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CrossFit Skill: For the love of Toes-to-Bar- P2

Posted 30th March 2015 by Josh Schouten

In our last post we started to define the movements of toes-to-bar (TTB) and establish an awareness of mobility and stability factors that can impact an athletes performance.  In this post we are calling in the skills of our resident Yoga expert Alice to share her 5 best Yoga stretches to improve your toes-to-bar.

If you stop and think about the movement you should consider the flexibility of the shoulders, the lower back and the hamstrings. 

1. Downward Dog

Start in a high plank position. Initiate the movement by gently bracing your midline – keeping the bottom ribs down – slowly lifting you tailbone towards the sky.  Your heels should be drawing down to the ground as you remain long through the spine.  Press away from the ground and create space and length in the traps and upper back. Your arms must remain straight as you gently press your head through your arms to gain openness in the shoulders – think like an overhead press.

With your spine and head/neck aligned, broaden your upper back, externally rotate your upper arms, reach your tailbone up and back and work on pressing your heels towards the floor without losing shape of the spine.

DownDog1 DownDog2

Scale:  Work the range of motion that suits your flexibility. Play with bending your knees and straightening them slowly.

Where you should feel the stretch:  Calves, hamstrings, shoulders and triceps

Make it Dynamic: Switch between the high plank push-up position and the downward dog position. Inhale to come into plank, exhale to press into downward dog.


2. Standing Forward Bend 

Stand tall and contract your quads, lift up your kneecaps.  Gently brace your midline and set the pelvis in a neutral position. Your knees should be just off lock, place your hands on your waist, inhale and lift your chest.  As you exhale and lean forward you need to maintain a flat back and think of leading with your sternum.

The goal is to keep your back flat and reach the floor.  This is a progressive movement where the range of motion should be increased with each consecutive repetition or breath. Always keep your back flat, think deadlift.

fwdbend1 fwdbend2 fwdbend3fwdbend-scale

Scale:  Place a band underneath your feet and hold each end of the band in opposite hands.  You can then use the band to help pull you down towards the ground.

Where you should feel the stretch:  Calves, hamstrings, glutes

Make it Dynamic: Switch between standing up tall and bending forward. As you bend forward you should exhale and come forward into the position. Keep your knees just off of lock. Brace the midline as you come up to protect your back.


3. Seated Head to Knee Pose

Start seated on the floor with both legs straight.  Draw one knee towards your chest before dropping it to the side.  The foot of this leg should remain in contact with the inner thigh of the opposite leg.

Engage your quads on the straight leg – lift your knee cap – and dorsiflex the foot.  As you inhale lift your arms above your head and lift your chest.  As you exhale fold forward, leading with the sternum towards the toe of the straight leg.  Again the back must remain flat ensure you are not rounding it, think of staying long/tall through your spine.

SeatedHKP1 SeatedHKP2 SeatedHKP3 SeatedHKP4 SeatedHKP5 SeatedHKP6 SeatedHKPscale

Scale:  Loop a band around your foot on the straight leg, hold in both hands.  You can use the band to help you stay upright as you work the range.

Where you should feel the stretch: Lower back, QL, hamstring, and maybe your calves.

Make it Dynamic: With each inhale, sit taller, with each exhale fold forward.


4. Forward Fold Chest Stretch

Start standing tall and contract your quads, lift your kneecaps.  Gently brace your midline and set the pelvis in a neutral position. Place your hands behind your back and interlink your fingers, aim to push your palms together.

As you inhale lift the chest as you exhale forward fold leading with the sternum and allowing gravity to take the arms behind the head.  Aim to feel a stretch in chest and shoulders, as well as the hamstrings.

From this position we can also do a twisting stretch by placing one hand on the ground and raising the opposite hand to the ceiling, rotating the torso and looking up to the ceiling. If hamstring flexibility is limited you can bend your knee on the same side as the hand that is on the floor. With each exhale, aim to twist through your thoracic spine and maintain midline stability.

FFChestS1 FFChestS2 FFChestS3 FFChestS4 FFChestS5 FFChestSScale

Scale:  Limit the range of motion to match your flexibility.  The slight knee bend should help.

Where you should feel the stretch: lower back, QL, hamstring, oblique’s, and chest.

Make it Dynamic: With each inhale twist your body so the sternum faces the ground.  With each exhale, try to gently increase the rotation.


5. Plough Pose

Start flat on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.  Your arms are down by your sides with your palms pressing into the floor.  Engage your midline and press your lower back into the floor, then lift your legs and point your toes to the ceiling.  From this position allow the legs to slowly drop back behind your head.

If your feet can reach the ground try to plantaflex the feet to achieve a shin stretch.

You can also link your fingers together behind your back to achieve a chest and shoulder stretch.

PloughP1 PloughP2 PloughP3 PloughP4 PloughP5 PloughP6

Where you should feel the stretch: lower back, QL, hamstring, calves, chest, shoulders, upper back.

Scale: Practice full movement, legs on ground to legs overhead, slow and controlled with the goal being to touch your toes on the floor behind your head. Maintain a natural curve in the cervical spine. If neck pain occurs prop the shoulders off the floor to give a deficit to the head.

You will feel this in your lower/mid back, hamstrings, chest and shoulders, but it should be relaxing.

Make it Dynamic: Inhale and point your legs toward the sky, as you exhale take the legs over your head and reach your toes towards the ground. Be gentle, move slowly, feel what your muscles are doing and try to release them.

If TTB is in your next CrossFit workout, try to take the time to add some yoga stretches to your WOD preparation.  Increasing you ROM will make TTB more efficient.