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Gymnastic Ring Workout Routines at Home

Updated on December 17, 2012
X Training Rings - Gymnastics Rings Cross Training Fitness Training
X Training Rings - Gymnastics Rings Cross Training Fitness Training

X-Fit Rings are a bargain at about $50+shipping. Advertised as the Crossfitters choice, they are tough rings with a textured grip and 2 ample 16' straps.

EXF Rings by Ring Training - Gymnastics Rings for Fitness Training, WODs, Garage Gyms
EXF Rings by Ring Training - Gymnastics Rings for Fitness Training, WODs, Garage Gyms

EXF rings may just be the best on the market; and was certainly the company's goal when they designed them. Sleek textured handles, fast set up and strap adjustment from 11 to 17.5' feet.

Elite Rings EXF Pro with Training DVD and Carrying Bag
Elite Rings EXF Pro with Training DVD and Carrying Bag

The highest rated gymnastic ring on the market. Made by the soon to be legendary equipment manufacturer Elite Fitness, these rings come with a training dvd, a carry-all bag and a multi-textured surface. Adjust to 17 feet.


Strength, Muscle or Power?

Do you know the difference between strength, muscle and power? The three words often get confused, but here are some simple definitions to clarify:

  • Muscle: To build muscle, most research points to using a moderately heavy weight or resistance to failure for 8-12 repetitions per set. As the trainee adapts, heavier weight and more sets are added, as well as intensity building training techniques.
  • Strength: Can you build muscle without getting stronger? Can you get strong and not build muscle? If you are training for strength, you will be working primarily with high percentage loads that limit each set to 2-5 repetitions. While muscle is built with this method, it is generally limited to the new trainees in the first few months of training. To answer the other question, theoretically you can build muscle and not get stronger, but you would have to get pretty creative; besides, why??
  • Power: This is explosiveness. Most athletes need it, but you do not have to train 'heavy' to get it. in fact the opposite may be true. Westside Barbell trains power in their professional lifters with training loads that are 50-60 percent of their maximum.

For best results in sports and life, train all three attributes, and don't forget the cardio for your heart!

Amazing development showcased during a swing.
Amazing development showcased during a swing. | Source
Handstand pushups are good...but beginners should keep it on the ground...
Handstand pushups are good...but beginners should keep it on the ground... | Source

Build Muscle and more with Gymnastics Rings

Gymnastic ring training is second only to suspension training in terms of location versatility, wide range of exercises (for a single piece of equipment,) and the effectiveness of those exercises. In terms of developing muscle, muscular endurance, isometric strength, balance and coordination, the rings have a huge advantage.

Gymnastics Rings can be set up in a garage, at a park, in a spare room or from an overhead beam. If you have a garage gym, the easiest set-up is two eye hooks screwed into the ceiling joists. Depending on your goals you may need a large space and substantial padding to practice swings and dismounts in.

For now, let's assume you are not trying to master the swing and its variations, but just want to be able to get on top of the rings and perform basic movements. Here are three moves to work towards mastering, along with their modifications and exercises to build up to them.

Becoming proficient at these demonstrates a high level of strength, power, balance and coordination. The work will probably have a positive effect on your physique as well.

Muscle Up:

Basically a combination pull-up to dip. This is the main movement gymnasts use to get up to a support position on the rings. While this exercise requires strength and power, timing and body control are equally important. Train the strength and power for this movement by doing pull-ups and dips.

Alternate the types of repetitions you do. Practice slower, controlled pulls and dips, and work up to explosive execution to build power. In addition, practice the motion of the muscle up with the rings in a low position. With your feet touching the ground, use a false grip and practice pulling up, transitioning and pushing up.

Press to Handstand:

This position is initiated from an L-sit. In a support position on the rings, the straightened legs are brought up to make the bottom of the 'L.' Push down hard throughout the movement to keep constant tension on the rings. Lift the legs up and back at the same time until your body is fully extended and balanced on the rings.

Work on developing the strength for this movement with floor presses/handstand push-ups (against a wall if necessary,) as well as various pressing exercises on the paralletes.

Shoot to Handstand:

This position requires enough space to execute a swing in, but is a natural progression from the 'press to handstand.' To execute the movement, a swing must be initiated, and the toes aimed for the top attachment. At the top of the movement the body is fully extended in a handstand on the rings.

As with the press to handstand, push hard on the rings throughout the movement to maintain tension. Again, train handstand pushups to develop the strength necessary to support the body in a handstand.

The average fitness enthusiast will find these skills are advanced if they have not practiced them before. Rings training engages supporting muscular structures unlike any other mode of exercise, and these muscles can not be built by any other method.

Practice plenty of bodyweight exercises such as pull-ups (under and overhand,) handstand or decline pushups, dips, hanging and floor leg raises and sit-ups, to name a few. Do these on the rings as much as possible, and your regular workout routine will soon seem empty without them.

Sample Workout

To develop the ability to do advanced gymnastic movements, overall upper body strength and power are a necessity. Try the following workout every other day to build up to harder moves:

(After warm-up:)

  • Ring Pushups: (Adjust straps so they are about 6-8 inches off the ground. Higher if this is too difficult.) Work up to as many as possible, if you can't do at least three good reps, raise the straps. Hold the bottom position for 5-10 seconds on each rep.
  • Ring Dips: These are difficult at first, so if you can't do a full dip, hold yourself in various positions for as long as you can. This exercise is important to the muscle-up and builds pectorals, triceps and to a lesser extent the anterior deltoids. Have the straps about waist level and lower until the elbows are bent to 90 degrees.
  • Ring Rows: Sure ring pull-ups are what you want to do, but if you are not strong enough yet do these to build up some upper back and arm strength. (Adjust straps low enough to lay horizontally under them, with room to lower your body and raise it all the way up, no touching the floor.) You should be able to knock out several repetitions, and when you can't pull yourself in one position, raise the straps and keep going.
  • Ring Rollouts: Developing a strong core is going to help you execute any hanging exercise, so start with these. Lower the rings to waist level and lean forward, extending your arms, as far as you can go. Eventually you want your body to be completely extended and flat. Now come back the same way. Adjust according to your strength level, keep your body stiff. These can also be done from the knees when the rings are low enough.
  • Isometric Hangs/ Hanging Leg/Knee Raises: These are great for building up the muscles needed to initiate powerful pull-ups. For isometric hangs, engage the shoulder blades as though you are starting a pull-up, then hold it there for 10, 15, 20 seconds? Do several sets of this. The same theory says doing partial power pulls is also beneficial to getting into a full pull-up.

Hanging leg and knee raises are an excellent choice as well. They develop muscular endurance in the wrists and lats, while strengthening the core; so vital to blasting out of the hanging position.

Practice these exercises until they are second nature, performing 3-6 sets on average, depending on how many repetitions you are doing each set. Lower reps, do more sets. Higher reps? As long as there is intense effort, 3-4 should be enough.


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      visitor 2 years ago

      I just got myself some rings as part of another book I was reading for putting my own boxing strength/conditioning routine together.

      never done them before, can not do dips (well just achieved 5 non rings) or pullups (funny right :) )

      will do this routine as had a whirl on the ring rountine last night and wow it really engages your muscles more I feel.

      top notch stuff from you here!


    • MosLadder profile image

      Chris Montgomery 5 years ago from Irvine, CA

      gymnastevan, you're right. Those are great exercises. I can only do a partial either way, but what an awesome exercise. Thanks for commenting!

    • gymnastevan profile image

      gymnastevan 5 years ago

      Another great exercise on rings is back and front levers. I find front levers to be especially difficult. They also look very impressive when held.