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CrossFit Skill: For the love of Toes-to-Bar- P1

Posted 28th March 2015 by Josh Schouten

During April ‘15, the CrossFit Hackney skillz and drills sections of the classes will include a major focus on Toes-to-Bar (TTB).  If you’re still trying to get your first set of TTB, or you’re looking to become more efficient at TTB, this blog series, and this month’s classes are the nuts and bolts!

TTB is a movement designed to test your abdominal and grip strength, your flexibility, as well as your hip and shoulder stability.  Generally the smaller athletes will be better at gymnastics movements, but this is not always the case as skill has a large role to play.

The CrossFit movement standards for TTB are:

“In the toes-to-bar, the athlete must go from a full hang to having the toes touch the pull-up bar. Both feet must be in contact with the bar at the same time, inside the hands.”

There are many different TTB styles that CrossFit athletes use, some are harder, some are easier,  and some are certainly more efficient than others. Do you know what version you are using?   How improve the mobility, stability and strength to make your TTB more efficient?

Is it a question of ROM?

Do you struggle to touch your toes without rounding your back?  Is this a sign that your hamstrings are tight?  Conventional wisdom would suggest yes, and if this is the case how are you planning on getting your toes to the bar efficiently? Most athletes who struggle to reach the bar by closing the hip angle place the job onto another less powerful joint, the shoulders.

So are your hamstrings really tight, or are you lacking midline stability?  If you are unable to stabilise your pelvis with the correct bracing techniques, your body is going to need to find stability elsewhere.  Your body likes to know that its spine is protected, and as the pelvis is the base of the spine the muscles stabalising the pelvic position need to be working together.





Image1: Scotty closing the shoulder angle to reach his toes to the bar.  Notice how far back the shoulder are from the bar.

Image2: StreTch closing the hip angle to reach his toes to the bar.  Again notice the shoulder position in rleation to the bar.


 The Anatomy

The pelvis is stabilised by the lower back, as well as the muscles of the groin, buttock and hips.  Specific muscles include the quadratus lumborum (QL), piriformis, tensor fascia lata (TFL), iliotibial band (ITB), sartorius, gracilis, pectineus, muscles of the quadriceps, gluteus muscles, psoas, iloacus, Iliotibial band (ITB), erector spinae, muscles of the hamstrings, muscles of the adductors, rectus abdominus, internal obliques, and transverse abdominus.  These muscles all need to work together to stabilise the pelvis and therefore the spine.  If one or more of these muscles is not being used correctly to stabilise the pelvis/spine then one of the other muscles will try to take over.  The body is a remarkable thing and it will do its best to find stability in any situation.

Note: The psoas is a major stabiliser of the lower back, working in conjunction with the QL

If the abdominals and the glutes decide to go on holiday, who do you think is going to stay at home and take care of the stability issue?  If you struggle to maintain midline stability with the ROM of the hamstring be limited?

In the next post we will talk about improving your mobility and then the issue of stability.