Toes-To-Bar: Volume Accumulation
Our final part of our toes-to-bar series dives into how you can maximize your toes to bar in any kind of workout, whether there are 10 reps or 100.
When an athlete has established an efficient toes-to-bar technique, it may be wise to now take some time to perform training that allows for a systematic approach to volume accumulation. Unfortunately, athletes often take the “Hopper” approach to skill work, where they put the movement into workouts that have varied time domains, combinations of movements, rep schemes, and non-complementary movements, and see what comes out. While this is what the sport looks like, this can sometimes prevent progress of a specific movement, as there is no way to measure progress, and performance of the given movement can vary greatly between training sessions, depending on all the other variables of a workout. Instead, there are some really simple ways to implement progression of skills that are measurable and repeatable.
EMOM – one of the best ways to train and increase volume of skill movements is to put them in EMOM’s. In the first week of a progression, you can start at a moderate time length (6-10 minutes) and rep range (depends on skill level and strength, but start conservative). Each week, increase the volume of each minute very slightly, ensuring you still have a focus on quality and repeatability. When you reach a rep range that you are no longer able to recover from within the minute and repeat, bring the reps back down and extend the time out (10-14 minutes), and repeat.
Aerobic Fatigue – after a large amount of volume has been accumulated, an athlete can begin implementing some aerobic fatigue. There are many ways to do this, but the main goal would be to make sure the aerobic fatigue is not so intense that quality of movement is sacrificed AND a rep range is set and established – if at any time during the training session rep ranges are not being met, the skill of the movement is no longer being trained and an athlete should stop the session. Here is a great example:
Perform a Max Unbroken Set of toes-to-bar - then rest 5-10 minutes to full recovery
2:00 Assault Bike @ 60%/Sustained aerobic pace +
One set of toes-to-bar at 40% of Max Rep Set from A (ie: 24 reps in A, perform sets of 9-10 in part B
This set up allows for there to be a weekly progression (max rep set increases and/or gradually increase the % of Max Set you are performing) as well as auto-regulation – perform a minimum of 5 sets, but when you are no longer able to perform the required number of reps with high quality, the session is done. The Bike acts as an active aerobic recovery, and week-to-week you can shorten the Bike duration to challenge the recovery demand between sets of toes-to-bar, creating another element of progression.
Constant Variance with Complementary – when an athlete is able to perform a high volume of work while under aerobic fatigue, they may now be ready to start implementing toes-to-bar in more varied settings. A great way to do this is to perform Constant Variance intervals, with movements that are Complementary (movements that do not mimic patterns or use the same muscle groups) to the toes-to-bar. In Constant Variance, the athlete performs 4-6 movements with set rep schemes, rests, and then repeats the same work but in a different order, and repeats this for 4-6 sets. Movements that are complementary to toes-to-bar are any upper body pushing, lower body hinging, jumping or dynamic movements, or cyclical movements like Bike or Row. Here’s an example of a Constant Variance session for toes-to-bar training:
4-6 sets - keep times constant across each set:
12 Box Jump Over
12/9 Cal Assault Bike
12 Dual DB Push Press
Rest 3 minutes between sets - vary the order of movements each set:
This allows for an athlete to work on pacing of movements around a limiter, the feel of performing a movement with a variety of inputs before and after, and how to pace appropriately across rounds to maintain sustainability (consistent splits).
Interval Gymnastic Training with Non-complementary – finally, at some of the highest expressions of a skill, the ability to perform repeated Intervals of a given movement combined with Non-complementary movements (movements that utilize the same patterns/muscle groups). Here is an example of an Interval Gymnastic Training workout that uses Non-complementary patterns to challenge the toes-to-bar:
12/9 Cal Ski
3 Bar Muscle-up
Rest 2-3 minutes between
The movements that precede the toes-to-bar will increase the fatigue of the muscle groups needed to perform them, which will challenge the athlete’s muscle endurance and technique. The movements following toes-to-bar also require a great deal of core flexion and grip, forcing an athlete to learn how to recover from toes-to-bar, thus increasing capacity even more. Over the training cycle, increasing the volume of all patterns, shortening the rest periods, or speeding up pacing/transitions can increase the stimulus and the capacity of the athlete, as well as train the athlete to understand how different movements effect their efficiency.
Ultimately, athletes looking to compete in functional fitness must have Toes-to-Bar in their toolbag – whether they are advanced at the movement or optimize their efficiency to prevent it from being a glaring whole in their game. The key to making Toes-to-Bar a strength in the Open is to have a high degree of self-awareness – know where you are in your development, take the time to establish a high degree of strength, technique, and efficiency, train them in a systematic way that advances as you progress, and you will be able to establish an actual plan when they come up in the Open.