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Toe taps are a popular exercise in many workout plans. You can find them in boot camp style classes, as part of a dynamic workout, or used as a conditioning exercise for several sports.

Like many other terms in the fitness world, toe taps can refer to a few exercises that look very different from each other. Toe taps might mean the move you perform during a Pilates sequence or as part of an abdominal workout.

One thing that all these toe taps share is that you use core muscles to complete the movement.

Generally speaking, you’ll perform standing toe taps during warmups, conditioning drills for sports like soccer, between sets when lifting weights, or as part of a cardio class.

This version of the exercise is great for raising your heart rate, targeting the muscles in your lower body, burning calories, and improving speed, balance, and foot-handling skills.

You rely on the strong muscles in your glutes, hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, calves, and core to properly perform a standing toe tap.

Depending on the desired intensity, you can also pump your arms while tapping, which forces your upper body to work and increases the requirements of your core muscles.

Since the move is cardio-based, you can expect to increase your heart rate and keep it at a medium intensity during the exercise.

This version of the toe tap is appropriate for all fitness levels. You’ll need a plyometric box, Bosu ball, the bottom stair in a staircase, or other stable structure that is about 10 to 12 inches tall and won’t move.

  1. Stand in front of a box or other stable platform.
  2. Place one foot on the top of the platform. The ball of your foot will be touching the box or ball. Your other foot will remain planted on the ground, and arms at your sides.
  3. To start the exercise, push off from the planted foot to bring it up and onto the platform while simultaneously bringing the lead foot back to the floor. This change will happen mid-air.
  4. Land with the lead foot on the ground and the edge of the planted foot on the platform.
  5. Continue alternating feet, without stopping, for the desired time. The change will be quick, and it will feel like running on stairs. Perform standing toe taps for 30 to 60 seconds. Rest for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat for 2 to 3 sets.

To make this move more challenging, increase the speed of the toe taps and pump your arms.

To decrease some of the difficulty, you can also perform toe taps on the ground doing the same movements without a raised step.

If you want to change how you perform the move, try one of these versions:

Modified standing toe tap

You can modify the move and still get great results. This version takes the hop and landing out of the exercise.

  1. Stand in front of a box or other stable platform, keeping both feet on the ground.
  2. Begin by raising your right foot and tapping it on the platform. Then, return your right foot to the floor and repeat with the left side. Alternate sides, but don’t change mid-air. Both feet will always be in contact with the ground during the change.
  3. Continue alternating feet for the desired time. Perform standing toe taps for 30 to 60 seconds. Rest for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat for 2 to 3 sets.

Circle toe taps

  1. Stand in front of a Bosu ball.
  2. Place one foot on top of the platform. The ball of your foot will be touching the ball. Your other foot will remain planted on the ground, and your arms should be at your sides.
  3. Push off from the planted foot to bring it up and onto the ball while simultaneously bringing the lead foot back to the floor. This change will happen mid-air.
  4. Land with the lead foot on the ground and the edge of the planted foot on the platform.
  5. Continue alternating feet, without stopping, while moving around the ball in a circle for the desired time. Perform for 30 to 60 seconds. Rest for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat for 2 to 3 sets.

Lateral toe taps

If you have access to a gym with bleachers, you can do lateral toe taps.

  • Stand in front of the bottom bleacher, facing it.
  • Place one foot on top of the bench. The ball of your foot will be touching the bleacher. Your other foot will remain planted on the ground, and arms at your sides.
  • Push off from the planted foot to bring it up and onto the bench while simultaneously bringing the lead foot back to the floor. This change will happen mid-air.
  • Land with the lead foot on the ground and the planted foot on the edge of the bleacher.
  • Continue alternating feet, without stopping, while moving down the bleacher bench. Move laterally for 30 seconds, then reverse direction. Rest 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 3 times.

This would also work in a safe spot with a bench or other long raised surface that won’t move as you do.

These vertical toe taps or toe touches are typically part of an abdominal workout that focuses on the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, and obliques.

These muscles work together to help you perform daily tasks that include bending, lifting, twisting, and carrying items.

Despite the name, you don’t need to reach your toes for this move to be effective.

  1. Lie down on an exercise mat with your knees bent and arms at your sides.
  2. Lift both feet off the floor and extend your legs up until your thighs are perpendicular to the floor. Legs should be touching with a slight bend in your knees.
  3. Fully extend your arms until your fingertips are pointing towards your toes.
  4. Engage the abdominals and lift your torso off the floor. While closing the distance between your toes and fingers, try to touch your fingertips to your toes.
  5. Slowly lower your torso and arms back to the starting position. Your legs will remain in the air.
  6. Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions. Start with 1 set and progress to 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.

The American Council on Exercise suggests keeping your thighs vertical and aligned while you roll the upper body up and down. This will help control the movement and speed, and help reduce the potential for injury.

To increase the difficulty of these toe taps, you can hold a light weight in your hands as you lift up with your core muscles.

The Pilates toe tap or supine toe tap brings you back on the mat for an abdominal workout. It may look easy, but if done correctly, you will feel your abs burning after a few repetitions.

The primary muscles involved in this move are the rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis, as well as the other core muscles, including your obliques and hips.

  1. Lie down on an exercise mat with your knees bent and arms at your sides.
  2. Bring your legs up to tabletop one leg at a time, knees bent, thighs perpendicular to the floor. Maintain a neutral spine and avoid arching or pressing your back into the floor.
  3. Begin by lowering the right foot and tapping it on the floor while the left leg remains in tabletop position.
  4. Return the right leg to tabletop and repeat with the left leg.
  5. Repeat for 10 taps on each side. Start with 1 set and progress to 2 sets of 10 taps on each leg.

To make this move more challenging, tap both feet on the mat at the same time. To make it easier, keep the non-moving toe on the mat, rather than in tabletop while tapping with the opposite foot.

Standing, vertical, and Pilates toe taps have a place in every fitness routine. The moves are appropriate for beginner to intermediate levels, with modifications possible.

Very little equipment is required, which means you can do them at home, the gym, or in a fitness class. And the best part? You can include all three variations in one workout.