"Point your toes!"
If you were passing by our studio it wouldn’t be uncommon to hear one of our instructors shouting, "Point your toes!". And for our students that know us well and train with us often, they will recount (hopefully fondly) having those shouts directed at them, or having toes flicked and poked and prodded, all in an attempt to get those unruly toes in line.
Now the natural question is why? Why should we point our toes? What’s the big deal? I can barely do the exercise as is, why should I be concentrating on something as trivial as pointing my toes?!
It’s a valid question, and one I get asked occasionally, but more often I see it written on the faces of my students when they are working hard but have forgotten their toes. So, here are 5 reasons why you should point your toes during Bodyweight Training!
Promotes Leg tension
The big difference with Calisthenics and other forms of strength and flexibility training is how even the basic movements have an element of balance or skill to them. And when it comes to balance, being able to hold a tight body (at least to begin with) will go a big way towards making that balance easier. It's incredibly rare to see someone pointing their toes diligently, while their legs are relaxed and or loose. By focusing on the furthest point (your toes) your legs will also be tight and make positions such as the handstand easier to feel.
It makes everything easier
The experience of learning good technique is often counter-intuitive. You care about good technique because you want to do things the most efficient and easy way possible, but it often feels harder to start with. Same goes with toe pointing and leg tension. To start with, it feels like a major hassle, it sucks energy and attention from what feels like more important things. BUT over time, the investment you made into training toe point and leg tension will pay dividends!
Habits take time.
Pointing your toes is a habit that takes time to build. Often when beginners are learning they feel like they have enough to worry about "I'll clean it up later!", and while that is true to an extent, our goals is for pointing the toes (and the resulting leg tension) to become an unconscious habit that actually takes less work than staying loose. But for that to happen we need to build it up over time.
It carries over to everything.
The other great part about toe pointing and leg tension is that it has a carry over effect to other things. Training handstands? The toe point encourages your whole body tension. Point your toes and stay tight in your legs, and it'll help your leg lifts. And your Flexibility/Mobility work. And your Skin-the-cats/any gymnastic ring work. Time spent on toe pointing and leg tension is never wasted, and in fact, it's almost always the opposite.
It looks better!
Probably the least important point, but still worth mentioning, is the aesthetic benefits that come from pointing your toes. It makes what you're doing look deliberate. Purposeful. In control. Intentional. While loose feet/ankles might be a choice you make, externally that intention can be hard to see. Pointing on the other hand, always looks like a deliberate choice, and paradoxically, by putting more effort in, it makes your movements look more effortless. Why should you want to make your exercises look good? For you. You're putting in the work, you're spending the time, let that be reflected in the beauty of your exercises ☺
So, next time your coach tells you to point your toes, you'll know why we do it - it's because we care about you and your training ☺