Also known as T2B, the Toes-To-Bar is a pull-up staple that upgrades your core workout with a gymnastic bodyweight move that is deceivingly fiend than it looks. While it appears to be a straightforward movement, the exercise warrants tremendous core strength, thoracic mobility, and shoulder and hamstring resilience.
Performing the Toes-To-Bar fluidly always starts and ends with the correct form, kip, and technique. And once you’re able to string the movements together, toes-to-bar work on building your back, and shoulder strength, rip your core for those elusive abs, and possibly lead to serious hypertrophy.
Additionally, a stronger core supports strength training in compound movements like Deadlifts, presses, and Squats.
This Ultimate Guide Will Cover
- How to do Toes to Bar
- Benefits of Doing Toes to Bar
- Common Toes to Bar Mistakes to Avoid
- Toes to Bar Muscles Worked
- Toes to Bar vs Hanging Leg Raises
- Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, & Programs
- Toes to Bar Variations
- Toes to Bar Alternative Exercise
- Frequently Asked Questions about Toes To Bar
How To Do Toes to Bar
There are two primary variations for toes to bar, the strict and kipping. For this step-by-step guide, we’ll focus on strict toes to bar. This focuses on trunk strength, flexibility, and control which are the bedrock of its variations.
What You’ll Need:
- Pull-up Bar – preferably a straight bar with a comfortable handle
Step 1: Grab The Pull-Up Bar And Actively Hang With The Correct Form
Begin the exercise by hanging from a pull-up bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. You can wrap or unwrap your thumbs as long as your head is cradled between your biceps. Make sure you engage your abs, pull your belly button into the body while engaging your legs and glutes, and point your toes.
Keep your legs straight and hanging as you extend your arms and legs with the elbows slightly bent and your glutes and quads squeezed. The pelvis should be slightly tucked with your ribs down, engaging the core. Rotate your shoulders outward, engaging the lats.
Step 2: Pull Your Back
Rather than looking down, look up at the bar. This will tilt the weight a little towards your back which will assist you in the next move. Bring your feet up to touch the pull-up bar; you must engage your back muscles, leaning back a bit. Pretend you’re doing a straight-arm pushdown, pushing your palms to the bar like you will arch them forward and down. Your chin should stay tucked like you’re holding an egg under the chin, while your head must move behind your biceps, staying tight in this position.
Step 3: Squeeze and Lift
Flex all the muscles in your body, from your back, legs, and abs, down to your butt and arms. Begin raising your legs with knees locked out for a perfect L, both feet are together while actively pulling the pull-up bar down using your hands. If you’re unable to do this exercise strictly, we recommend pulling back harder onto the pull-up bar without locking out your elbows.
Coach’s Tip: For beginners who are trying to accomplish their first rep, you don’t have to lock your knees as you bring your feet up past your body. You can practice with the “tuck and flick” limbs where you relax your knees, tuck your knees to the chest, and flick your knees to the bar. This way, you warm up your muscles and movement that are necessary for performing the harder strict toes-to-bar.
Step 4: Touch the Bar And Control The Descent
When approaching the top of the movement, whether with bent knees or straight legs, you’ll need to perform a final effort, kicking your toes towards the bar. Engage your core as you slowly lower your legs with full control to avoid swinging and back to starting position. This counts as one rep.
5 Toes to Bar Benefits
1. Increase Muscular Demand
Toes-to bar will involve you going from a hyper-extended position with your hips and shoulders to a fully-contracted position at the top. To achieve a complete range of motion, you’ll need a lot of muscular strength, coordination, and control. Because of that, you will spend a lot of energy during the exercise’s eccentric portion for proper reloading of the hips and legs.
2. Improve Back and Shoulder Strength
Hanging from a pull-up bar as your body stays in a dynamic motion is an excellent skill, requiring a range of motion, stability, and strength. It will challenge your upper body and hips, particularly the back and shoulders.
3. Improve Grip Strength
You will require a lot of grip strength when supporting your bodyweight on the pull-up bar. Excellent grip strength will help in many other exercises like the deadlift. It also helps perform basic activities like walking outside or getting up from chairs.
4. Improve Scapular Control
As mentioned, theT2Br exercise works your core and back. However, it also involves the shoulder blades, known as the scapula. You will need to squeeze your shoulder blades back and together for maximum stability, which helps improve posture and shoulder strength.
5. Rips Your Core
The T2B exercise places more stress on your abs as you move your whole body in one go. Not only does this improve your core strength, but you can also achieve the chiseled abs you want.
Common Toes to Bar Mistakes to Avoid
You Swing Your Legs
Your feet should go straight down and back rather than swing or kick it out when you touch the bar. Reach back and gather momentum, bringing your knees to the elbows first, then kick with the feet up. With bigger angles and more extended legs, you end up experiencing burnout quicker.
Incorrect Hip Position
If your hips begin drifting in front of your pull-up bar, you can’t direct the hips forward as the feed come back behind the pull-up bar. You’ll end up doing a full-body swing, focusing on more momentum than your actual strength.
Weak Grip Strength
Grip strength is another common issue for many bar-related exercises. If you have poor grip strength, you may not execute the T2B exercise properly. You can work on your grip strength by incorporating exercises that help with the core, like deadlifts with thick barbells.
You Don’t Grip With Fingers
Holding on to your pull-up bar as you perform a lot of reps can be aggressive to the skin, causing calluses and blisters. That’s why it’s better to grip with your fingers more, so less skin is squeezed between your bar and fingers.
You Don’t Hit the Bar
If you don’t let your toes make contact with the pull-up bar, you miss the chance to tilt your torso backward through your shoulders. So you end up kicking your feet in the air but still missing the bar. This can have you work your muscles less.
Toes-to-Bar Muscles Worked
- Biceps and Triceps
- External Oblique
- Rectus Abdominis (Abs)
- Adductor Longus
- Tensor fasciae latae
When you hold your body weight on the bar, you’ll activate the back muscles (rhomboids), arm muscles (biceps and triceps), and shoulder muscles (deltoids).
You will also activate the muscle groups in the back, such as the spinal erectors and latissimus dorsi.
The exercise also engages the core, which works the abdominal muscles such as the rectus abdominis. The abdominal muscles help with the hip flexion and spinal flexion, with the toes to the bar having a highly eccentric component to encourage muscle damage and growth.
Also, as you lift your lower body with a wide range of motion, you’ll strengthen the hip flexor muscles and give your hamstrings a nice stretch. The hip flexors will aid the abdominal muscles and flex the hips throughout the movement.
Toes to Bar vs Hanging Leg Raises
Hanging leg raises won’t have your toes touch the bar. Rather, you lift your lower body off the ground with your knees bent the entire time until they reach your upper body. Like toes to bar, hanging leg raises are a great isometric exercise that works the abs and hip flexors. It focuses more on core strength than anything else, while the toes to bar exercise is a full-body workout targeting the back, core, arms, and legs.
Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, & Programs
For Core and Back Strength
To improve your core and back strength, you should aim to perform fewer reps with more sets. Perform 4-6 sets with 4-8 reps each, resting for two minutes between sets. Hold a light dumbbell between your feet or use a Resistance Band if you want to add more resistance.
For Muscle Building
To build muscle, you’ll want to perform more reps per set with or without added tension to achieve more complete reps. Go for 4-6 sets of 8-15 reps per set, resting for one minute between sets. It’s recommended to perform the exercise slowly, as more time under tension helps with muscle growth, along with added tension or weight.
Toes to Bar Variations
Once you have mastered toes to bar, or if you need to progress first, you can perform other variations. These T2B variations can also activate other muscle groups for a greater workout!
Knees to Elbows
As the name suggests, the knees to elbows exercise are similar to the toes to bars, but this time, you’ll only reach your knees to your elbows. Doing so will reduce the length of the lower body to improve leverage and make it easier on the core. It’s a fantastic exercise for beginners if you’re aiming for a toes-to-bar progression.
Hanging Legs or Knee Raises
This Hanging Legs or Knee Raises exercise looks like the toes-to-bar, though you won’t bring your feet all the way up. It’s an excellent start to performing the kipping toes to bar and strict toes to bar exercise, working your arms, hips, and core.
Tempo Toes to Bar
Tempo toes to bar allow you to scale your exercise, performing it in a slower motion. While you won’t perform as many reps, you have better time under tension to build muscles.
Single-Leg Toes to Bar
This exercise involves lifting one leg at a time while the other remains extended. It’s a challenging variation that should only be done once you fully master the strict toes-to-bar exercise.
Kipping Toes to Bar
Before performing the straight toes to bar, the kipping toes to bar exercise is the final toes to bar progression move. This involves swinging from the bar with a controlled and explosive movement, using more momentum to lift the legs, adding speed, and using more energy.
Toes to Bar Alternative Exercises
You can incorporate alternative exercises into your workout for those who need a break from toes to bar or want to first progress before performing pull-up bar exercises. These toes to bar alternative exercises would work on similar muscle groups:
Lying Leg Raises
These are the regressed version of the toes-to-bar exercise, which helps with lower abdominal strength. It is also a toes-to-bar progression exercise, where you can learn how to maintain core tension.
The dragonfly is more advanced than the lying leg raise, allowing you to lift your hips and legs straight into the air as you maintain control and slowly control the movement’s eccentric phase. This is great when increasing muscle growth, leaving you sore afterward.
Toes to Kettlebell
For an easier exercise, you can perform the lying toes to a Kettlebell, which helps beginners build their core strength as they progress to the toes to bar exercise. You will only need a kettlebell for this exercise.
This is also called the straight leg raises on a pull-up bar, which is a bit easier than the toes to bar but poses a challenge for beginners. It targets the core and allows you to build up for more advanced variations and exercises. You will need a captain’s chair with elbow or forearm pads for this exercise.
The Ab Wheel is another excellent toe to bar alternative exercise that works your core, arms, and legs. You can find this equipment in the gym or at home; all you need is an open space. However, this exercise focuses more on your core.