What is ring training?
Gymnastic ring training for fitness is an excellent form of bodyweight strength training. It's an incredibly diverse, challenging and fun way to workout, and builds impressive strength and defined upper-body.
In this context, ring training is any form of exercise with gymnastics rings similar to those used by professional gymnasts, but purely with the intention of building strength, flexibility and overall fitness rather than for true gymnastics and dismounts.
The benefits of ring training:
Why should you be ring training?
- Functional training that builds superior upper body strength, balance and agility
- Promotes development of a lean, defined physique like a gymnast
- Develops high strength to size ratio
- Highly effective abdominal workout and excellent core workout
- Portable training method - all you need is rings and somewhere to hang them! See our ring setup guide.
- Scalable training with exercises suitable for beginners and experts
- Fun and novel training method and a good plateau buster
- Natural, compound movements that are kind on the joints with no fixed path of motion
- Develops grip strength that has good carryover benefits to general pressing strength exercises.
The strength and physical discipline required to perform some of the most basic of ring exercises is immense. You might be able to perform pull-ups and dips on a fixed station but using gymnastics rings adds an element of instability which brings a different dimension to your training and pushes you that little bit further.
Ring training promotes the development of a defined and athletic physique. Unnecessary bulk is counterproductive and training with rings creates a lean frame, forges a solid core and creates an efficient strength to size ratio. You only have to look at a typical gymnast to see the effects.
These gymnasts perform superhuman feats of strength on the rings and have the Olympic bodies to show for it, but the same principles they train with can be applied to those training for fitness. Those people wanting to build strength, endurance, lasting muscle mass and have fun doing it.
Ring training is a great addition to any exercise routine. It won't develop an overly muscular frame, but a solid, well-rounded and defined physique. A functional body that not only looks athletic but is able to perform.
The rings achieve this by using an integrated approach to exercise, focusing on moves that work the muscles and joints together instead of in isolation.
Why is ring training so effective?
Gymnastics rings require you to manipulate your entire body weight through space, which is incredibly difficult to anyone that's overly familiar with our modern sedentary lifestyle. However, elite fitness and a strong, athletic body can't be built without physical challenge, effort, intensity and consistency. Despite clever marketing companies telling us otherwise.
There are no two ways about it - gymnastics rings will punish you. There's nowhere to hide. There are no cheats. You're suspended above ground, supported only by your arms, and for you to move it's going to take the coordinated effort and combined strength of MANY of muscles.
The independent movement of the rings is one factor that makes ring training so difficult. As gymnastics rings are free to rotate, move side-to-side or up-and-down at any time, you're forced to stabilise your body, bringing multiple supporting muscles into play and working muscles in unison rather than isolation. Fighting the free movement of the rings and correcting the imbalance is incredibly taxing and effective.
Contrast this with fixed apparatus like pull-up bars or dipping stations and you'll notice the same exercises are worlds apart in difficulty.
Safe and natural movement
This "independent movement" factor of gymnastics rings also means that you're free to perform exercises in the most natural position to you, with no fixed path of motion (imposed by most machines) or static grips.
This means that ring exercises are more comfortable and safer for your joints, and you will commonly find that you can perform an extra few repetitions where you would otherwise have reached failure.
The value of proper biomechanics should not be underestimated when working out and your joints will thank you for it later on.
What exercises can you perform on the rings?
Buying a set of gymnastics rings opens up a whole world of new exercises to you. Rings offer the element of instability to the staple exercises that everyone is familiar with like pull-ups, dips, and push-ups but also allow you to try moves like the notorious muscle-up (a pull-up/transition / dip combo exercise that requires dedicated training to achieve).
Ring training beginners should try starting off with the ring support position (essentially holding your body weight in a static position supported above the rings) and only then move on to trying more advanced exercises.
Some of the ring exercises look deceivingly easy until you're up there!
Below you will find some example ring exercise illustrations and can find the entire Fitstream collection with instructions, images and videos in the Fitstream exercise directory.
Exercise: Ring pull-up
Muscle worked: Primarily the lats, but also works the biceps and middle back.
Exercise: Ring dips
Muscle worked: Primarily targets the triceps but also works the chest muscles.
Resistance bands can be used to help develop the required strength for more advanced ring training exercises. See band assisted front lever for an example below:
See all ring training exercises.
What do you need for ring training?
All you really need is a set of gymnastic rings and somewhere to hang them.
If your rings are designed for fitness rather than gymnastics you'll be able to fix the height-adjustable straps in seconds to any overhead structure such as beams or rafters in your garage, via an eye-bolt in your home gym or for those that like to train outside - trees or climbing frames in the local park.
Your workouts can go where you do.
The rings, a breakdown:
Gymnastics rings designed for fitness are usually made from plastic or metal rings, straps that are thread around an anchor point, and a buckle to keep the rings suspended in place and allow for height adjustment.
Unlike professional gymnastics rings, fitness rings are not usually designed for swinging or dismount exercises but intended for bodyweight exercises and the incredibly physically taxing process of manipulating your body from one position to another whilst being suspended above ground.
If you're looking to buy gymnastics rings for fitness visit the Fitstream Store for a list of available rings to buy online with images, user reviews and recommendations.