Toes To Bar Modifications and Alternatives for Beginners

When learning any movement, a series of steps must be taken to properly progress oneself to the full version. In doing so, proper technique and foundational strength can be developed to ensure proper skillfulness and injury prevention.

The toes to bar movement is a highly complex (kipping) dynamic core exercise often seen in competitive fitness and gymnastics realm, as it is a vital component to competition and maneuvering one’s body during training.

Many newbies (and seasoned athletes alike) fail to maximize their performance in the toes to bar movement, but fear not! In this article we will go through the proper progressions for learning how to not only do the kipping toes to bar movement, but master it! Additionally, we will discuss some alternatives you can do if you are unable to perform the full version (which are actually going to be regressions of kipping toes to bar).

Toes to Bar Modifications

In the video below, Kevin Montoya discussed a series of modifications coaches and athletes can make to regress and progress beginners towards the kipping toes to bar movement. Additionally, we will then list out each individual movement below to further offer modification insight.

Lying Toes to Kettlebell

Start by lying on the floor, with the arms fully extended away from the body. With the hands grasping a grounded kettlebell as an anchor, work to contract the abdominals, tuck the knees, and rotate the hips inwards to pull the toes up off the floor and reach them towards the kettlebell. Reverse the process to return to the starting position, and repeat for reps.

Lying Toes to Kettlebell (Straight Legs)

This movement requires an athlete to remain locked at the knee joint throughout the movement, forcing a longer range of motion and more core strength to complete a repetition. To do this, the lifter must contract the back and core, while simultaneously elevating the legs, rotating the hips, and reaching the toes towards the bell.

Assisted Lying Toes to Kettlebell (Knees Tucked or Straight Legs)

This is done exactly in the same fashion as above (bent knees), with the additional help by a coach or fellow athlete. The helping hand should place their arm behind the kneecaps (on the back of the legs) of the athlete, and assist the trucking and rotating motion of the movement. By doing so, the helper can also teach the athlete how to get compact in the movement while also manipulating the loading demands of the movement.

Assisted Toes to Bar (Knees Tucked or Straight Legs)

This is a very effective way to bridge the gap from the floor to the bar. To perform, refer to the video, as the directions and video do an amazing job at discussing how the coach should aid and assist the athlete throughout.

Toes to Bar Alternatives

In the event an athlete cannot perform toes to bar, the best alternatives are to perform the above modifications. The above exercises are regressions from the full movement, and will allow new athletes to develop proper core strength, stability, and the movement skill needed to perform the full lift. If the athlete wants to perform other exercises to strengthen the core and have some carry over to the full toes to bar movement (the most carry over will be from performing the above exercises), they can supplement with the below exercises.

Hanging Knee Tucks

Perform hanging knee tucks to increase muscular strength and endurance, as well as increase back and grip strength, both necessary for toes to bar.

Hanging Kips

While this isn’t purely an abdominal exercise, midline stability, shoulder mobility, and understanding the rhythmic nature of the kip is key to mastering toes to bar. By performing kips from the bar, you will maximize transferability and grip strength.

Hanging Leg Raises

Similar to hanging knee raises, this stiff leg variation can challenge the core even greater, while also developing serious grip and back strength.

L Sits

The ability to isometrically contract and control a movement is key for strength and stability for toes to bar. This is one of the most challenging exercises in this article, however when mastered you will be rewarded with the ability to perform beautiful toes to bar. You can perform these from rings, a bar, the floor, or anything else you can get your hands on.

More Toes to Bar Tips

Check out the articles below for more tips and tricks on mastering toes to bar and building a stronger core!

Featured Image: @mitchcnb on Instagram

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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