements that direct how someone may choose to prepare. Thruster and Chest-to-Bar combinations make an appearance almost every year, 2017 got people to begin training dumbbell movements more frequently, and 2021 introduced the Wall Walk for the first time. However, there is one specific movement that has been in the CrossFit Open every single year since its inception in 2011 – the Toes-to-Bar!

Surprised? Don’t be. The Toes-to-Bar is an incredibly foundational movement that has all the elements that make it a perfect fit for the CrossFit Open – standards for the toe-to-bar can be implemented easily and a large percentage of CrossFitters, including non-competitive individuals, can perform toe-to-bar. However, it has a skill and capacity element that allow for the more advanced athletes to express the pattern at a much higher level than the everyday class athlete, and has proven to be a “sticking point” in workouts in the past.

So, for individuals looking to compete in the Open this year, you’d better have your toe-to-bar game up to par, or you may find yourself being left behind with hip flexors and abdominals locked up while others are on to the next round. For Toes-to-Bar, we want to look at three areas of development to optimize capacity and learn how to approach them when coming up in a workout – Strength Development, Efficiency Development, and Volume Accumulation.

Over the next several blogs, we’ll begin looking at different drills and strength development pieces and diving into the three aforementioned pieces that can help you to achieve greatness at the toes to bar.

Strength Development

The toe-to-bar is an interesting combination of skill, range of motion, and strength! All too often, novice athletes assume that they are unable to perform toe-to-bar because of a skill limitation, so they will continue to use “toe-to-bar attempts” as their training scale, assuming that eventually something will click – but they never actually progress (think about if every time you snatched, you never actually successfully completed a single lift - you probably wouldn’t get that much better). On the flip side, even athletes who can perform toe-to-bar consistently could benefit from strengthening the primary movers, as it may increase their capacity and efficiency. Here are some progressions to implement in to accessory training that may develop or progress the strength needed for toe-to-bar:

  • Hollow Holds/Rocks and Variationsif abdominal and hip flexor strength is a limiter, working on hollow positions may be a huge help in developing some foundational strength in core flexion. High level athletes can perform weighted or band resisted Hollow Holds.

  • Tuck Sit/L-sits for many athletes, the high degree of core compression (hip and abdominal flexion) can be a linchpin on toe-to-bar. Tuck sits or L-sits, with the intent of squeezing into that compression as aggressively as possible, can begin to open up that position, and can carry over nicely to toe-to-bar. Over time, increase duration or intensity by straightening legs, and highly advanced athletes can perform weighted L-sits.

  • GHD Sit-Ups the GHD sit-up is a great opportunity to essentially mimic the major muscle activation and range of motion as a toe-to-bar, without as much of a skill or grip endurance limitation, so developing strength and endurance of GHD sit-up can help immensely in training the muscles needed to begin achieving toe-to-bar more consistently and at higher volumes.

  • Pike PulsesPike Pulses are another great way to train and strengthen core compression. Progress Pike Pulses by gradually working hands further down on the ground, increasing volume, or creating hurdles/targets to lift your legs up and over to increase the range of motion.

  • Pausing Kip Swings – in some cases, lack of strength and control in the kip swing can be the limiter. Performing kip swings with pauses at the hollow and arched position can help to create a connection to the movement, strengthen the core, as well as train grip and shoulder control.

Gives these drills a try and let us know how they go in the comments below! In our next blog, we’ll dive into the next section of toes to bar, efficiency development.

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