Preparing for the CrossFit Open: Master the Movement

December 1, 2020

Nicole Peyton

Working on toes-to-bars? Keep reading for advice from the experts.

The 2021 CrossFit Games Open is on the horizon. Whether you’re brand new to CrossFit, a seasoned competitor, or somewhere in between, the Open is for you

Each year, the Open unites hundreds of thousands of people in one inclusive competition. Open participants take on one workout a week for the duration of the competition and log their scores on the worldwide leaderboard. CrossFit provides scaling options and aims to make the workouts accessible to all. 

New in 2021 are the previously announced adaptive athlete divisions. CrossFit is so excited to organize an official competition for the adaptive athlete community. For the first time, athletes will be able to compete alongside fellow competitors with similar disabilities to showcase their fitness on the CrossFit Games Leaderboard.

“Adaptive athletes have been important members of the CrossFit community since inception, and we have had asks over the years to add adaptive divisions to the Open,” says CrossFit CEO Eric Roza. “It is exciting for us to be doing this in 2021 for the first time, as we double down on CrossFit’s commitment to inclusiveness. It also gives us an opportunity to demonstrate CrossFit’s nearly infinite scalability.”

The CrossFit Games Open is already the most inclusive sporting event in the history of the world, and CrossFit is thrilled to widen the net for an important sector of the community. 

So get ready! The 2021 Open is on track to be the best one yet. 

What Is CrossFit?

Let’s start at the beginning. CrossFit is characterized by safe, effective exercise and sound nutrition. CrossFit can be used to accomplish any goal, from improved health to weight loss to better performance. The program works for everyone — people who are just starting out and people who have trained for years.

The magic is in the movement. CrossFit workouts are different every day and can be modified to help each athlete achieve their goals. The workouts may be adapted for people at any age and level of fitness.

At more than 14,000 affiliates, people encourage and motivate each other in every class as they work toward their goals. The fun is in the community.

Where to Start

Every day, people start their CrossFit journeys in affiliates around the world. Wherever you are, chances are there’s an affiliate near you. With the help and support of an experienced, credentialed coach, you’ll be on your way to being fitter, healthier, and happier. Check out the affiliate map to find a gym in your area. 

Additionally, there are endless resources on to start CrossFit at home. Visit the Movement Demo page to familiarize yourself with the various movements used in CrossFit training. 

To start your CrossFit journey with minimal to no equipment, explore the CrossFit at Home page for workout ideas using household items. And every day, publishes a new workout on the Workouts page

The Open

The CrossFit Games Open allows hundreds of thousands of individual athletes to quantify their performance and rank themselves with peers. Separate leaderboards are available for teachers, dads, soldiers, doctors, and various other professions and groups. The leaderboard is also searchable by state, territory, or province in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, so, for example, athletes can search for the fittest in Montana, British Columbia, or New South Wales. 

The Open leaderboard also includes team rankings for official CrossFit affiliates, with multiple scoring divisions ranging from elite pairs to all members of the gym.

Additionally, top competitors from the Open will qualify for the Games. 

Master the Movement 

In the lead-up to the Open, we will be offering a series of carefully curated tips to help you master movements that commonly appear in Open programming. The Master the Movement series will provide expert advice from CrossFit Seminar Staff members on how you can bring your best self to this year’s Open. 

The Open challenges the most elite athletes with tests of strength, skill, and endurance, while also challenging the newcomer who is still working toward mastering common CrossFit movements. 

One movement that so far has shown up year after year is the toes-to-bar. Whether you’ve never touched the bar with your toes or you’re proficient and working to perfect the movement, we’ve got tips for you. 

Flowmaster Michele Mootz on Toes-to-Bars

CrossFit Seminar Staff Flowmaster Michele Mootz says people often confuse which muscles primarily drive the toes-to-bar.

“One common misconception of the toes-to-bar is that it is only about abdominal strength with little emphasis put on other contributing muscle groups,” Mootz says. “There is a large contribution from the shoulders, back, hip flexors, and quads in order to complete this movement efficiently.”

There are several progressions that will help you achieve your first toes-to-bar. Mootz recommends working on kipping swings and kipping knee raises to start. With the kipping knee raise, she suggests athletes work on “increasing the range of motion, getting the knees higher, or beginning to extend the legs to allow the toes to come closer to the bar.” 

Once an athlete is able to complete single-rep toes-to-bars, it’s time to focus on efficiency and stringing multiple reps together. Keep reading for a few common faults that trip up even the most skilled athlete in this movement. 

Athlete performing toes-to-bars

Common Faults

“One of the primary faults with toes-to-bar can be initiating the movement with an improper swing,” Mootz says. “The kipping swing … should be a shoulder-initiated swing, where the chest is moving forward and the feet are moving back in unison.”

“Many times,” Mootz continues, “the timing of the swing is compromised due to the athlete starting the swing by kicking the feet forward. This will make the timing of toes-to-bars very difficult and will hinder many athletes from completing this movement correctly.”

Think "chest bump," she suggests, rather than a kick with the feet.

In another common fault, an athlete will simply pull the knees up to the chest while hanging from the bar.  

“The athlete also needs to be actively pushing down into the bar with their arms,” Mootz says. “This will bring the shoulders and hips upward giving momentum to the lower body to complete the range of motion.”

Timing can hinder athletes’ execution as well. 

“Athletes can let the down-swing portion of this movement get out of control, which will make completing multiple reps in a row very challenging,” Mootz explains. “On the down cycle, the athlete needs to stay active through the shoulders to control the kipping swing as well as not allowing the legs to swing too far behind them.”

“Controlling the down cycle to eliminate an uncontrolled swing at the bottom of the movement will allow the athlete to string multiple reps together without adding an extra reset swing in between reps,” she adds. 

A helpful cue: “Squeeze the legs and glutes during this phase of the movement.” 

The kipping swing is the foundation of the toes-to-bar, Mootz says.

“Gaining competency in the kipping swing will be the starting point to making toes-to-bar more efficient,” she says. “Once the kipping swing is dialed in, working on the timing aspects of when to pull the toes toward the bar will allow the athlete to take advantage of the upward momentum they have created with the swing and kip.” 

For More Resources on Toes-to-Bars:

How to Get Your Toes to the Bar

Toes-to-Bar Modifications

The Strict Toes-to-Bar

The Kipping Toes-to-Bar

Kipping Toes-to-Bar Progression With Carl Paoli