If you are anything like us, you have been captivated by the Olympic games and in particular the Gymnastic competition. These athletes are the equivalent of a BMW M3 as they pack amazing power into tiny frames. The result is (generally speaking) a breathtaking display of speed and power, but what always leaves me speechless is their incredible upper body strength. Events like the uneven bars for women and the high bar or rings for men are evidence of the incredible strength and control that the sport requires in the shoulders, arms and chests among other major muscle groups.

My next thought (because I am a stupid male) is always “How do I get like that?” and visions of me effortlessly hoisting myself into an iron cross before dismounting into a back twisting double float through my mind. Once reality sets in and a little bit of research is done, what I have found is that gymnastics rings are a great way to build strength, stability and stamina in not just the upper body, but through the core muscles as well.

You may have seen Crossfit athletes busting out kipping muscle-ups or ring dips using gymnastic rings, but that is really just scratching the surface of what you can do with rings. But first, let’s talk about the equipment and where to hang them.

One Ring to Rule Them

A quick google search will reveal that there are (primarily) 3 different kinds of gymnastic rings in the market: plastic, metal and wood.

With plastic, what you are going to get is a lightweight ring, that is generally textured and fairly durable. The only downside with plastic, I have found is that it generally does not hold chalk well until you apply tape which defeats the purpose of getting a lightweight ring.

Metal rings are made from a coated steel and known for being incredibly durable and holding chalk well. If you aren’t moving the rings often, you may want to consider these.

My favorite of the three is the wooden gymnastic rings as they are lightweight and hold chalk really well. They are portable enough, durable enough and have an easy grip for all levels of ring training.

You will want to find a place to hang them that you feel 100% confident in. One scenario is that you take the time to hang your rings and you get into the middle of a workout, only to realize that you don’t feel very confident about the placement or worse, you fall on your head executing a skin the cat. It’s important the rings be level, secure and with sufficient height and width to allow room for a variation of movements.

An ideal space would be 9-12 feet in height with a circumference of approximately 4-6 feet. Start by hanging the rings approximately 2-3 feet off the ground and shoulder width apart from one another. Then, proceed to test the strength of any hanging location by executing exercises like ring rows, incline push-ups or even using the rings as a support for squats. Look for any instability or risk in the hanging location or unevenness in the ring supports, but also, treat this as a great warm-up before the warm-up.

Getting Warm

While there is certainly a variety of exercises that you can do on the rings, it’s very important to ready your shoulders for the distinct challenges that ring work presents. I recommend that you start with as 5-10 min. full body warm up which could include rowing, running or biking. Rowing will target the arms, chest, shoulders and back more than the others, so that is my cardio warm-up of choice. Next, do two sets of the following, with 1:00 of rest in between each set:

1 min of planks on forearms

10 reps of standing Y pulls - while standing grab the rings, lean back slightly and bring your arms in front of you with your palms down. Bring your arms up and out in a “Y” position without bending your elbows then lower the rings to the starting position in front of you.

10 reps of standing T pulls - while standing grab the rings, lean back slightly and bring your arms in front of you with your palms down. Bring your arms straight back and out in a “T” position without bending your elbows then bring the rings to the starting position in front of you.

10 reps of standing A pulls - while standing grab the rings, lean back slightly and bring your arms in front of you with your palms up. Bring your arms down and out in an “A” position without bending your elbows then raise the rings to the starting position in front of you.

5 ring push-ups

5 ring rows

A Basic Workout

We recommend starting with this workout and mixing it into your rotation twice a week, for at least 3 weeks before attempting any other serious ring workouts. Form is king here, you can get your heart rate spiking with some running intervals or cardio after but this is all about strength and range of motion.

Start with the rings at about 1 foot off the ground

10 x Ring Push-Up - Can elevate feet on a chair or box to make it more difficult

10 x Standing Tricep Extension - Slide feet further back or forward to change difficulty

10 x Standing Bicep Curls - Slide feet further back or forward to change difficulty

Repeat 2 more times for a total of 3 sets

Next, raise the rings at about 4-5 feet off the ground.

8 x Dips - Keep shoulders behind the rings, elbows go back

10 x Inverse Ring Row - Slide feet further back or forward to change difficulty

:10 Top Position Hold - Lock arms straight out and turn palms away from your body

Repeat 2 more times for a total of 3 sets

Next, raise the rings at about 6-7 feet off the ground.

10 x Hanging Leg Raises - Palms facing out, lean back and engage the core as you bring straight legs to

8 x Pull-Ups - Palms can be facing out or can rotate in to face each other as you pull up

Repeat 2 more times for a total of 3 sets

This routine should take you anywhere between 35-45 minutes depending on rest. You shouldn’t need much rest given how long it will take to adjust the rings between sets. I recommend having access to a chair, stepladder or box so that you adjust the rings quickly and safely. Again, always test tension before getting into each set so that you don’t end up falling on your face.

Give it a shot and let us know what you think. As I mentioned, this certainly isn’t for everyone but if you are looking to make the 2020 team, you best get to training now!

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