Toe Touches – Abs (How To, Muscles Worked, Benefits)
Toe touches are a great core exercise that can be incorporated at the end of a workout to train abs or toward the beginning of a workout as part of the warm up.
Toe touches are also a good core option because they are both easier to learn for beginners, but also still challenging for more advanced athletes.
In this guide, I’m going to show you how to do toe touches, what muscles they work along with a few variations and alternatives.
How To Do Toe Touches
- Lay flat on your back with your legs perpendicular to the floor (legs straight up in the air).
- From this position, keep your chin off of your chest, keep your arms straight and raise your upper body toward your feet.
- Touch your toes (or at least reach as high up your shins as you can) with your fingers and return to the starting position.
- Repeat the exercise until your set is complete.
Athletes with tight hamstrings may find it hard to keep their legs straight up in the air through the duration of the exercise. Work to keep legs straight and vertical as much as possible.
Keep hands relatively close to the shins throughout the movement. Swinging the arms toward the head at the bottom causes momentum which takes away from the quality of the movement.
How Many Reps?
I generally program Toe Touches as part of a larger core circuit consisting of 2 to 4 other bodyweight core exercises. Toe Touches will be 1 to 2 sets of 15 to 25 reps. The overall core circuit will be 100 to 200 reps, depending on the athlete’s level of training.
Toe Touches primarily work the Rectus Abdominis.
The Hip Flexors (and Quads to a lesser degree), also play a part in keeping the legs vertical during Toe Touches.
Toe Touch Variations
Looking to slightly change up your toe touches? Here are a couple of variations that you can try out:
Alternating Toe Touches
Start in the same starting position as regular toe touches – laying on your back with legs straight and vertical to the floor.
Now, widen your feet to shoulder width apart.
Take both hands and crunch up to the left foot first and then back now. Then take both hands and crunch up to the right foot.
Continue to alternate back and forth from one foot to the other.
This variation will get the Obliques much more involved in the movement.
Weighted Toe Touches
This variation will make toe touches more challenging. Keep the movement the exact same, but hold onto a plate or dumbbell.
The added weight will create more resistance and make the toe touches more difficult. (You also may get a little burn in the shoulders on high rep sets!)
Toe Touch Alternatives
If you’re unable to do Toe Touches, here are a couple of alternatives you can try out.
If laying on the floor is an issue, you may be able to give Seated Crunches a shot.
For seated crunches, sit down on the edge of a bench with knees and feet close together.
Crunch by lifting your knees up towards your chest. Use your hands on the bench for support if necessary.
If raising your legs up into the air (or keeping them there) is a problem, then Sky Crunches may be a better alternative.
Sky Crunches are very similar to toe touches, but the position of the legs is different.
Keep the legs straight and lay straight down on the ground. Now, simply crunch straight up to the sky (hence the name!). Remember to keep your chin lifted up off your chest throughout the movement.
Benefits of Toe Touches
Toe Touches are a great core-strengthening exercise to have in your repertoire. You can utilize them toward the beginning of your workout as part of your warmup or as a core finisher at the end.
They’re easy for beginners to learn and still challenging for more advanced lifters (especially if you use the weighted toe touch variation).
All of these reasons are why Toe Touches are one of my favorite core exercises to incorporate into my training programs.
More Links and Info
If you’d like to see more core exercises, head over to the Core Section of our Exercise Library. There you’ll find dozens of core movements, all with step-by-step instructions.