Steps to Toes to Bar – Progressions #1-4 Hollow Body and Bow Position
Written by Melissa Hurley

Our Skills and Drills focus for the month of February is Toes to Bar. Would you like to get your first set of toes to bar, make them more efficient, or help someone else become proficient in this movement? Below are some tips to help you achieve all of those things. This is the first in a series of blog posts that will focus on the movement toes to bar and it’s focus will be on maintaining a tight midsection and learning the hollow body-bow position, both statically and dynamically.

Progression 1 – The Hollow and Bow Positions

Start by establishing a hollow body position. If you have followed any of our other past gymnastic movement progressions, this position will not be new to you. But even so, practice it anyway, as it is a good reminder of how important it is to have a solid hollow body position during these movements. Your goal is to focus on perfect positioning at all times. If this position is new to you:

  • Begin with your lower back, butt, and heels touching the ground. Think about pushing your belly button to the floor.

  • Legs should be straight and together with toes pointed and raised off the ground.

  • Staying tight, your head & shoulders should come off the ground. Raise your arms over your head and glue your ears between your biceps.

To find the bow position (also commonly referred to as the superman position), roll to your stomach.  This movement is essentially the opposite position from the hollow.

  • Lay on your stomach with your arms and legs stretched out as if you were hanging from a pull-up bar.

  • Contract everything on your backside – scaps, back, glutes and hamstrings – to raise your arms, chest and thighs off the floor.

If you can establish and hold this position, then you’re in a good place to move to the next step. If not, we suggest spending more time getting into the perfect position. You can modify the position and make it a bit easier by keeping your hands at your side instead of over your head and your legs in a bent position closer into the body.

Progression Two: Standing Partner Push/Pull

You’ll need a partner for this unique drill. With your partner on a box, stand one foot away and at the base of the box with both arms extended overhead. The partner on the box will face you (the athlete) in a perpendicular position with one arm extended in front.  Your arms should make contact with their forearms. The extended arm of the person on the box is in place of a pull-up bar. The partner on the top of the box will push your arms to mimic the bow position. Your move then is to push forward on their arm (the pull-up bar) to mimic getting into the hollow body position.


Progression Three: Initiating the Kip by Opening and Closing the Shoulders

This is similar to progression one and two. This time, however, you’re hanging from the bar and attempting to find the bow and hollow positions by using your mid-line. Your shoulders and lats are initiating the kip.

When you feel like a kid swinging on the monkey bars and your kip is totally out of control, it’s because you’re attempting to kip using your legs rather than your shoulders. Think about bringing your chest forward and back rather than lifting your legs and initiating from there.


Progression Four: Partner Assisted Push/Pull

It can be a challenge to feel the rubber-band tightness needed to snap the legs back up to the bar while learning the kip. With the partner assisted push-pull movement, you can feel and help someone else feel the control. This drill is great for your first toes to bar and/or a great reminder of how it should feel to keep tight when doing this movement.

The person on the bar will begin their hollow-body/bow hollow movement as learned in step three of this progression, keeping the legs and ankles together and the mid-line tight. The spotting partner will place their hands on the mid to lower back of the person swinging to support the kip and ensure that the person doesn’t swing uncontrollably. The spotter will help guide the athlete into a superman position by gently pushing their mid-line forward. As the athlete begins to push down on the bar to return to the hollow body position, the spotter will gently pull the athlete’s mid-section back behind the bar to help them find that position. This progression can be really helpful when trying to feel the rhythm and flow of the kip.


 Stay tuned for the next blog in this series, which will focus on building a tight and strong hollow body and bow/superman position.

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