How to Do Toe Taps

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Also Known As: This exercise shares its name with the Pilates Toe Tap that targets the core, but it is not the same exercise. 

Targets: Lower body including the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, and hip flexors. Also works the core muscles and cardiovascular system. 

Equipment Needed: Bosu ball (optional), aerobic step bench, bench, or plyometric box

Level: Beginner to intermediate 

The toe tap is a great beginner to intermediate level exercise that you can use as a warm-up or include as part of a strength or aerobic workout. Since you can vary the pace at which you tap, the move can range from low-impact to high intensity.  

When done correctly, toe taps target both muscular endurance and strength, as well as provide you with a fantastic cardio workout. Toe taps are typically added to a lower body workout, cardio routine, or performed between sets when doing a circuit-style workout. 

The movement pattern of the toe tap exercise can help prepare your body for more advanced exercises like jumping lunges and plyometric box jumps. Plus, if you’re a soccer player, toe taps can help you improve control and touch with the ball. 

Benefits

Toe taps target the muscles of your lower body — specifically the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, and calves.

By continuously tapping each foot on the edge of a platform for 30 to 60 seconds, you’re also targeting the cardiovascular system. Which means, performing toe taps increases your heart rate and helps you burn calories. Plus, practicing toe taps can help you get better at climbing stairs.

Additionally, toe taps can help strengthen your core, which may lead to reduced back pain, improved balance, and better flexion, extension, and rotation of your trunk. Stronger core muscles can also boost your fitness and athletic performance. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

As a bodyweight exercise, all you need to get started is a platform high enough to challenge you aerobically while you tap your toes. Before you begin, make sure the area around the platform and the space behind you are free of any debris that may cause you to trip. 

  1. Stand in front of a step, box (plyo-boxes work great), platform, or Bosu ball that is at least 10 to 12 inches tall. Arms remain at your sides. 
  2. Raise your right foot and place the ball of your foot on the platform. Depending on the equipment you use, your foot might be angled, rather than flat. But your left foot will remain flat on the ground. This is your starting position.
  3. Push off the ground with your left foot and switch legs mid-air, with your left foot now touching the platform and your right foot on the ground. 
  4. Arms can remain at your sides or alternate with your legs like you would do when running.
  5. Repeat alternating toe taps slowly until you feel comfortable with the movement pattern, and your technique is correct. 
  6. Speed up the pace and alternate between your left foot and right foot tapping the edge of the platform for the desired amount of time, typically 30 to 60 seconds. 

A note about your head: Since this exercise requires balance and stability, you may find that looking down at the platform while you alternate toe taps helps keep you stable. If you feel comfortable, try keeping your head up and look forward. 

Common Mistakes

The most common mistakes you might make typically involve the height of the step and your posture.

Choosing a Platform That is Too High

When starting out, make sure the platform, step, or box you select is the appropriate height for your fitness level. The shorter the box, the easier the movement. If the edge where you tap is too high, you may lose your balance or rely too much on your hip flexors to do most of the work. 

Not Keeping Your Core Muscles Engaged

Any time you are upright and moving, you’re engaging the muscles in your core. The power, stability, and support generated from these muscles will help you move quicker and protect your lower back from injury. 

Leaning Forward From the Waist

Performing toe taps bent over at the waist can cause pain and discomfort in your lower back. As you get tired your technique begins to suffer, which often results in bending forward. To properly perform toe taps, you need to stand tall for the duration of the exercise. 

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification

The great thing about toe taps is they are easy to modify for any fitness level. For starters, if moving quickly back and forth is too much, slow down the toe taps to a walking pace. 

Additionally, if tapping a bench, platform, or plyo-box is too difficult, consider eliminating the equipment and tapping the ground. You still benefit from the cardio component, but it turns the move into a low-impact exercise. 

Up for a Challenge?

There are several ways to make this move more challenging. The first place to start is with the speed or pace at which you tap. Focus on increasing the pace each time you perform the exercise. Keep track of the number of toe taps you do in a 30-second period and see if you can beat your record.

You can also make the move more challenging by adding resistance by holding a dumbbell in each hand or wearing ankle weights to increase the weight of your legs. Additionally, consider increasing the height of the platform. A taller step or box will require you to bring your knees up higher. Not only does this add to the cardio component, but it also challenges your leg muscles. 

If you have a Bosu ball, you can make toe taps more challenging by moving around the dome. Begin with the same movement pattern as you would with basic toe taps, but rather than standing in one place, move around the dome while tapping and switching legs. Go clockwise for 15 seconds, then counterclockwise for 15 seconds. Increase the time as you get better at the exercise. 

Safety and Precautions

Generally speaking, toe taps are safe to perform. Since you can modify the pace at which you alternate your feet, this exercise is appropriate for most fitness levels. That said, if you have any health conditions that limit your ability to perform a cardiovascular exercise or any issues with your knees, hips, feet or ankles, talk with your doctor prior to starting toe taps. 

If you experience any discomfort while doing toe taps, stop and take a break. When you resume the movement, try tapping on the ground before moving back to the bench, box, or Bosu ball. 

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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