Gymnastic Rings 101: Why to Use Them, How to Buy Them, and Where to Hang

Gymnastic rings may seem more like a toy than an essential piece of equipment for survival, but anyone who has attempted to cross a river or climb over steep terrain on foot knows that they are one of the most useful things in any outdoor kit. Learn how these versatile pieces of equipment can enhance your journey and what size you need!.

Gymnastic rings are great tools for both beginners and advanced athletes. They offer a variety of benefits, from improving balance and core strength to increasing flexibility and body awareness.

Ryan Hurst is a guest contributor for this series.

If you’ve been following Brett and Kate’s Art of Manliness for a while, you’re aware of how hard they’ve worked to return us to a period when being a man meant strength, integrity, and lifting your own weight.

And the final element wasn’t simply symbolic; individuals used to focus on gymnastic abilities for strength and conditioning back in the early days of organized exercise.

Vintage old gym gymnasium pommel horse rings.

Though physical culturists in the 1940s and 1950s continued to employ hand-balancing and rings training in their regimens, the general public had forgotten about them. Rings became a spectator sport, and we watched Team USA gymnastics compete in the Olympics every four years.

But it’s encouraging to see that the pendulum has swung back and gymnastic-style training, especially on the rings, has resurfaced for non-Olympians who just want to improve their strength and technique without having any aspirations to reach the top of a podium.

Why Should You Include Rings Training in Your Exercise Routine?

Vintage gymnast athlete hanging on gymnastic rings with both hands.

The advantages of gymnastic rings and the workouts that may be done with them are incomparable to those of barbells or pulley machines.

The rings’ intrinsic instability is one of its advantages. The rings, which are suspended on a long strap, will move with the slightest touch. To avoid swaying, you must focus every second you are on the rings due to the instability. Pulling and pressing your weight on a stationary bar is challenging enough, let alone on two rings that jiggle about! As a result of the increased difficulty, your upper body and core will gain more strength and muscle.

Transitioning your body around the rings from various postures requires a great deal of upper body strength and control. Yes, bodyweight exercises and, of course, lifting weights may help you acquire a lot of strength, but the instability of the rings, along with the mix of motions, can be a completely new display of strength.

Skill work on gymnastic rings combines strength and coordination training in a manner that is much more difficult to attain with other equipment, and it provides a lot of bang for your money in terms of training time. It’s typical to hear about strong and healthy individuals who regularly workout with weights and machines, but who are humbled and shocked by how tough even the most simple rings exercises are to do. It’s a high-intensity workout that just takes a few moves to match the impact of a dozen other common gym exercises.

Nothing compares to the terrific exercise you’ll receive from this easy-to-carry and basic piece of equipment in terms of space needs and mobility.

I’ll be sharing all you need to know about how to get started on the rings over the following several days. From which rings to buy to how to put them up to the best exercises to begin with to where to go after you’ve learned the fundamentals, we’ve got you covered.

 

What Should I Purchase To Begin?

It used to be difficult for the average person to find gymnastic training rings. The only alternatives were the extremely costly conventional hardwood gymnastic rings used in gymnastics facilities and competitions, or the plastic rings that weren’t much cheaper, or the metal rings usually found in playgrounds.

There is a greater assortment of rings at relatively cheap costs now, thanks to the return of ring training and the entrepreneurial spirit that accompanies such developments.

What are the distinctions between the different ring styles?

I wouldn’t advocate using metal playground rings for anything more than basic pull-ups and dips, since they lack the traction you’ll need to move smoothly from below to above the rings, and vice versa.

In terms of feel, traction, and heaviness, there’s a substantial difference between wood and plastic. Plastic rings are more slick (but not as much as metal) and feel less solid in your palms due to their lighter weight. Given that you’ll be dumping your weight on them, this is a legitimate issue. When properly cared for, wood rings just “feel” better and age better than plastic rings.

Plastic rings are far less expensive and almost unbreakable. In the end, though, I suggest purchasing wooden rings. If you intend on exercising with the rings for a long period, the extra cost is justified. Rogue wooden rings are the ones I prefer, but you should actually go with whatever you feel most comfortable with.

What Should I Do With Them?

Vintage gymnast hanging on gymnastic rings.

When you get your rings, you’ll find that there are just the rings and the straps. That’s one of the reasons why this equipment is so adaptable. All you have to do now is attach the straps (over a bar, via mounting hooks, etc. — more information below).

Ringsframe in a ground.

You may construct your own outdoor ring frame to do your ring activities.

Ideally, you should locate a location where you can hang them with enough clearance and space to execute all of the exercises that need you to be above the rings while still being able to perform pull-ups with a straight torso.

We suggest choosing a location where your rings can be hung at a height of 9 to 13 feet. You’ll need enough space (both in height and breadth) to do the exercises properly (especially the straight body movements). Make sure your straps are long enough to allow your rings to dangle low (when needed) so you can perform push-ups, planks, mountain climbers, and other exercises. You should space your rings approximately shoulder-width apart for width.

Hanging your rings may be done in a number of ways, from the basic to the more intricate. I’ll go through the most popular choices below:

Pull-up Bar in the Doorway

A doorway pull-up bar provides for some terrific ring workouts, but you’ll need to make some adaptations to execute some of the transitions and moves around the rings. You can use the rings for dips and pull-ups, but you’ll have to bend your knees to get the entire range of motion.

 

The movements may also be done in a tuck (knees bent and in front of your chest) or an L-sit (hips flexed and legs straight out in front of you) for increased effort.

Due to the width of the doorway, certain broader pull-up choices, as well as some other pulls that need your hands to be out to the side, would be limited. This isn’t to say you couldn’t get a terrific rings workout with this setup, but you’d have to skip out on some of the workouts that make the rings so valuable.

If you’re going to use a doorway pull-up bar, choose one that bolts into the frame rather than one that relies only on your bodyweight for support.

Power Racks with a Pull-up Bar

For individuals who have power racks in their garage or who attend to a local gym/health club, this arrangement might be a terrific choice. They are often higher and broader than doorway pull-up bars.

Ceiling or Rafter Mounted

Gymnastic rings at home hanging from rafters.

Rogue Ring Hanger is a ring hanger that has gone rogue.

If feasible, this would be a perfect scenario for training at home. Simply be cautious throughout the installation and ensure that everything is as sturdy and safe as possible. When you’re on the rings with your head down, the worst thing that could happen is a material failure. Please use caution and only do this if you are certain you can make it safe, or if you can employ someone who can.

Outdoor Possibilities

Two rings are hanging from tree.

Photo credit:

Outdoor possibilities include swingsets, monkey bars, football uprights, trees, fences, and pretty much anyplace there is a strong structure with suitable height. The weather is unpredictable, and access is irregular, but the benefits include being outdoors and being able to take your rings with you while traveling. For a guide on how to make your own outdoor rings frame, go here.

Tomorrow, we’ll go through the fundamental ring grips.

Other articles in the series may be found here: 

  • Why Wear Rings, Where to Buy Them, and How to Wear Them
  • How to Get a Good Grip on the Rings
  • A Beginner’s Routine and Frequently Asked Questions
  • What Is a Muscle-Up and How Do I Do It?

What Is a Muscle-Up and How Do I Do It?

Ryan Hurst is a former junior national gymnast with several black belts in Japanese martial arts, as well as years of expertise teaching strength and skills training that incorporates all of his wide knowledge base. He is a co-founder of GMB Fitness (http://gmb.io), a company that focuses in training individuals of all athletic abilities how to improve their body skills.

He also offers a free Ultimate Guide to Rings Training for novices, which walks you through all of the advantages of rings training step by step.

 

 

Gymnastic rings are a great way to get in shape. They can be used indoors or outdoors and they come in many different styles. The “gymnastic rings indoor” is the most common type of ring, but there are also “gymnastic rings outdoor”, “gymnastic rings for kids”, and “gymnastic rings for adults”.

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