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How To Perform the Elusive Toes To Bar

Watching the Toes-To-Bar (TTB) performed at high speeds is beautiful. Advanced CrossFit athletes can make them look effortless. If you’ve ever attempted to perform TTB’s you know they are anything but effortless. Like anything in life, if you want to get good at these it’s going to take proper practice and training.

Training only the CrossFit for the last 10 years, and owning a gym for the last 7, I can confidently name 4 commons reasons athletes struggle to perform this exercise.

1.Grip Strength

If an athlete cannot hang on a pull-up bar for 60 seconds at-a-time there is no magic cue you are going to be able to give them as a coach that is going to help. Whether you are performing a kipping version or a strict version grip strength is paramount. There are many ways we can help develop grip strength. The most functional would be the implementation of the farmers carry or another odd object lift. Not only can this strengthen the forearms they are an effective conditioning tool when coupled with other exercises. I would be remised if I didn’t talk about appropriate body composition levels. Novice athlete that are severely overweight will always struggle with this exercise. No amount wrist curls or farmer carries are going to help this individual. The real issue is their weight, not their grip. As their weight comes down their grip strength will improve drastically.

2. Core Strength

The next step once an individual is able to consistently hang on the bar is to focus on their “core” strength (I hate that word but you know where I’m getting at). The best transfer exercise would be a hanging L-sit hold. These are performed statically which help reduce the shear forces on the grip compared to swinging. The goal should be to build up to holding a fully extended L-sit for 30 seconds at a time. From there a strict TTB is in order. Multiple sets of 5-10 reps are ideal. Another good option if an athlete still can’t hang on a pull-up bar is V-ups. If you watch TTB performed you will notice a forceful, if not violent, contraction of the abdominals. The closest thing to that is the V-up

3. Coordination

In comparison, stringing 5 TTB is much more advanced than performing 1 TTB strict. Not only does a kipping version provide more volume in less amount of time they indirectly develop grip strength through the intensity of quick cycle rate. In gymnastics, we call this coordinated effort of the body a “kip swing“. The force potential, when performed correctly, transfers into other movements like Pull-ups and Ring and Bar Muscle-ups. In training, a progression of kip swings that immediately follows a knee-to-chest motion is very effective at developing the timing needed to be able to kick the leg higher and higher into the air.

4. Flexibility

An athletes inability to touch their toes from a standing position severely limits their ability to string multiple reps together. Although an efficiently performed TTB doesn’t require a full extension of the knee, the tension on the hamstrings will always there. Every workout that includes Knees-to-Elbow KTE) or TTB should always begin with a 5-minute mobility piece on the hamstrings. With time, if an athlete works on it consistently enough, their flexibility will improve. Here’s a secret…the difference between a KTE and a TTB is about 2-3 inches of hamstring length. Even with tight hamstrings, an athlete can perform the TTB if they learn to quickly “flick” their toes to bar at the moment their knees come up to elbow height.

 

The True Meaning of Moderation

The dieting term “cheating” comes from the philosophy of the Clean Eating Approach. On this diet, it is typically encouraged that 80-90% of your food remains “healthy” (whatever that means). The 20-30% left over can be used to eat “bad” (whatever that means) foods. In this context moderation is your limit on how much “bad” food you eat. Heres the problem studies have shown that trying to”eat clean” isn’t sustainable long term. These diets are restrictive and very unpractical to modern living. I try not to use the word cheating in conversation with clients because the connotation implies you are dishonest and unfaithful to yourself. To make matters worse, this type of diet begins to create feelings of guilt and shame about eating certain foods which you had never experienced before.

What I tell my clients is if you aren’t tracking what you eat it’s impossible to know if the amount of food you are eating is causing the weight gain. That’s the cold hard truth. Anyone else who tells you otherwise is probably trying to sell you something.

Moderation is constant counterbalancing of your daily caloric numbers to ensure you don’t gain weight.

For me to be able to help someone who wants to lose weight, I would need to know everything they are eating for at least a month at a time. This type of journaling provides me a measurable, observable, quantifiable way to troubleshoot someone’s eating habits. From there I can help them tweak their caloric needs to help them lose weight while being able to enjoy the process.

So what does it mean to eat in moderation? Let me give you an example. If you plan on going out to dinner with the family and decide to have two beers, If you are a conscious eater, you would naturally tell yourself “I’m going to have to eat a light meal tomorrow to counterbalance those beers.” Or let’s say you want to eat a cup of Ben & Jerry’s Ice-cream for dessert. You might tell yourself that you are going to skip breakfast and fast until lunch the next day. Without knowing it, you are practicing the technique of moderation. Those who maintain a lean body fat percentage throughout the year do this quite naturally. For most of us, it takes a lot of practice to know if we are eating above our means.

Moderation is constant counterbalancing of your daily caloric numbers to ensure you don’t gain weight eating less favorable foods. For those that are overweight, this can only be done by quantifying ones’ food intake on a daily basis. Otherwise, you are left to guessing which ultimately causes frustration due to the inconsistency and inaccuracy of not knowing how much one is eating.

Anyone else who tells you otherwise is probably trying to sell you something.

Which raises another question. How many calories should you be eating?

The answer to this and most fitness questions is it depends. Everyone’s caloric needs are different. Using online macro programs will help you set a baseline for weight loss. But easier than a fancy calculator is simple multiplication. Just multiply your body weight by 10. Weigh yourself on Monday. Measure and log EVERYTHING you eat all week long on the MyFitnessPal app. The following Monday I want you to weigh yourself again. What happened? If you gained weight a factor of 10 is too high, drop it to 9 and repeat the process measuring and tracking EVERYTHING. If you lose more than 2lbs your factor is too low raise it to 11 and see what happens. Did you still lose weight, maintain, or gain? A sustainable weight loss program reduces weight at .5-1bs/week.

Ultimately, maintaining a healthy body weight comes from being able to accurately know how much to eat, so you don’t gain weight.

Not many people can do that which is why tracking is so important

 

Easy Tips For Training the L-sit

By: Mario Ashley

We are so used to training the abdominals through repetitive spinal flexion and extension that when we incorporate an exercise that requires a static position we second guess its effects. That is until you try the L-sit. It is the easiest looking, least intimating core that I have known.  That is until you try it for yourself. I have seen younger women master this exercise while I have seen it make grown men cry.

As we know it, the L-sit place the spine in flexion. Although to a smaller degree it is evident when you focus your eyes on the athletes look back. You notice more of around than you do an arch. In gymnastics, we define this as a “hollow body” state. Its a rigid, stable, and entirely safe position for the spine.

The problem is that because this position is rarely ever trained holding this position for 60seconds at a time is impossible. That is where effective, yet challenging regressions are useful.

1.Parallettes (P.Bar) or Boxes?

 

The chief complaint comes from the difficulty of keeping the legs of the ground. On the P. Bar, the room for error is small. A lack of flexibility in the hamstring and mobility int he hip flexors are the leading cause of strain. For these athletes, the box modification is best suited for them so they can focus more on bracing the abs and legs time to pray your feet do not touch the ground.

2. Where to place your legs?


In a perfect world,  everyone can point their toes and fully extend the knees. This rarely happens. Adjusting the levers, based on where an athlete places their legs while in the static position is crucial because you want them to be able to find a version that challenges them yet allows them to stay up for 20-30 seconds at a time. The three options we use are: double knee touch, semi-truck (one knee tuck, one leg pointed), or both legs fully extended.

3. Applying Time Under Tension

Ultimately being able to fully extend the legs for a few seconds is pointless. There isn’t enough of a stimulus to affect positive change in strength and or stability. Finding the correct modification based on #1 and #2 is ultimately predicted by their ability to keep their feet off the floor for at least 20-30 seconds at a time.

4. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Very few people can set up on a parallette and hold 60 seconds or longer. It takes repetitious practice like any other skill. Mastering this will make situps feel like a big waste of time.

Power Couple: Jessica and Raul

What made you guys decide to take on CrossFit together?

We definitely wanted to do something different to challenge ourselves and my sister, Victoria was definitely another positive influence pushing us to join!

What do you find yourself doing to motivate each other?

Definitely reminding each other to set our alarms for the next day or communicating throughout the day to remind ourselves even when we’re tired or not “in the mood” to work out.

Who’s the Real healthy chef in the house?

I am. Raul can eat anything and everything and be OK and I have to really work hard and plan ahead what I eat.

How do you both make it work and still manage to workout each week?

We make it a priority to go at least 3-4 times a week after work and to barbell club.

 

Why do we change our workouts daily?

By: Coach Mario

There are various models we use to define what it means to be “fit”. Our program seeks to build ones overall fitness. From strength to cardio and everything in between. One of the most common models we use is called the 10 General Physical Skill.

They include cardiovascular endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy.  Although we have the ability to develop all these skills, most sport only specialize at a few skills at a time. 

“You’re only as fit as capable for anything and everything.” -CrossFit

As a fitness program, we believe that your only as “fit” as proficient in these skills and that a lack of any of these skills would diminish your overall fitness level. Another way to understand this model is with something we call “General Physical Preparedness” also known as GPP. It’s being ready for anything and everything physically imaginable.

Imagine that instead of numbers coming out of the hopper they were actual physical tasks such as running, jumping, lifting, picking things up, walking up stairs, lifting bags of groceries, etc. Our belief is that the more physical tasks that your capable of achieving the fitter you are.

The reason why we vary our workouts every day, week and month is to train our overall physical capacities (GPP). By changing our workouts daily it allows us to challenge different physical task at all times. Somedays you feel like your training for a Powerlifting competition, other days you feel like your competing in high school track relays. No one workout makes you fit but with a well-round program like ours, you are guaranteed a much more balanced training regimen.  

I hacked the dreaded warm up

By: Coach Mario

I can’t think of many things I hate in life but warming up for a workout is definitely one of them.

For me, I don’t have the convenience of training for long periods of time. So my window of opportunity comes between coaching classes and office hours. From start to finish my session lasts 25 minutes. Warming up would drag that time out even longer.

For me, the purpose of a warm-up is about getting my body primed and ready for intense training. I call it getting “hot and sweaty”. Until that moment comes I jack around in the gym until I feel myself break a sweat. I’ve never regretted warming up before lifting heavy but something in my mind always tells me to skip it. You know exactly what I’m talking about. 

As I’ve gotten older I’ve had to come up with creative solutions for preparing my body for training while removing the monotony that is attached to stretching and jogging.

These are some of my favorite creative warmups:

  1. Tabata Squats

Tabata is an interval of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest; repeated 8x. Every set I flow through Air Squats at whatever pace I feel like. I use the squat because of it’s bigger muscle group in comparison to the upper body. But really there are no limitations to the body weight exercises I use. Use a timer to hold yourself accountable.

2. Ladder Drills (video)

It’s rare we train for speed, agility, and quickness but ladder drills can be a great addition to a warm-up. It’s fun, challenging, and different from the traditional norm of warm-up exercises. I go back and forth until I can’t come up with other movements to complete. That usually does the trick.

3. Barbell Warmup (video)

This is by far my favorite warm-up because I heart weightlifting. It becomes, even more, fun with I add a Tabata interval to the mix. Every set I change the barbell exercise. Matter of fact, I don’t know the exercise I will perform until the prior set is over. Not only am I breaking a sweat, my heart is pounding ready and prepared for the training session.

There’s tons of evidence that promotes the benefits of a sound warm up. More than that, I just feel and perform better when I spend time preparing for my workout.

Doing something will always trump doing nothing.

Give it a try. Let me know what you think!