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Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned to the calisthenics lifestyle, learning the differences between using gymnastics rings vs bar would certainly be of interest to you. Note, first, that in this article, we’re going to give you some information from calisthenics websites, and as well as discuss insights from workout enthusiasts and online influencers for a more relatable, holistic view.
One thing is for sure: rings and bars are useful in their unique respective ways.
At the end of this article, we want you to get a better picture on why some people would prefer rings and others the straight bar, and we’ll give you our take on it as well.
Two relatively simple training implements, but actually really difficult to perfect.
The gymnastic rings don’t disappoint when it comes to building the strength, stability, and coordination simultaneously. It is a highly effective abdominal and core workout. But so is the straight bar which pushes you further into your fitness regimen.
Some noteworthy comparisons
How affordable is it?
The first comparison we’re going to make is how affordable the two are. It’s a deciding factor especially for beginners, and it might sound obvious but the straight bar goes for cheaper compared to the gymnastics rings.
The straight bar works out best for beginners on a budget, because the stability enables you to progress faster on simple workouts. The rings take longer to get used to but for those who have been doing it a long time, the way it can focus your workouts on specific body parts is certainly a plus.
How convenient is it?
We would say that the rings are worth the investment mainly because it’s portable and adjustable. On the other hand, the straight bar is rigid and adjustable.
Most of the time, rings require high ceilings for you to maximize your exercises such as the muscle up, because without a high ceiling room, it will serve the same purpose as a straight bar.
What are the specific exercises I can do?
The gymnastic rings vs bar argument might still be quite hazy at this point, but let’s talk about some advice from real people to give you a better perspective.
A Reddit bodyweight fitness submission question read, “Is there any point in using the bar or anything else other than rings once I get them? I mean, will ring dips/pushups/pullups always be better to do than the same on a bar or anything else?”
Some of the things we’ve gathered are that first, it was said that muscle ups are easier to do on the rings than the bar because, with rings, one can pull yourself straight through, versus having to go behind the bar. Levers and pull-ups are better on a bar because of the stability it provides.
Giving the bar the credit it deserves in this gymnastic rings vs bar issue, one contributor shared, “It’s fun to play around on bars sometimes. It’s also pretty fun to move a skill that you learned on rings to bars. Levers are so much easier on bars that you’ll be amazed at how much stronger you’ll feel.”
The contributor also added, “Swinging is also much more fun on bars. So while rings are definitely superior in pretty much every way, you can mix it up with bar stuff.”
Can it improve my body stability?
“Frictionless Plane Effect”
As Joshua Naterman shares it, “What the rings do is create a “frictionless plane” effect. This is because there is very little horizontal force acting on the rings to keep them in place, which means that your body has to stabilize the joint while also producing enough force to perform whatever movement you are performing.
That requires greater activation of all muscles involved, sometimes to a large degree, especially in the stabilization muscles surrounding the shoulder joint.
“Rings Are More Challenging”
The reason why many people feel that in gymnastic rings vs bar, the rings are more challenging because it takes more effort from your body’s stabilizers to make you perform the exercise. The bar, being as stable as it is, allows your body to focus all its energy and stabilizers into doing the exercise. Less of a toll on your body means making the exercise feel more attainable.
Given all that’s been said, we would recommend you invest in buying RINGS. You heard it right!
Your workouts can have increased intensity due to the activation of multiple muscles simultaneously. The fact that it’s adjustable and flexible can target specific areas of your body for more advanced workouts, which we feel is its best advantage. Lastly, rings provide for more natural movement and help avoid straining certain muscles.
We wrote down some very useful tips on buying rings from Bass of SPS Gear and summarized it for you. The three things you need to look at are thewebbing, buckle system, and the rings itself.
What you want is that there is zero stretch in the straps, such that when suspended, doesn’t add to the instability that your body will have to compensate for.
The buckle system should be easy to use and can specifically be adjusted quickly. If you want to reap all the benefits of the portability of the rings, it’s best that they feature quick and easy adjustment, because no one wants the hassle before a workout. The rings featured from SPS gear even have line guides to make sure your adjustments would be at perfectly equal height for both rings.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE RING
You want to thoroughly inspect the construction of the ring. How smooth or how rough and its overall quality to see if it’ll work for you and if it’ll last. Plastic usually gives nylon burns so timber is more recommended. Some people prefer to work with smoother rings and some rougher, so it’s important to get used to what works best for you.
We hope we’ve given you enough to help you pick a side in this gymnastic rings vs bar decision. Remember, there are multitudes of resources for more in-depth information, and Calisthenics Academy provides a free assessment to get you on board!
Best of luck and let us know how it works out for you!
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A couple of years ago, when I quit lifting weights and began focusing on bodyweight exercises, muscle ups were a huge goal for me to strive for.
Follow Johan’s journey on his Instagram for inspiration and calisthenics tips at johan.cali
To me muscle ups are one of a true exercises that define bodyweight excellence. A muscle up is an impressive display of strength, coordination and explosiveness that even very fit people may have a hard time accomplishing with practice. It’s an exercise engages the whole upper body in a way few other exercises does.
While completing the first muscle up is a feat in its own right, I don’t think bodyweight athletes should stop there. You’ll likely hit your first muscle up kipping style, by swinging and kicking to get your weight above the bar. Next most athletes move to a kipping muscle up on rings (if available), followed by strict bar muscle ups (no swinging) and finally, the strict ring muscle ups.
There is some variation in reported difficulty by athletes, for me personally I found the strict bar muscle ups the hardest, due to the effort needed to get around over the bar. Other athletes find the strict ring muscle up the hardest because of the necessary stabilisation one must achieve in addition to getting up and over.
Today we’re going to cover these 4 variations in detail. If you’re already doing basic muscle ups, or even a little further along, this article will help you hit a true muscle up without assistance (no kipping)
Each of these forms of muscle ups has its own difficulties to deal with and their own benefits and I really recommend exploring each one of them.
The muscle up is a three part dynamic movement that consists of a pull up, followed by a transition phase where the shoulders need to travel from under the bar to above the bar, and is finished of with a straight bar-dip. The main problem many face when trying out the muscle up is the transition phase; there seems to be no way the shoulders and upper body can move from the upper pull up-position to the lower part of a straight bar-dip. There are a two ways to accomplish just that; by momentum or by sheer strength.
To false grip or not?
The false grip is a kind of hand placement on the bar or rings where you hook your hand over the bar or ring. The ring or bar will rest in the area between your wrist and palm instead of in your palm. This will result in your hands already being where they need to be after the transition phase (in order to begin your straight bar dip at the top).
With an ordinary pull up grip your hands need to rotate at the same time your upper body shifts forward to get in position for the push. This may be fine when a muscle up is done relying on momentum, but it makes it almost impossible to complete a slow muscle up.
I would recommend doing pull ups with a false grip, both on bar and rings, from the start to condition yourself to a strong false grip. It will pay off in the long run.
1) The Kipping Bar Muscle Up
This variation may be considered the easiest but it still requires some decent strict pull-up strength, a few chest-to-bar or sternum-to-bar pull ups and a decent efficiency in straight bar-dips. By kicking the legs during the pull you can create enough momentum to drive you through the transition point to get your shoulders above the bar. In the beginning it can be helpful to let the body swing slightly in the lower pull up-position and time the pull when your body is swinging towards your back, and thus helping with the momentum created by the swing.
One thing to note is that you should do the pulling movement and pull the bar down in front of you slightly, instead of pulling straight down. This will make it possible to curve your body around the bar in an S-shape (shown in the video below).
If I time the pull with my body swinging back and make a strong kick with straight legs I will have strong movement to go up and over the bar. When the bar is in line with my lower chest, I do a fast lean forward with my upper body, elbows back and find myself in the lower position of a straight bar-dip. One should strive for reducing the kipping movements over time as you get more proficient with the movement.
2) The Kipping Ring Muscle Up
This variation is a little harder to accomplish since the rings are not a stable object like the bar, but moving ones. What makes this form somewhat easy is that you don’t need to bend yourself around the rings, you will shoot straight up through the rings instead. A false grip may not be required for this one but you may as well begin using it to strengthen your false grip.
I would recommend having some experience with ring-pull ups and deep ring-dips before trying this one out. I’m a big fan of weighted pull ups and they will serve you well here as well as in the previous muscle up form on bars. If you have problems doing ring-dips because of shoulder pain or something similar you may want to skip this one, because this movement puts the shoulders in a deep stretch-position.
The theory is the same as kipping bar-muscle up; by kicking with your legs you create momentum to propel you up. I begin with securing a strong false grip and enter the low pull up-position. I tend to bend my body slightly backwards and begin an explosive pulling-movement and at the same time kicking with both legs extended. When the rings are at the level of my chest I do another fast lean forward, bring my elbows back so they are tight to my sides and I end up in the lower part of a ring-dip. Then it’s simply a matter of completing the dip.
As with kipping bar muscle up I recommend reducing the kipping-movement over time so you rely more on the strength aspect of the pull.
3) The Strict Bar Muscle Up
This is where things get difficult (and fun). No more crossfit muscle ups!
It takes some time to work up to enough strength to complete the transition over with no momentum involved. For me negative reps worked wonders; to begin in the top position of the dip and then as slowly as possible lower myself through the transition and work those negatives as reps. Another exercise I used to condition myself was heavy weighted pull ups and dips. For pull-ups I worked sets reps with around 50% of my bodyweight added in weights. In time the strength required to complete the strict ring-muscle up will come. Explosive chest-to-bar pull-ups with added weight was also included in my prep-workouts.
The sticking points that made this move possible, except the necessary strength, was a really strong false grip and a more narrow grip than your regular pull up grip; around in the middle of your collarbones. With time you’ll be able to move your arms wider and wider. You need to curve yourself around the bar and what I found helpful was to pull myself up in an L-sit position. In any case you need to have some part of your legs in front of the bar to act as a counterweight.
I prepare the move by securing a tight false grip and put myself in the start position of an L-sit pull up. I pull myself slightly bent backwards and when the bar is cleared I roll the shoulders forward and the elbows back and then begin the dip push.
4) The Strict Ring Muscle Up
The big Kahuna. THE Muscle Up.
One of the most important factors with this variation is the false grip and an understanding of how to use your bodyweight to aid you instead of hinder you. I find it very helpful to keep the movement very tight; hands and rings close together and the rings close to your body during the pull. As with many other bodyweight exercises tense your whole body to create a solid foundation.
For training to this level something that worked well was the use of resistance bands. I fastened a resistance band between the rings, and sat on the band in a L-sit position and then worked the transition from pull to lower dip position.
I start with the false grip and lower myself to the lower pull up position. I find it easier to enter a sort of L-sit position during the pull because that creates a natural movement when it’s time to shift the body weight forward. I do the false grip pull up slightly bent backwards and when the hands is about shoulder level or slightly lower it’s time to move the shoulders forward.
You’ll find it helpful to imagine that your thumbs are following the lower part of the pecs when you bring your elbows towards your back. Shoulders shifts forward, leg drops and elbows are moving towards the back. The false grip helps enormously here since it will automatically will bring your hands to the right place. Then it’s time for the push.
BOOM. You just did your first true muscle up.
No matter where you are on the muscle up progression you can develop different strength and physical expertise from each of these 4 variations. Figure out where you are and get started today!
Let us know in comments what are your favourite muscle up variations!
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.
First off, if you’re new to gymnastic rings, start with my previous article that covers gymnastic grips.It’s necessary to learn how to walk before you run. There are several reason why using gymnastic rings are better than more common forms of exercise, like weight lifting and cardio. For starters, rings require an adjustment in how your muscles communicate with your brain.
Unlike weights, rings are less stable, and require a lot of mental focus to properly manage. On my first time up on the rings it looked like someone was shocking me with an invisible taser. My muscles were twitching, my whole body was shaking uncontrollably, and I had a particularly goofy expression on my face. The slightest shift in balance can cause the rings to move, therefore, significant core strength is necessary for all exercises. [tweet_box design=”box_11″]After a few session on the rings, you’ll increase your mental focus, core strength and coordination.[/tweet_box]
Here are a few simple exercises to get you started:
1. Reverse Row
Use a neutral grip and hold yourself below the rings as you walk your feet forward, almost like a reverse plank position. Keep your legs straight, pull torso as far as you can forward , then slowly come down.
5-7 reps per set
Start with a neutral grip below the rings. Keep your shoulders down and your chest up. Pull yourself straight up and come down slowly. No kipping! This isn’t Crossfit. There are many grip variations so I would recommend starting with neutral grip (easiest), then trying outward facing grip (intermediate), eventually moving towards inward facing grip (difficult).
3-6 reps per set
[tweet_box design=”box_11″]Use a false grip and push yourself above the rings. Keep your arms straight and by your sides.[/tweet_box] Roll your shoulders back, don’t shrug, and hold.
10 seconds per set
Get yourself into the Top position but this time you should be in the above-the-rings grip. Keep your shoulders down and don’t let your shoulders drop past rings as you go down. As you push up to full arm extension, turn your wrists out.
3-5 reps per set
Tuck L-Sits (Intermediate)
Once you feel confident with the Top Position, you can move onto the Tuck and L-sit. From the Top Position, bring your knees to your stomach and be sure not to round your back. If you’re feeling wild, straighten your leg forward so that they’re parallel to the ground.
10 seconds per set
If you’ve mastered all the above movements and are convinced you’re God of the Rings, (Sounds like a sequel to The Hobbit), the Muscle-up will be a much needed reality check. Start with a false grip while hanging from the rings, and pull yourself up with enough momentum to get your chest above the rings and hands in your armpits. Lean forward and push straight up, keeping your elbows by your side the whole time. Keep your posture upright and turn the rings out, just like in Top Position, then let yourself back down slowly into the false grip.
3-6 Reps per set
At first, repeat with as many sets as you feel comfortable with. Universal Rule of the Rings (again, sounds like a great sequel to The Hobbit): Your core and leg muscles need to be stable, meaning zero movement and momentum during each exercise. Not just for form but as an exercise itself. Keeping your lower body stable requires just as much muscle activation as the pushing and pulling of your upper body.
The underlying theme of gymnastic-ring training is patience. If you can only do one pull-up initially, thats okay. Next time go for two. Everyone has to start somewhere, those who succeed are patient with themselves.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m always looking to provide readers with the best advice possible. Your feedback in the comments below is a great way to continue the conversation.
According to Christopher Sommer, a well-known gymnastics coach, rings are the single greatest tool ever made for developing upper body strength. I include them in every training program I write for clients.
Even though they may look like a relatively simple training tool, I need to stress the fact that you shouldn’t underestimate the usefulness and difficulty of training with gymnastic rings.
Push-ups on the ground, dips on bars or L-sits on parallettes are no comparison to performing these exercises on rings.
In fact, they’re not even in the same ballpark.
A guy could easily be able to do 20 bodyweight dips on a dip station, yet not be able to perform a single good rep on rings. They’re that hard.
If you haven’t already experienced the great training stimulus that gymnastic rings can offer, here are 6 reasons why you should include them in your strength training program.
Reason #1 – Great Upper Body Strength & Size Gains
While professional gymnasts make advanced ring movements look like child’s play, they’re anything but.
The strength and body control they’ve built over the years is absolutely insane and utterly underappreciated. The general public has no point of reference for how hard controlling the rings really is.
Don’t believe me?
Set up on the rings in the “support position” – with your body straight from head to toe, elbows locked straight and shoulders externally rotated so that your thumbs are pointing to 11 and 1 o’clock. Now time yourself maintaining that position for as long as you can without letting the elbows bend or rings turn in.
Most people new to ring training can’t hold that stance for 10 seconds – even though it’s the most basic position out there and involves no movement!
Now think about the fact that pro level ring routines include several extremely high-skill movements while lasting up to a minute or slightly longer.
I hope you’re starting to really appreciate what these superb athletes are capable of.
When it comes to putting some quality muscle on your frame, the rings can also help.
Take a look at the upper-body development of a ring specialist like Yuri van Gelder (pictured below) or Chen Yibing. Apart from some light pump work with weights to keep the joints healthy, all they do is practice their gymnastics routines, and their upper-bodies are jacked.
So if anyone tells you that you can’t build great strength or an impressive physique from bodyweight training alone, they obviously don’t know what they’re talking about.
Reason #2 – Excellent Abdominal Development
If you’re after sick abdominal strength and aesthetics, advanced bodyweight movements on gymnastic rings will help more than any crunch or sit-up variation ever could.
When people ask me for the best abdominal exercises for “six-pack abs”, I tell them:
– ring push-up 60 kg for reps
– ring chin-up 20 kg for reps
– ring L-sit 10+ seconds
That definitely draws some blank stares.
But the fact remains that when you perform ring push-ups and chin-ups properly, your abs will get a lot stronger since they have to work much harder to stabilize the body as opposed to a push-up on the floor or a chin-up on a fixed bar.
L-sits are a fairly low-level ring skill that just about anyone should be able to achieve over time.
Doing those exercises (and their harder variations) will give your abs a whole new level of definition – as long as nutrition is on point.
When you reach (and exceed) the numbers I’ve listed above, your abs will be significantly stronger and visually more appealing than from all the hundreds of crunch variations you’ve been performing at the end of a workout.
Tired of doing hundreds of crunches? Try some L-sits on the rings!
Reason #3 – Safety
Another benefit of training with rings is that they allow for natural movement of the joints.
Some people experience shoulder pain when performing dips or chin-ups on straight bars even without any external load. Since the bar is fixed, you can’t move freely and that could lead to joint problems down the road.
With chin-ups on rings, for example, you can start with your palms facing away and finish with your palms facing you or you can keep a neutral gymnastic grip the entire time (learn about different types of gymnastics grips here). It’s up to you and can be dictated by what feels safest and most natural for your body.
Reason #4 – Strength Transference
Gymnastics coach Christopher Sommer has mentioned that typical weight training methods involving barbells and dumbbells are not conducive to excelling at gymnastic strength training, yet the opposite tends to be true – gymnastic strength training has great transference to most physical activities in the weight room.
As an example, I once hear him say that his young gymnasts can jerk 1.5x body weight without ever having touched a barbell strictly as a result of training for their sport.
In another interview, he stated:
“Gymnastics training does indeed build incredible strength. For example, I was not a particularly strong gymnast, yet I was able to do a double bodyweight deadlift and weighted chins with almost 50% extra bodyweight on my very first weight training attempts.
One of my student’s, JJ Gregory, far exceeded my own modest accomplishments. On his first day of high school weight lifting, JJ pulled a nearly triple bodyweight deadlift with 400 pounds at a bodyweight of 135 and about 5’3″ in height.
On another day, he also did an easy weighted chin-up with 75 pounds, and certainly looked as though he could’ve done quite a bit more. We’ll never know for sure because the cheap belt I was using at the time snapped.”
Probably wouldn’t struggle with a body weight bench press
Mastering your own body brings about huge proprioceptive and neural increases, which never hurt even if your goal is lifting big weights.
Reason #5 – Freedom
I don’t know about you but when I’m traveling, the last thing I want is having to look for a decent training facility to get a training session in.
That’s because most public gyms simply suck.
They’ve got dumbbells running only up to 30 kg, crappy pop songs playing in the background, more Smith machines than squat racks, and ban the use of chalk.
How does anyone serious about their training get strong in that environment?
That’s why I carry my rings with me whenever I go abroad.
With the rings, all you need is a bar to hang them somewhere and you’re set. You can do that in pretty much any public space that sports a straight bar the width of your shoulders – most parks and beaches tend to have at least one of those.
Had some great training sessions at the legendary Tompkins Square Park while visiting NYC
You’ll get some fresh air coupled with challenging bodyweight movements and exposure to some much-needed vitamin D under the scorching summer sun.
What could be better than that?
Reason #6 – Fun
Anyone I’ve ever introduced to ring training has deemed them a fun activity (after they’ve been utterly humbled by the unforeseen difficulty of a basic ring push-up or dip, that is).
You basically have an unlimited variety of movements for the upper body in your arsenal, and since people usually progress quickly in the beginning, it’s easy to understand why people get hooked on ring training.
When you enjoy doing a physical activity, you’ll be that much more likely to stick with it for the long haul – something that cannot be said for the typical, endless cardio workouts people engage in because the treadmill is where awesomeness goes to die.
Now you know why you can’t afford to skip training on the gymnastic rings any longer.
So what are you waiting for? Grab a pair of rings and get to work.
Let me know if I can help with your training, or if you have any questions in the comments section below!
If you enjoyed this article, please do a brother a favor by liking, commenting and sharing it with others who might like it as well.
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!