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Toes To Bar: Efficiency Development

Updated: Feb 7, 2022

Earlier this week, we talked about strength development for toes to bar. As promised, this week we’re bringing you part two of our toes to bars series as we dive into efficiency development.

For some (even those capable of performing toes-to-bar in workouts) technique can be a limiter to performing or to progressing capacity. Even the slightest leak in energy on each rep can accumulate to a big difference across a long or high volume workout. Therefore, working on some efficiency training pieces may be beneficial in improving technique.

  • Banded/Towel Kip Swings – if an athlete has an efficiency leak in the initial stages of a toes-to-bar (ie the kip) it may cost them time and energy on every single rep to compensate for this limitation. Working on kip swings with a band resisting on the front and backside of the kip can help an athlete feel the shoulder engagement and core activation they need to truly be in control of their movement, and not just rely on momentum developed from the lower body. In addition, holding a towel between the feet and performing kip swings (or even full toes-to-bar reps) can help an athlete ensure that they are not imbalanced left to right or leaking any energy by being off-center. Squeezing the towel provides feedback to the hips and core, and helps an athlete create consistency in the kip.

  • Shortened ROM toes-to-bar – in some cases, the large range of motion of the toes-to-bar can lead to coordination limitations, especially when trying to perform multiple reps. Having a coach hold a PVC pipe slightly shorter and “out” than the pull-up bar can allow for athletes to start to feel the push/pull needed for toes-to-bar to be strung consistently. Over time, gradually lengthening this ROM slightly can allow for the athlete to slowly adjust, as well as continue to develop strength and endurance in the pattern. There is a tool that exists to do just this (The Tink T2B Tool -

  • Forced Second Rep – oftentimes, athletes are able to perform the first rep of a set in a single kip, and then the “swinging” begins and every rep requires an athlete to “Double-kip”, totally breaking up the pattern and efficiency. What these athletes don’t understand is that the second rep is the deciding factor on the whole set! If this sounds like you, try FORCING yourself to complete the second rep immediately after passing through the extension (even if you don’t actually get your toes to the bar), and then the third rep will get you back into a consistent pattern on preceding reps.

  • Straight Leg Pike – although reps performed with a nice tight pike position and straight legs look very nice and can display a high level of skill, strength, and flexibility, when it comes to winning a workout, this may not be the best approach. It’s simple physics – the longer a lever arm, the greater the torque required to create rotation around that axis (hip flexors must work harder to perform the range of motion). In addition, keeping knees extended (straight) while also performing hip flexion, can inhibit muscles such as the rectus femoris (a quadricep muscle) through a factor called active inhibition – a muscle that is working across two joints (in this case the hip and the knee); when this double joint action occurs, it creates a huge demand on the muscle, increasing fatigue. Instead, it is much more efficient to bend the knees in the active portion of the rep, to reduce the lever arm length and prevent multi-joint muscles from fatiguing too quickly.

  • Passive Descent – another potential power leak in the toes-to-bar occurs when athletes allow for their feet to passively drop after completing the rep. Over time, this passive descent can actually increase fatigue, as it will force the athlete to work harder to maintain and establish a rhythm in their kip swings. Instead, athletes should be thinking about PULLING their heels down, staying active, which will usually shorten the extension needed to maintain the kip and create a faster, more efficient pattern.

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