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All ring training regardless of level stems out from four “core” movements or exercises. They are (ranked from easiest to hardest):
As I mentioned in the first installment, all of these exercises should be familiar to you if you have practiced any type of bodyweight program or calisthenics before purchasing your rings. Most beginners should be able to do at least some push-ups and rows, even if they’ve never used rings before.
Pull-ups, and most especially dips can take some time and practice, but that’s why I’m here to help you!
Don’t Skip The Support!
THE most critical mistake I made when starting with rings was to jump right in on these exercises (especially dips) without practicing The Support.
The Support is the basic set up of holding yourself up on the rings i.e. it is the top position of a dip (arms extended – elbows locked out). The Support is CRUCIAL to progressing on any and all calisthenic movements you might hope to perform with rings.
In the introduction, I talked about how your CNS (central nervous system) pathways will initially be clogged and your muscles won’t know how to handle the amount of freedom that the rings provide them. Practicing The Support is THE best way to clear the CNS pathways and allow your true strength to shine through on the rings.
By now you might be thinking, like I was, “But I’m big and strong, I don’t need that, I have enough strength to outmuscle the rings.”
I don’t care how strong you are, or think you are – everyone starting out with rings (even body builders who have muscles on top of muscles) will struggle to balance themselves on gymnastics rings.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practicing The Support is how you can beat this phenomenon. And it’s so incredibly easy to practice. All you have to do is hold yourself up on the rings with completely straight arms.
Make sure when practicing The Support that you set the rings wide enough apart so that your elbows and forearms are unable to rest or brace themselves against the ring straps. This is basically cheating and defeats the purpose of The Support.
Don’t Cheat Your Own Progress
If you’re resting your arms against the straps, the friction is stabilizing the rings instead of your muscles…but the whole idea is to train your muscles right? When first starting out, you might not be able to hold yourself up for a very long time (maybe just a handful of seconds), but you’ll still get A LOT stronger A LOT faster than you would by using the straps for support.
The best way to picture the perfect Support is to think about maintaining a picture-perfect posture. Your chest should be out, shoulders back, head up. Think of yourself as one of the Queen’s Guards, but only on rings.
So before you do anything else with your rings, practice The Support. It’s the quickest, most surefire way for you to get the most out of your purchase.
Learn From Me
I didn’t do this, and I regret it IMMENSELY. I insisted on struggling with ring dips and muscle up progressions, making little to no progress before I scrapped my plans and went back to the basics, wasting months of hard work in the process.
Don’t make the same mistake I did, practice The Support before you do anything else on your rings!