Toes To Bar – CrossFit Exercise Guide with Photos


Overview: The toes to bar exercise is a CrossFit movement that combines abdominal training with agility. It focuses largely on building abdominal and overall core strength. By implementing the toes to bar exercise into your CrossFit WOD (workout of the day), you will effectively improve your endurance, stamina, and develop the strength of your core while really targeting your lower abdominal muscles extremely well.

Muscles Targeted: The toes to bar exercise mainly targets the abdominal muscles, with a special focus on the lower portion of the abs. If you are having difficulties toning and defining the lower portion of your stomach, adding this movement into your regular workout routine will provide great results. Other secondary muscles targeted include the trapezius, quadriceps, deltoids, forearms, hip flexors, hip abductors and the pectoral muscles of the chest. The act of hanging from the bar and supporting the body, targets these secondary muscles.

Exercise Instructions: There are two different ways to execute the toes to bar CrossFit exercise.

The Normal Way:

  • Position yourself beneath the bar and reach up and grab it. Your feet should be dangling at least a few feet off the ground in order to provide enough clearance for your feet to swing freely.
  • Bring your legs directly up and crunch using your abdominals as you bring your feet all the way to the top in order to touch your toes to the bar.
  • Slowly lower your legs back down to the starting position and repeat for your desired number of repetitions.
  • This normal version of the toes to bar exercise is more strict than the easier version in that it bans the use of kipping. This makes things more difficult as it requires you to use more muscles, particularly the increased engagement of the core muscles of the abdominals and lower back in order to raise the toes all the way up to the bar.

The Easy Version (only use if you have limited core strength):

  • Position yourself beneath the bar and reach up and grab it. Make sure the bar is high enough that your feet cannot touch the ground and allow enough room to let them swing back and forth without impeding the motion.
  • Kick your legs up so that your feet touch the bar. You can do this by executing a move known as “kipping”. Kipping is a gymnastic move in which you swing your body in order to gain momentum. To employ kipping, you will push back from the bar, shaping your body into an arc and allowing this arc to propel the forward push of the chest and arms to power through the range of motion. You can use kipping in order to swing your body and use the momentum you gain from swinging back and forth in order to propel your toes upwards toward the bar.
  • This “easy” version should only be used if you don’t have the core strength needed to perform this exercise the normal way. The “easy” version still relies upon muscular power and stamina. Yet it remains easier than the normal version which is more difficult. The easier version implements momentum in order to simplify the action of raising the toes to the bar and it lessens the intensity of the exercise.

Things To Avoid:

  • Do not stop between repetitions. This defeats the purpose of a set, as it eliminates the development of stamina and endurance, as well as the cardiovascular benefit this exercise provides.
  • Avoid swinging your body back and forth when using the normal version (non-kipping way). You want to focus all of the tension directly on the abs so make sure to keep your body stable as you bring your legs up and touch your toes to the bar at the top.
  • Make sure you are contracting at the waist. If you are not contracting at the waist, you may not be allowing your abdominal muscles to fully engage, and therefore, are not receiving the full benefit of the exercise. If you feel a burn in your lower abs then you are doing it right. The toes to bar is a difficult movement and that is why it works so well for developing and stabilizing the core.

Reps and Sets: Beginners should focus on performing 4-5 strict repetitions using proper form before moving onto higher reps. For experienced individuals, the rep range can be as high as 20-30 reps for a total of 4-5 sets.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Great post! I love recommending the toes to bar, especially to people who find themselves doing endless amounts of crunches without noticing results. It’s such a great way to build a strong and cut core while also improving grip, shoulder, and back strength.

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