Skin the Cat

A good upper body stretching exercise, especially for achieving full range of motion in the shoulder. The skin the cat exercise is a fundamental movement performed on gymnastics rings.

Primary Muscle Shoulders
Secondary Muscle(s) Back, Chest, Abdominals
Difficulty Intermediate
Optional Rings, Pull-up Bar

How to do the Skin the Cat exercise

  1. Grip the gym rings and begin in a dead hang position, with hands turned out.
  2. Keep the arms and legs straight. Point the toes and raise the legs up, continuing the movement until the feet pass up through the arms and over head into the pike inverted hang position.
  3. Continue to pass the feet round and down toward the ground (although not touching) into the extended 'skin the cat' position. The arms should be fully extended.
  4. Lift your hips and raise the legs back and over to the starting hang position.


  • Keep the body tight with muscles engaged at all times.
  • Allow the rings to turn freely throughout the movement so the joints track naturally. 

Skin the Cat guide

The skin the cat exercise is a foundation gymnastics movement and can be found as a progression exercise when training for the popular lever strength holds (see front lever and back lever). It's also an excellent warm-up exercise or can be used for conditioning repetitions as part of a bigger routine. 

The benefits of the skin the cat movement include -

  • Full range of motion in the shoulders (which should have carry over benefits with other exercises such as dips, pull-ups and chin-ups). 
  • Learning basic ring strength, control and coordination skills for more advanced exercises. 
  • Full upper body stretching. 

Why is it called 'skin the cat'? We have no idea. Answers on a postcard to 

Learning the Skin the Cat exercise

When just starting out with the exercise you may need to perform the leg raise in a tuck position, rather than with straight legs until you build up the required strength. 

Practice the exercise with the gym rings low enough so that you can touch the floor when in the hanging skin the cat position. This will help you get a feel for the exercise and safely gauge the range of motion. Once comfortable with the movement simply raise the rings and lower into, and pull out of the hang unassisted. 

Skin the Cat Related exercises 


Always consult your GP before undertaking any form of weight loss, fitness or exercise.