Lockdown has affected us all in a number of different ways, but one of the most common challenges is finding ways to stay in shape without access to the gym.
Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from building strength with kettlebells and dumbbells, but these options can only go so far in replicating the benefits of a 120kg squat! And that’s if you can get hold of them: a lot of these tools have very quickly sold out, for obvious reasons.
Instead of trying to recreate the gym in your own home then, perhaps you should instead focus on alternate forms of training.
One fantastic option to consider is a gymnastic rings workout!
Gymnastic rings are affordable, they can be used just about anywhere (as long as you have a bar or a tree), and they open up a lot of doors for interesting and unique forms of training. What’s more, is that gymnastic rings are niche enough that they are largely still available online!
Gymnastics rings – the basics
Gymnastic rings are wooden or plastic rings attached to a piece of material that can be hung from a high anchor point. These tools are used by gymnasts for a host of incredible feats such as the iron cross and the maltese. This is what most of us think of when we hear the term, and so many people won’t ever consider using them for home training!
Many people won’t ever consider using gymnastic rings for home training!
But gymnastic rings can also serve as the perfect way to make bodyweight training more challenging and therefore more effective.
In fact, if you have ever seen suspension straps such as TRX at your gym, you’ll have a basic idea of the concept. Suspension straps are usually hung from the ceiling and used to perform push ups, dips, bodyweight rows, and suspended planks.
So why choose a gymnastic rings workout instead? Well, whereas suspension straps typically come from big brands like TRX and cost anything up to a hundred dollar, gymnastic rings are generic and available for significantly less.
Not only that, but gymnastic rings actually provide many more training options. That’s because rings, unlike straps, are designed to support your entire body weight. That means you can now suspend your entire body, rather than just a portion of it!
To start using these at home, simply find a tree branch or a pull-up bar that you can attach the rings to. Make sure that both rings hang at the same height and that the anchor of support is able to hold your weight. Then you’re good to go! Most rings will let you adjust height, meaning you can alter the angle of resistance and quickly switch between exercises.
Gymnastic rings workout benefits
Whether you choose gymnastic rings or suspension straps, you will be able to get most of the same benefits. Primarily, these fall into three categories:
- Increased range of motion
- New movement possibilities
Increased range of motion means that you can move the muscle further under tension than you would normally be able to. An obvious example is something like the push-up. By performing a push up on gymnastic rings, you’ll be able to dip your upper body much lower than your hands. This results in more microtears, more tension, and more time under tension. In other words? More pec development!
Increased range of motion means that you can move the muscle further under tension than you would normally be able to..
Likewise, gymnastic rings provide options for exercises that would otherwise be impossible. For instance, you can perform a bodyweight pec fly by leaning into the rings with the arms wide apart and then pressing them together.
Similarly, suspended mountain climbers work the body in a significantly different way as compared with their grounded counterparts.
The inherent instability of gymnastic ring exercises
But the final and most important piece of the puzzle is the instability. A gymnastic rings workout puts you on a surface that wants to squirm and move around underneath you. This makes it a challenge to try and keep your body steady as you perform the movements, and that in turn involves the “stabilizer muscles” in the shoulders, core, and hips.
When you perform a gymnastic ring push up, you need to engage the shoulders in order to avoid letting the rings slip out from underneath you.
When you perform a gymnastic ring push up, you need to engage the shoulders in order to avoid letting the rings slip out from underneath you. The aim is to become rigid so as to keep them in a “stacked” position.
Simultaneously, you’ll need to engage your obliques (muscles on either side of your body that allow us to bend and rotate our torso) in order to avoid your entire body twisting when the rings move out of the stacked position beneath the elbows and shoulders.
The best gymnastic ring exercises
Here are just some of the best exercises for a gymnastic rings workout:
For all these movements, the rings will be around 50 centimeters off the ground. You can alter the difficulty of gymnastic ring exercises by setting them higher or lower.
- Ring push-ups – Perform push-ups with your hands supported by the rings. Utilize your stabilizers to avoid face planting and dip lower than parallel on the downward movement.
- Tricep dips – Rest your hands in a supinated (fingers away from you) position behind you. Keep your heels on the floor and then perform slow, deliberate dips to lower your buttocks, bending at the elbows only.
- Mountain climbers – Get into push-up position on the floor, but with your feet suspended by the rings. Now bring your knee to your chest, swap sides, and repeat.
- Suspended plank – Get into the same position but keep your feet fully extended and try to hold a steady position as long as possible. Focus on engaging the core and preventing your spine from sagging.
- Bodyweight rows – Lie on the ground, hold the rings in your hands, and pull yourself up toward the rings. Lower until your arms are straight and then repeat. This should challenge the lats and serve as an easier alternative to a pull-up.
- Suspended glute bridges – Lie flat on your back with one foot resting on a ring. Now curl your leg toward you to bring your lower body and buttocks off the ground.
If any of these require more explanation, YouTube and Instagram have you covered!
Advanced gymnastic ring workout
As you build up your confidence and stability, your gymnastic rings workout can grow with you.
For instance, you can begin to use the rings to support your entire body. You can do this by performing a full ring pull up for instance, which will require you to perform the movement with more rigidity in your core. Tougher still is a ring dip, where you will rest your hands on top of the rings and then lower your upper body. This shouldn’t be attempted by beginners as a lot of control is required to avoid injury.
For those interested in advanced gymnastics moves, you can also experiment with exercises like the “rings turned out push-up” (RTO push-up). This involves twisting the rings as you push yourself up, in order to move into a supinated position (palms facing away). That places strain on the bicep tendons. Once you develop strength in this area, you’ll be able to dive into even more advanced calisthenics moves like the planche.
Your gymnastic rings workout can grow with you.
Different grips like the false grip open up entirely new avenues to explore too, such as the ring muscle up (a true feat of strength and control).
In short, a gymnastic rings workout can be as challenging or basic as you want it to be. It’s fantastic for creating core strength thanks to its unstable nature, and it’s brilliant for making your workouts more fun and varied. Why not give some gymnastic ring exercises a try?
3 Gymnastic rings recommendations
Convinced? Check out any of the following rings to get set-up at home. Just remember: gymnastic rings can’t be patented and they are just wooden or plastic rings. In other words, don’t spend a lot of money and don’t worry too much about your choice!
A pair of basic wooden gymnastic rings with a smooth texture. You may want to use a little chalk if you are starting out, but this is the authentic experience!
Fuel Pureformance Gymnastics Ring
Very similar to my own: plastic with a slight texture to aid with grip.
PACEARTH Wood Gymnastics Rings
A great compromise solution for gymnastic rings workouts: a smooth wooden ring with an additional grip.