Toes To Bar Ultimate Guide

The toes to bar movement is one that has been popularized over the past couple of years by competitive fitness athletes ripping off endless reps of these bad boys…with the 8-packs to show for it.

Due to so many fit gymnasts, CrossFit® athletes, and bodyweight stars with their strong-as-steel cores, I was inspired to write an ultimate guide to performing toes to bar, both the strict and kipping versions.

In this guide, we will discuss each of the variations, why they are important, and how to properly get started on carving a strong, mobile, and athletic core.

Muscles Worked – Toes to Bar (Strict and Kipping)

Toes to bar are a challenging movement (both strict and kipping) for the body: Below is a listing of the various muscle groups that are targeted It is important to note that kipping increases the demands on grip, shoulders, and back muscles, as well as overall muscle damage due to the vast increase in eccentric strength and control needed in order to perform repetitions in a cyclical, ballistic fashion.

  • Abdominals
  • Obliques
  • Hip Flexors
  • Serratus
  • Lats
  • Grip
  • Biceps

Toes to Bar Exercise Demos

There are two main toes to bar variations, strict and kipping. Both of which are discussed below.

Strict Toes to Bar

Strict toes to bar are some of the hardest exercises you can do for core strength and development (if you truly do it strict). By increasing your strength, coordination, and control of this movement, kipping toes to bar should be breeze once you build up the endurance and skill of kipping. If you choose to go directly to kipping toes to bar, and never address your ability to do the basics correctly, you could be setting yourself up for stalled long term progress and injury. Below is a brief exercise tutorial on how to perform strict toes to bar.

Kipping Toes to Bar

Kipping toes to bar are commonly seen in competitive fitness, CrossFit, and gymnastics; all of which are a ballistic movement that requires basic core strength, coordination, midline stability, and good amounts of mobility in the shoulders, thoracic spine, and pelvis. Below is a brief exercise tutorial on how to perform kipping toes to bar.

Toes to Bar Benefits

Below are a few benefits on toes to bar (both strict and kipping). If a benefit is inherent to a specific style of toes to bar (strict or kipping) it shall be noted below.

3. Increased Core Strength

Whether done strict or kipping, the core will be forced to become stronger. I generally recommend strict toes to bar to increase fundamental strength and control, only adding kipping after the athlete is well-versed with strict toes to bar. In the event strict toes to bar movements are not doable with beginners or other populations, strict knee to chest, knees to elbows, knee raises, or partial toes to bar can be done to slowly progress lifters towards the fuller version.

2. Muscular Endurance of Midline

Like any movement, increasing the volume and metabolic demands on a muscle tissue will result in a great ability to promote muscular contractions under high amounts of fatigue. Not only is that a reason for muscular hypertrophy, it also can be helpful for endurance athletes, runners, and other fitness athletes looking for greater core and midline control under load and/or fast ballistic movements (sprinting, sports, CrossFit, etc).

3. Improved Development of Grip, Shoulder, and Back

Simply hanging from a barbell for prolonged periods of time can do wonders for your grip training and upper body muscular endurance. Add in ballistic style kips, or even strict toes to bar, and you have a recipe for serious pulling and gripping potential. Kipping will drastically increase this demand as it will allow for faster repetitions, greater demands of control, and even prolonged periods of time under tension.

How to Scale Toes to Bar

In the event you have issues performing these (which let’s face it, most of us do), below is a great teaching progression for beginners AND competitive athletes to learn and/or reprogram efficient toes to bar patterning.

More Toes to Bar Articles

Take a look at all of our articles covering toes to bar to learn how you can increase core stronger and improve your toes to bar performance.

Featured Image: @fresafuerte on Instagram