What Exercise Is the Toe Touch Cross Over?


Most people are familiar with toe touch exercises as warm-up movements to stretch the muscles in the arms, torso and hamstrings and to get your blood pumping. The name of the exercise varies and you might get a different answer from each person you ask. Some call them windmills because your body resembles a windmill as you perform the movement, while some simply know them as cross-over toe touches or toe touch cross-overs.

The Technique

The technique to performing cross-over toe touches is simple and straightforward. In his book on lean and healthy living, John Abdo explains that you start in a standing position, feet shoulder-width apart and arms held out to the sides at shoulder height. You then bend forward at the waist while twisting your body so you can touch the fingertips of your right hand to the toes of your left foot. Lift your torso back up, returning to the starting position, and repeat the move but twist to the right to touch the left fingertips to the right foot. Stand upright once more and repeat the movement, alternating sides as you go, for 30 seconds.

Add Some Weight

There are only one or two things you can do to modify the toe touch cross-over exercise. One way is to add an element of resistance by incorporating a kettlebell into the movement. Start out in the stance for a basic cross-over toe touch but hold a kettlebell in one hand over your head while the other arm is at shoulder height to your side. Bend forward at your waist and twist your torso so your free hand can cross over and touch the toes of the opposite foot, keeping your other arm extended and the kettlebell up overhead as you do so. Repeat that movement for 10 repetitions before switching the kettlebell to the other hand and performing another 10 reps on the other side of your body.

A Pilates Version

There is a Pilates version of the cross-over toe touch exercise, but the name wouldn't suggest that the movement is a toe touch. When performing the "saw" you start out seated on the floor with your legs straight in front of you but spread slightly wider than your hips. Your arms are held out to your sides at shoulder height and your back is straight, your gaze forward. To begin the exercise, rotate your torso so our chest faces to the right, reaching your left hand to touch the smallest toe of your right foot. Your right arm should still be extended out but will be behind your body as your left hand touches your toe. Return to the starting position and repeat, twisting to the left and bringing your left hand behind you as your right hand reaches for your left foot. Repeat the motion for a total of six to 10 reps on each side.


Although the toe touch cross-over exercise can be useful, there are risks for injury involved. When performing standing cross-over toe touches your spine is unsupported and is essentially suspended by just two or three of your vertebrae. This puts stress on your back and can add to the difficulties of an existing back injury. There are possibilities for other injuries as well, as Robert G. McMurray points out in his book on fitness programming. McMurray writes that bending forward while keeping the knees in an extended, locked position can hyperextend the knees and keeping the head at a level below the heart, as it is repeatedly when performing toe touch cross-overs, can affect the blood pressure. To minimize chances of injury, it's best to execute cross-over toe touches from a seated or lying position.