Fitness Volt Gymnastic Rings – Benefits, Exercises, And Workout

If you want to build muscle and get stronger, you need to overload your muscles. There are many ways to do this, and each has pros and cons. You don’t even have to stick to just one type of training, although some people do just that. In many cases, combining training methods is the best way to reach your performance or aesthetic goals.

Your choices include but are not limited to:

Why are there so many different training methods?

The reason is simple: your body doesn’t really know HOW you are overloading your muscles and, frankly, doesn’t even care!

All your body knows is tension and work. Providing you contract your muscles hard enough, long enough, and often enough they’ll adapt and improve whether you are doing chest presses on a state of-of-the-art machine in an exclusive gym or doing push-ups in your dusty garage.

Train with intensity and consistency, and you can transform your body.

However, if you DO decide to go the calisthenics route, you may find yourself doing very high rep sets to fatigue your muscles. This could limit your progress and make your workouts long or boring.

The good news is that an inexpensive set of gymnastic rings will make many standard bodyweight exercises considerably harder. They also allow you to expand your exercise library for more varied workouts.

In this article, we explain the benefits of gymnastic ring training, tell you about some of the exercises you can do with rings, and provide you with a beginner’s ring workout to try.

What are Gymnastic Rings, Anyway?

Gymnastics Ring HangingGymnastics Ring HangingGymnastics Ring

While gymnastic rings are very popular right now, it’s worth mentioning that they’ve been around for well over 100 years. Originally used in gymnastics competitions and training, rings were a staple of the old-school physical culture movement, and most gyms had them.

In simple terms, gymnastic rings are stiff wooden, plastic, or sometimes metal circular handles suspended on adjustable straps. They can be used for a variety of isometric (static contraction) and dynamic exercises, some of which are unique to ring training.

Rings are readily available and can be hung from almost any overhead anchor point, including chin-up bars, roofbeams, and tree branches. You can use rings to train virtually every muscle in your body without having to joining a gym.

The Benefits of Gymnastic Ring Training

Gymnastic rings are very versatile and provide a great workout. These are some of the main benefits of training with rings:

More demanding bodyweight training

While basic calisthenic exercises are the perfect excuse-free workout, training with just your body weight for resistance has its limits. Your main form of progression is doing more reps, and once you can do 20 or more of your chosen exercises, you may find your workout starts to become less effective.

Rings are unstable, making things like push-ups and dips MUCH more challenging. Expect to halve the number of reps you can normally perform on a more stable surface.

If you are bored of high rep bodyweight training, switching to rings will make your workouts much more intense.

Increased joint stability

Leading on from the point above, you’ll have to use your deep stabilizer muscles to keep the rings steady during your workouts. These muscles include your rotator cuff, core, gluteus minimus, and medius.

Increasing stabilizer strength will improve your athletic performance, strengthen and injury-proof your joints, and allow you to lift more weight and do more reps for better workouts. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and, for most people, that weak link is the stabilizer muscles.

Gymnast On Stationary RingsGymnast On Stationary Rings

Increased range of motion

A lot of barbell and floor-based calisthenic exercises have relatively short ranges of motion. For example, during push-ups, you cannot lower your chest past the level of your hands. Using rings means you can raise your hands and descend into a deeper position, making your chosen exercise more demanding.

While you can achieve a similar effect by using push-up handles, they’re very stable, so you’ll miss out on increasing stabilizer muscle engagement. Training with a bigger range of motion is also good for improving your flexibility and mobility.

More muscle tension

Controlling gymnastic rings doesn’t just produce more stabilizer engagement; agonist (target muscle) engagement increases, too.

Compared to machine and freeweight exercises, you’ll need to engage your muscles much more and generate more tension to perform your reps correctly. If you relax even a little, you’ll lose control of the rings.

For example, if you can’t feel your chest working in push-ups or your lats working during rows, switching to rings will help teach you how to engage these muscles for a better workout. Training with rings will also increase your mind-muscle connection.

Less joint stress

Rings rotate as you move, which means less stress on your joints. If you find exercises like bench presses, straight bar pull-ups, chin-ups, or regular push-ups and dips bother your elbows, wrists, or shoulders, the ring variation may feel more natural and comfortable. Training without joint pain is a real bonus when working with rings.

Stationary RingsStationary Rings


Two of the most significant barriers to consistent exercise are lack of time and facilities. Going to a gym can be expensive and time-consuming, and when something seems like it’s more trouble than it’s worth, most people stop doing it.

With rings, you can train anywhere you can find somewhere to hang them. Good places to use rings include your garage or garden and the local playground or park. All you need is an anchor point about eight to ten feet above the ground.

Because you don’t have to go to a gym to work out and can even train at home, these two barriers become null and void, making it easier to maintain a consistent workout program.

Cost vs. benefits

You can buy a good set of gymnastic rings for less than $30. Even cheap rings should provide several years of productive, trouble-free training. That’s less than a one-month gym membership! There aren’t many fitness tools that offer so many benefits for such a low cost.

Rings are usually made of wood or plastic. Wooden rings tend to be a little more expensive but they’re also heavier, so they hang better. They also tend to be naturally non-slip. Plastic rings work well, too, and are better for traveling as they’re lighter.

Straps are typically made of strong nylon webbing and have easy to adjust one-way buckles. Some straps are numbered which makes it much easier to quickly set your rings to the ideal height. Embroidered numbers are better than those that are printed on as they won’t rub off.

Gymnastic Ring Training Drawbacks

In the name of fairness, it’s worth mentioning the few drawbacks of gymnastic training…

Hard Ring ExerciseHard Ring Exercise

Harder exercises

Some ring exercises involve a high degree of skill and can be hard to learn. This includes things like muscle ups and front levers. However, basic calisthenic exercises like ring push-ups, dips, etc., are much easier to master. Most people can get to grips with them in a couple of weeks.

Lack of stability can be a limiting factor

While ring exercises increase stabilizer engagement and strength, those weak stabilizers may initially mean you cannot do many reps. The good news is that exercises like static hold dips and push-up holds will help strengthen your stabilizers and can be combined with regular dips and push-ups as you develop the strength necessary to do them on rings.

There are instructions on how to perform these exercises in the next section.

Finding a suitable hanging place

There is no way to train with rings unless you can suspend them above the ground. You can use exposed ceiling joists, soccer goal crossbars, tree branches, pull-up bars, pergolas, and even get bolt-in ceiling mounts.

However, if you don’t somewhere to hang your rings, you won’t be able to use them. So, make sure you scope out a place to suspend your rings before you buy them. Keep your eyes open around your neighborhood – you may find the perfect place to hang your rings.

Not so good for leg training

While there are plenty of ring exercises you can do for your upper body, there aren’t so many for your legs, and most of them are relatively easy. If you want Tom Platz-sized legs, you probably won’t be able to achieve your goal with gymnastic rings.

However, you should be able to build a lean, athletic, and enduring lower body, and there is nothing wrong with combining some weighted leg exercises with your ring workouts.

Example Gymnastic Ring Exercises

Got gymnastic rings but not sure where to start? Try these basic ring exercises! Remember, these moves are more challenging than their floor or freeweight-based counterparts, so keep your reps low and focus on maintaining good alignment and muscle tension rather than pumping out lots of scrappy reps.

1. Ring push-up hold

Target muscles: Pectoralis major, deltoids, triceps, and core.

This exercise is a pre-requisite for ring push-ups. It will teach you how to stabilize the rings and your entire body. Do this exercise to build some basic isometric strength and stability or as a warm-up before doing regular ring push-ups.

How to do it:

  1. Adjust your rings so they’re between ankle and knee height. Kneel behind them and hold the bottom of the rings, so your palms are facing inward. The straps should be vertical and close to your arms.
  2. Keeping your arms straight, pull your shoulders down and back, and brace your abs. Tuck your elbows into your sides.
  3. Extend your legs, so your weight is supported on your hands and toes only.
  4. Maintain this position for 10-30 seconds but do not hold your breath.
  5. You can also do this exercise with your arms bent and your chest stretched, i.e., at the bottom of the push-up. This puts more stress on your chest and makes stabilizing the rings easier.

2. Ring push-ups

Target muscles: Pectoralis major, deltoids, triceps, and core.

Once you are confident that you can stabilize the rings statically, it’s time to add some dynamic movement and do ring push-ups.

As with all types of push-ups, the higher your hands are off the floor, the less weight there will be on your arms, so adjust the length of the straps to reflect your current level of strength.

How to do it:

  1. Adjust your rings so they’re between ankle and knee height. Kneel behind them and hold the bottom of the rings, so your palms are facing inward. The straps should be vertical.
  2. Keeping your arms straight, pull your shoulders down and back, and brace your abs. Tuck your elbows into your sides.
  3. Extend your legs, so your weight is supported on your hands and toes only.
  4. Bend your arms and lower your chest down between your rings. The rings should be just outside your shoulders.
  5. Push yourself back up to full arm extension and repeat.
  6. Make this exercise harder by raising your feet and putting them on a bench, stool, or box.

3. Ring dip hold

Target muscles: Pectoralis major, deltoids, triceps, and core.

In the same way that ring push-up holds prepare you for ring push-ups, this exercise will prepare your muscles for ring dips. You can do top position holds to emphasize your triceps or bottom position holds to hit your chest. Do both to get fully prepped for ring dips.

Ring Dip HoldRing Dip HoldRing Dip Hold

How to do it:

  1. Adjust your rings to about hip height. Stand between the rings and hold them with your hands facing inward, arms close to your sides, and shoulders down and back. Brace your abs and tense your arms.
  2. Lift your feet a couple of inches off the floor and then hold this position, making sure you control the rings and try to minimize any wobbling.
  3. Hold for 10-30 seconds, and then rest and repeat.
  4. Remember to do top, and bottom position holds.

4. Ring dips

Target muscles: Pectoralis major, deltoids, triceps, and core.

If you can do static ring holds for 30 seconds or more, you are probably ready to try ring dips. This is an excellent chest and triceps exercise and one that should add slabs of muscle to your upper body while building impressive levels of strength and stability.

How to do it:

  1. Adjust your rings to about armpit height. Stand between the rings and hold them with your palms turned inward. Tuck your elbows in close to your sides. Pull your shoulders down and back and brace your abs.
  2. Drive your arms straight down and push yourself up until your elbows are straight. Make sure you keep pushing your arms inward as well as downward.
  3. Slowly lower yourself back down until the rings are almost touching your shoulders.
  4. Pause at the bottom of the dip for a second and repeat.
  5. You can also touch your feet to the floor between reps for a slightly easier workout and to eliminate any swinging.

5. Ring rows

Target muscles: Latissimus dorsi, mid traps and rhomboids, biceps, glutes, and hamstrings.

If you’ve always dreamed of pumping out pull-ups or chin-ups but lack the strength to do them, this exercise will help. Ring rows will build the back and arm strength needed for full pull-ups and chin-ups. They’re also an excellent exercise in their own right. Like so many ring exercises, ring rows also work many additional muscles, including your glutes and hamstrings.

Ring RowsRing RowsRing Rows

How to do it:

  1. Adjust your rings to about waist height. Sit on the floor below the rings. Extend your legs out in front of you, so your heels are resting on the floor.
  2. Lean back, so your arms are straight. Pull your shoulders down and back and lift your hips off the floor. Contract your glutes and brace your core.
  3. Bend your arms and pull yourself up until your shoulders touch the rings. Keep your upper arms close to your sides.
  4. Descend slowly while keeping your body straight.
  5. Make this exercise easier by bending your legs or raising the height of your rings. Make it more challenging by putting your feet on a box, bench, or stool.

6. Ring pull-ups

Target muscles: Latissimus dorsi, mid traps, rhomboids, and biceps.

Ring pull-ups are the king of back-building exercises. The rotating grip makes them easier on your elbows and shoulders than straight bar pull-ups and chin-ups, and the movement of the straps increases back and stabilizer activation.

On the downside, you will need to hang your rings from somewhere high to do this exercise. The rings need to be at least just above head height.

How to do it:

  1. Hang from your rings with your arms straight, shoulders down and back, and core braced. Bend your legs as much as necessary to keep your feet off the floor.
  2. Bend your arms and, without swinging or kicking, pull yourself up until the rings are level with the front of your shoulders. Try to lead with your chest and drive your shoulders and elbows back. Allow your hands to rotate naturally as you ascend.
  3. Descend under control and repeat.
  4. Make this exercise easier by lowering your rings and using your legs for assistance. Use your legs less as your arms and back get stronger.

7. Ring Bulgarian split squats

Target muscles: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, abductors, adductors, and calves.

Bulgarian or rear foot elevated split squats are one of the best leg exercises around. They work every muscle in your lower body, from front to back and side to side. They’re also good for improving balance and mobility.

Doing this exercise with your rear foot in a gymnastic ring means that the leg is free to move, making this variation more joint-friendly and challenging than the bench variation.

How to do it:

  1. Set your ring to about knee height. With your back to the strap, place one foot in the ring with the top of your foot facing down. Stand up tall and brace your abs.
  2. Bend your front leg and simultaneously push your rear leg backward. Descend until your rear knee is just above the floor. Try to keep most of the weight on your front leg and use your back leg only for balance.
  3. Stand back up and repeat.
  4. Make this exercise easier by holding onto something for stability or harder by holding dumbbells.

8. Ring leg curl

Target muscles: Hamstrings, gluteus maximus, abductors, adductors, and calves.

Bulgarian split squats are an excellent leg exercise, but most people find them a little lacking in hamstring engagement. This exercise is all about those hammies and will help balance your leg development. In addition, this is an excellent move for your butt and calves while being very lower back friendly.

How to do it:

  1. Set your rings to about knee height. Lie on your back and place your heels in the bottom of the rings. Press your toes forward and into the top of the rings to engage your calves.
  2. Use your glutes and hamstrings to lift your body up, so it’s straight. Brace your abs.
  3. Bend your knees and simultaneously drive your hips upward. Your hips should remain slightly extended throughout the exercise.
  4. Extend your knees and return to the starting position.

9. Ring rollouts

Target muscles: Rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis, latissimus dorsi, hip flexors, triceps.

The ring rollout is an anti-extension core exercise. Extending your hips and shoulders simultaneously means your core will have to work hard to keep your spine correctly aligned. This is a challenging move but a great way to build stronger, more stable abs.

How to do it:

  1. Adjust your rings to about knee height. Kneel down and place your hands at the bottom of your rings. Straighten your arms, brace your core, and pull your shoulders down and back. Your spine should be slightly flexed, i.e., rounded and not hyperextended.
  2. Push the rings away from you and lower your torso down toward the floor. Go as far as you can while still maintaining your slightly flexed lumbar spine.
  3. Push your arms down and back to return to the starting position.
  4. The further you extend your arms in front of you, the harder this exercise becomes. Adjust your range of motion to match your current level of core strength.

10. Ring knee tucks

Target muscles: Rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis, latissimus dorsi, hip flexors, triceps.

This is another ring core exercise. However, this one involves more movement, so it’s a dynamic rather than a static stability exercise. You can make this exercise more demanding by doing a push-up between abs tucks. This variation is called an atomic push-up. However, if you just want to train your abs, you should keep your arms straight.

How to do it:

  1. Adopt the push-up position and place your feet in your rings. Brace your abs and pull your shoulders down and back. Tuck your chin in and look straight down on the floor to keep unwanted tension out of your neck.
  2. Bend your legs and pull your knees in toward your chest while simultaneously lifting your butt up toward the ceiling.
  3. Extend your legs, lower your hips, and repeat.
  4. Make this exercise harder by extending your shoulders and pushing your body back toward the rings.

Beginner Ring Workout

While you could just do a few ring exercises and call it a day, you’ll get better results if you follow a more logical approach to ring training. This workout is designed for beginners and ideal for anyone new to ring training.

But, before you begin, make sure you spend a few minutes warming up to prepare your muscles and joints for what you’re about to do. Start with 5-10 minutes of easy cardio, e.g., jumping rope, followed by mobility and flexibility exercises for your major joints.

Do this workout 2-3 times a week on non-consecutive days. Focus more on movement quality than how many reps you can do. Your rep count should increase naturally as you get better at each exercise.

Follow this workout for four weeks, increasing the number of sets as shown below.

#Exercise RepsRest
1Ring dip hold10-20 seconds60-90 seconds
2Ring row8-1560-90 seconds
3Ring Bulgarian split squat8-15 per leg60-90 seconds
4Ring push-up8-1560-90 seconds
5Ring leg curl8-1560-90 seconds
6Ring rollouts8-1560-90 seconds
  • Week one – one set
  • Week two – two sets
  • Week three – three sets
  • Week five – four sets
  • Week six – one set, but increase the reps or choose a more challenging variation
  • Week seven – two sets, etc.

Gymnastic Rings – Wrapping Up

Whether you train at home and don’t have the space for weights, a bench, and a squat rack, or want to make your calisthenic workouts more varied and challenging, gymnastic rings are for you.

Cheap, versatile, and portable, you can use rings anywhere you can find a place to hang them. Pack them in your backpack, hop on your bike or into your car, and head to a nearby park for a full-body workout in the sunshine and fresh air.

Not convinced that gymnastic rings are good for building muscle? Just check out the upper body development of elite male gymnasts, many of which have physiques that would shame a bodybuilder.

You can buy a set of gymnastic rings for less than a tub of protein powder. In terms of cost vs. rewards, rings are hard to beat!

Orginally appeared on Fitness Volt
Source : Fitness Volt