Over the next few weeks, we will be posting The (Free) Complete Guide to Gymnastics Ring Training, starting with the introduction below!
In the series, I will detail the exercises you should do to steadily improve your bodyweight Calisthenic skills using your rings. As you read, you’ll get to discover all of my insider tricks and tips to help you progress as fast as possible, FOR FREE!
So let’s get started.
The very first thing I recommend to anyone new to bodyweight calisthenics is to find a good pair of gymnastics rings. To my dismay, this suggestion is often met with hesitation.
For some reason, gymnastics rings are a lot more intimidating than they need to be. The misconception is that you have to be at an Olympic skill level to make use of them.
They’ve been used to Build Strength For Centuries!
Gymnastics Rings and calisthenics have proven over nearly two hundred years that they can be used as a stand-alone method to gain unparalleled amounts of strength AND balance.
In the first gymnasiums of the 20th century, gymnastics rings were a staple everywhere. For some inexplicable reason, they slowly lost their popularity. Recently, they’ve been rediscovered as a top way to increase both strength and balance for all athletes.
With rings, you can train every single major muscle group in your body without having to pick up a single weight. But the best benefit is, that as long as you have a sturdy place to which to attach the rings, you will never have to leave the comforts of your own home or local park, AGAIN!
No more ridiculous gym membership fees. No more waiting for equipment at the gym. Your workouts on your own time, where you want them to be. It can’t get any better than that.
Best Travel Workout Known To Man
I travel A LOT. Before I became obsessed with bodyweight calisthenics, training on the road was an exercise in futility. Never knowing what equipment the hotel gym had (if any) made it hard for my Type A personality to feel like I was accomplishing anything with my training.
So discovering rings was like a revelation. Now, when I travel, I don’t have to book hotels based on their gym. I have my gym packed with me!
EVERYONE Should Train With Rings
Like I said earlier, you can get a full-body workout using just rings alone, no matter what your skill level is. The most magnificent attribute of rings is that EVERYONE can use them. ALL of the “complex” exercises done on rings start out with basic calisthenic movements that make them approachable as a starting point in your training and to build your strength and skill up over time.
Exercises like push-ups, bodyweight rows, and pull-ups, or even modified pull-ups, are greatly enhanced by using gymnastics rings even by beginners.
Rings Help To Avoid Nagging Injuries
The reason that even the most basic exercises are enhanced so much is the freedom of movement that rings give you as well as the benefits that this provides to not only your muscles, but to your CNS (central nervous system).
Through my years of training with and without weights, I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve triggered or instigated nagging wrist, shoulder, or elbow injuries by doing simple calisthenic moments like push-ups, pull-ups or dips.
The problem is that when performing these exercises, your arms are basically locked into one plane of motion – i.e. there isn’t much freedom for your joints to move.
This means that if you are interested in bodyweight training (I hope so if you’re reading this!) doing the required practice to build up your skills can lead to overuse injuries in your wrists, shoulders, and/or your elbows.
This is why gymnastics rings are a godsend.
They eliminate nearly all of this risk because they allow your body to move in all three planes of motion, which take A LOT of pressure off of your joints
Boost Your Balance
A bonus benefit of this extra movement is that it also trains your CNS to be in sync with your body. Not only are you training your muscles to be stronger, you’re developing your sense of balance.
This is why gymnasts can easily pick up other activities like surfing, skateboarding, etc. or generally any sport faster than most other kinds of athletes.
This improvement in your CNS system is demonstrated the first time a beginner tries to simply balance themselves, without moving, on rings. You will notice their body (arms & torso) shaking quite a bit. This is because their muscles are not used to being free to move in any direction with only the slightest force causing that movement. Their muscles might be very strong indeed, but the neural pathways to their brain are clogged with noise that manifests itself by shaking.
Over time the shaking goes away as those neural pathways are cleared. Your CNS is now strong enough to exhibit pure strength on the rings.
The problem, however, is that people don’t know how to make them progressively more challenging over time.
A smart training program will get you relatively proficient at basic push-ups on the floor quite quickly, and once someone is capable of performing 30+ reps in a row, they tend to start favoring other movements like the bench press as their primary upper body horizontal pushing exercise for lower rep strength work.
Then again, some trainees set their sights on hitting a round number like 50 or 100 push-ups as a short-term goal but even then, the focus is on improving muscular endurance via higher reps as opposed to working and making gains in the traditional strength and hypertrophy rep ranges (5-12 reps or so per set).
Thus, push-ups are often labeled a “beginner exercise”, and drastically overlooked as a strength building exercise by many gym-goers.
So how does one go about making push-ups challenging for even the more advanced trainee?
Enter Gymnastic Rings
Gymnastic rings are one of the cheapest and most versatile training tools money can buy, and an excellent addition in your workouts for enhancing upper body strength and size once regular push-ups on the floor become a walk in the park.
Due to the added instability factor, the rings require significantly more stabilizer strength than when hands are kept firmly on the ground. Consequently, you’ll feel push-ups on rings much more in your abs and experience some amazing chest pumps.
A few key pointers for all of the following ring push-up variations:
– squeeze your glutes and brace the abs
– try to maintain full body tension
– don’t allow sagging of the hips
– own the eccentric part of the movement by lowering under control
Variation #1 – Weighted Ring Push-Up
This is your standard ring push-up with added resistance. Wear a weight vest or add weight plates on your back.
You’ll notice that as long as you have a capable spotter helping out once the poundages start climbing into heavy territory, you’ll be able to externally load ring push-ups for quite some time.
I would consider two 20 kg (45 lbs) plates a decent feat for a male in this exercise – provided that full range of motion is being used and the lower back stays flat throughout the movement. Three or four plates (60-80 kg) of added weight would already be “strong” in my eyes.
Variation #2 – Wide Ring Push-Up
As you’re descending into the wide push-up, turn your palms so that they’re facing your feet and spread the rings out to your sides.
Variation #3 – Ring Flye
While technically not a push-up, the ring flye nevertheless provides for an excellent variation as you inch towards more and more demanding ring push-up progressions.
As with the wide push-up, keep pushing the rings out and away from you but this time keep the palms facing each other. The straighter the arms, the more difficult this movement becomes.
Variation #4 – Ring Archer Push-Up
Here you’ll straighten one arm as you’re descending while keeping the other arm firmly tucked in close by your side, resembling an archer aiming and ready to fire an arrow at his target in the bottom position.
As you’re coming back up, think of simultaneously pushing with the arm closer to you and pulling with the straight arm to return back to the starting position.
Notice that as I’m going down, I shift my body away from the arm I’m straightening, which is an easier variation of the ring archer push-up. You can make this movement even harder by keeping your body completely still from the chest down throughout the exercise.
Variation #5 – Ring Modified Planche Push-Up
As you’re lowering into the push-up, start turning your hands so that your palms end up facing your face slightly before hitting rock bottom, then maintain hand position until you’ve gone all the way down.
Reverse the motion when coming back up into starting position.
Variation #6 – RTO Push-Up
These are A LOT HARDER than they look.
It takes a great deal of strength to prevent the rings from turning back in in this position and you’ll be shaking like Robert Downey Jr. during heroin withdrawal while trying to maintain control of them in the middle of a rep when first giving these bad boys a go.
As you can see in the video, my right arm struggles slightly to keep the right ring from turning back in (rep #2 looked pretty good though).
Most people will not be able to do RTO push-ups in a smooth manner with their palms fully facing away from them at first. Start with the rings at 45 degrees and work your way forward from there, opening them further out as the weeks pass by and you begin getting the hang of these.
Give these 6 ring push-up variations a try and experience a marked increase in your upper body pushing strength.
Ready to take on the rings and experience a marked increase in upper body pushing strength? Then give these 6 ring push-up variations a try.
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below!
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