How to Do Toe Taps: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

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If you want a move that increases lower body strength and gets your heart rate up, toe taps deliver. Since you can vary the pace at which you tap, you control the intensity. Add this exercise to your lower body workout, cardio routine, or circuit training program.

Targets: Lower body and core

Equipment needed: Aerobic step, bench, plyometric box, or BOSU ball

Level: Beginner to intermediate

How to Do a Toe Tap

toe taps

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

As a bodyweight exercise, all you need to get started is a platform high enough to challenge you aerobically while you tap your toes (ideally, at least 10 to 12 inches high). You can use an aerobic step, plyo box, BOSU ball, or another elevated platform.

Make sure the area around and behind you is free of any debris that may cause you to trip, then stand in front of the platform with your arms at your sides. Raise your right foot and place the ball of that foot on the platform, keeping your left foot flat on the ground. This is your starting position.

  1. Push off the ground with your left foot and switch legs mid-air, so your left foot touches the platform and your right foot is on the ground. Your arms can remain at your sides or alternate with your legs, like they do when running.
  2. Repeat alternating toe taps. If you're new to this exercise, go slowly until you feel comfortable with the movement pattern and your technique is correct. Once, you're ready, speed up the pace, merely tapping the edge of the platform when alternating feet. 
  3. Step both feet back and onto the floor to end this exercise.

Since this exercise requires balance and stability, you may find that you look down at the platform while alternating toe taps. Once you are comfortable with the movement, try keeping your head up and looking forward instead. 

Benefits of Toe Taps

Toe taps target the lower body muscles—the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, and calves. They also help strengthen your core, which can lead to reduced back pain, improved balance, and better flexion, extension, and rotation of your trunk.

Since you're continuously tapping each foot, you’re working your cardiovascular system as well. This means that adding toe taps to your current exercise routine can increase your heart rate and help you burn more calories while also building strength.

The movement pattern of the toe tap exercise prepares your body for more advanced exercises like jumping lunges and plyometric box jumps. If you play soccer, they may even help improve your jump height and sprint speed. 

As a functional strength exercise, doing toe taps regularly can make it easier to perform everyday activities that involve the use of similar movements, such as climbing the stairs.

This exercise shares its name with the Pilates toe tap, but it is not the same exercise. For starters, this toe tap is performed while standing versus lying on the back. Also, the Pilates version targets the core more than the lower body.

Other Variations of the Toe Tap

You can modify this exercise based on your fitness level or needs.

Shorter Platform for Beginners

If tapping a 10 to 12-inch bench, BOSU ball, or plyo box is too difficult, consider using a lower step or eliminating the platform altogether. You still get a cardiovascular benefit from repeatedly tapping the ground; it just makes it a lower-impact cardio exercise

Seated Toe Taps

If you find it hard to stand for long periods or to stand without losing your balance, perform toe taps in a seated position. You can even turn this into a total body exercise by doing biceps curls or dumbbell overhead presses with each seated tap.

Higher Platform

If you're looking for more of a challenge, consider increasing the height of the platform. A taller step or box requires you to bring your knees up higher. Not only does this add to the cardio component but it also forces your leg muscles to work harder. 

Loaded Toe Taps

Another way to make the movement more challenging is by adding resistance. Hold a dumbbell in each hand or wear ankle weights to increase the amount of weight you must move during the toe tap exercise.

Increase Speed

Focus on increasing the speed or pace of your taps each time you perform the exercise to make it more difficult as your fitness progresses. Keep track of the number of toe taps you do in a 30-second period and see if you can beat your record.

Moving BOSU Toe Taps

If you have a BOSU ball, you can increase the intensity by moving around the dome. Begin with the same movement pattern as basic toe taps but, instead of standing in one place, move around the dome while tapping and switching legs. Go clockwise for 15 seconds, then counterclockwise for 15 seconds. Increase your time as you get more fit.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these common mistakes when performing toe taps to keep this exercise safe and effective.

Platform Too High

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 the Core Engaged

The power, stability, and support generated from engaging your core muscles can help you move more quickly while also protecting your lower back from injury. Practice pulling your belly button toward your spine to better activate these muscles.

Leaning Forward From the Waist

As you get tired, your technique may begin to suffer, which often results in bending forward. Yet, performing toe taps bent over at the waist can cause pain and discomfort in your lower back. To avoid this, work to stand tall for the duration of 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.

If you have any health conditions that limit your ability to perform cardiovascular exercise or if you experience any issues with your knees, hips, feet, or ankles, talk with your doctor prior to starting toe taps. 

If you have any discomfort during the exercise, 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. If you feel actual pain, stop the exercise immediately.

Aim to perform toe taps for 30 to 60 seconds without stopping. If you can't do them for this long when first starting out, begin with 10-second sessions and increase the time in 5-second increments as you gain more strength and endurance.

Try It Out

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

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2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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