Ring Pull-up / Chin-up

Learn about the benefits of the fundamental pull-up exercise on gymnastic rings and develop a phenomenally strong and defined back.

Primary Muscle Back
Secondary Muscle(s) Biceps
Difficulty Intermediate
Also known as Ring pull-up, Ring chin-up
Equipment Rings
Optional Weighted Vest, Ankle Weights

How to do Ring Pull-ups

  1. Adjust the height of the gym rings so that your feet will not touch the ground between repetitions.
  2. Stand under the rings and grip with either an overhand (for the pull-up), or underhand (for the chin-up) hand position. The free movement of the rings means that your grip does not have to be strictly one position or the other, and it may change throughout the exercise.
  3. Keep your arms straight and simply dead hang from the rings, keeping your body vertical.
  4. Pull your chest up toward the gymnastic rings by bending your arms. Keep the movement smooth, slow and controlled and try not to jerk any muscles as you pull-up.
  5. Pause for a moment at the top of the exercise before you start slowly lowering yourself back down.
  6. Once you are lowered back to the hanging position, pause, and repeat the exercise.


  • Throughout the exercise keep your torso straight, legs together, and shoulders relaxed. 
  • Minimise any rocking or swaying movements.
  • Practice the false grip pull-up to strengthen your wrists and prepare for the muscle-up.

Ring Pull-ups Guide

The standard, static pull-up is an incredibly effective bodyweight exercise and the ring pull-up even more so. It's one of the best exercises to build upper-body strength and muscular definition, and is a fundamental human movement. 

Many people buy fitness rings primarily for pull-ups, which have many benefits over using a standard static pull-up bar. Whilst a bar or pull-up station will lock your hands in place and limit shoulder mobility, using gymnastic rings for pull-ups will exploit the free movement of the rings and makes the motion more natural and kinder on the joints.

Many people find that they can achieve more repetitions using rings for pull-ups rather than a fixed bar. Some people who have previously injured their shoulders and find it difficult to do standard pull-ups find that they can use rings to do the exercise.

During a ring pull-up you will usually find that the rings rotate and your hand position can change from more of an overhand, pull-up style grip into a underhand chin-up position. Whatever feels most natural and enables you to safely complete full range repetitions is recommended, but hand position will call different muscles into play. When palms are facing you (the chin-up) it targets the biceps and lats more, whilst palms away from you (the pull-up) will focus more upon upper back muscles.

It's also worth noting that the rings distance apart will determine the difficulty and targeted muscle area also. The greater the distance between the rings, the wider the grip, which focuses effort on the lat muscles, whilst a narrower grip works the middle back.

Beginning Ring Pull-ups

The ring pull-up is not an easy exercise and many people can't do one full repetition. Here are some techniques to help develop the necessary strength.

Assisted pull-ups

One technique is assisted pull-up's - in which additional equipment is used to support a portion of your body weight and help make the exercise more achievable, yet still challenging. As you gain strength you can gradually work your way up to performing the exercise unaided, using full body weight.

This can be as simple as using a box, chair or bench for leg assisted pull-ups by placing the object underneath the rings and supporting one foot (or two for additional help) on the platform. As you lift yourself, straighten the supported leg for assistance, using as little assistance as possible.


Resistance band assisted pull-ups

Many people have had success using resistance bands to help achieve the same movement. Essentially, using heavy duty bands to help support part of your body weight during the pull-up exercise. These are available at fitness stores and come in various thickness' for varying levels of support.

Thread the bands through the rings so the loops hang at knee level. As you hang from the rings put your feet into the elastic loops and the bands will now work to support some of your weight as you do the pull-up. The thicker the bands used the easier the pull-up will be.

Negative pull-ups

Another option to work up to full ring pull-ups is to specifically train the negative (lowering) portion of the exercise. Stand on a bench (or jump into the exercise) to get to the top of the movement and simply lower yourself down as slow as possible to help build the muscles required for the full pull-up.

Body Row

Try practicing the Ring Body Row, an exercise which uses similar muscles to the pull-up but is much easier to do.

weighted pull-upAdvanced Ring Pull-ups

When you're performing 15+ pull-ups it's time to start considering advanced techniques. 

Weighted ring pull-ups

Adding more weight to bodyweight exercises can help you develop phenomenal strength but should only be attempted when proficient with the non-weighted versions. You should always start out adding small amounts of weight and increment as you get stronger. 

  • Weighted vest pull-ups
  • Dipping belt pull-ups
  • Dumbbel / medicine ball pulll-ups

Advancing to the Muscle-up

A natural progression from the ring pull-up is the muscle-up.

The muscle-up is an awesome upper-body exercise that begins as a pull-up exercise and ends with your body being above the rings.

See the full muscle up guide in the Fitstream exercise directory. 

Ring pull-up variations

  • Wide ring pull-ups / Narrow ring pull-ups: Adjusting the distance your hands are placed from one another changes the muscles targeted during the exercise. 
  • Muscle-up: Half pull-up, half dip, double the intensity. A great exercise to progress onto when you've mastered the standard pull-up. 
  • One-arm ring pull-ups: For the seriously strong, single-arm pull-up training! This is a feat that few ever acheive.


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