Toe to Bar – Straight leg vs bent leg
For CrossFitters the Toe-to-Bar (T2B) movement is a staple! Kipping T2B have shown up every year in the CrossFit Open so well worth the time investment to work on the strength and skill of the movement.
In this deep-dive we are going to focus on the positioning and movement of the legs during kipping T2B reps…so lets look at a straight leg variation vs a bent leg variation. In this video you will see the first 3 (arguably 4) reps are completed with a bent leg or a tuck and kick variation with the last two reps keeping a straight leg.
Like most things in CrossFit both options might have their place for you. Let’s start with the bent leg or tuck and kick variation. The main thing this variation has over a straight leg is a quicker cycle time, if you think about it, it’s obvious, you are cutting the length of the rep so you can complete reps quicker. It will also slightly reduce the load on the hip flexors and lower abdominals (less gravity!) With that said you won’t generate as much kip or as much ‘hang time’ as with a straight leg variation so if you are lacking strength this option will likely still tire quicker for you.
A straight leg allows you to generate the most momentum in the kip and often “feel” a lot slower than they are…why would that be a good thing?! In CrossFit we are normally doing something else with T2Bs so you might lose 5-10secs over a set compared to a bent leg variation but come off significantly less fatigued, lower heart rate allowing you to get on to the next movement quicker. A straight leg won’t necessarily be an option for every athlete (if you have really tight hamstrings!) but should be a goal and especially something utilised in training as it will load the lower abdominals and hip flexors slightly more than a bent leg…plus it’s pretty and we all have some desire to look like a gymnast!
Like anything gymnasty we should all be trying to work on the strict variation as a basis for strength and a straight leg is the goal here, a bent leg would be used as a scale…for drill progressions for a strict T2B take a look at this video. (Note: a few of these progressions are on the floor and so a great option for some at home strength building!)
To summarise, straight leg all the way with strict T2B (bent as a scaling option) and probably what you should be aiming for when kipping in training. The bent leg variation has its place to shorten rep length and quicken speed and to take a bit of loading off the hip flexors and lower abdominals.
Senior Coach – CrossFit Central Wellington