Remember when the TRX first came out? The hype was incredible. Suspension training classes sprang up everywhere and became one of the most popular classes around.
People started bringing suspension trainers with them on vacation and began using them for home workouts. The result was one of the most popular fitness tools and fad activities to ever exist.
Yet, the development of the TRX in the 2000’s was nothing new. In fact, suspension training had already been used to improve sports performance for decades before.
Gymnastic rings have been used long before any commercial suspension trainer to develop everything from flexibility and stamina to strength and power.
As the name might imply, gymnastic rings were created for gymnasts to compete in their sport. As a result, it's been a mainstay in gymnastic gyms since it's inclusion in the sport.
Despite this, many people still think that suspension training began with the TRX or Rip60 device. A lot of people also think it's the best tool to use to improve fitness, health or performance.
This is not the case though. The gymnastic rings can be more versatile and effective than most suspension trainers. Gymnasts and Crossfitters are a perfect example of this. It's no coincidence that both sports have been using the rings since their inception and both offer the fittest athletes overall compared to other sports.
This is why many of the trainers now offer a gymnastic ring attachment. The wider handles and smoother finish allow for more mobility in certain exercises. This allows for greater versatility when programming your fitness routine.
So, if you're looking to improve your fitness, gymnastic rings offer a versatile and cost-efficient tool for you to use anywhere.
Another perk with using gymnastic rings is that they are easy to set up. Each ring is a standalone item that can be attached to any sturdy structure.
This is done by fastening the straps around the structure and securing them with the brace found on the fabric. For a visual guide in setting up gymnastic rings, you can check out this video.
From here, it can be used to complete any number of activities. But, no matter how good a piece of fitness equipment is, it's useless if it's not used properly. This is especially true for beginners.
Many enthusiasts purchase gymnastic rings and often give up when they find them too difficult.
We put together this guide on exercises you can do with the rings if you're a beginner. We also included easy ways you can progress or adapt these movements. This way, you can quickly become an advanced user with the rings and improve your performance, physique, and health.
Before setting out to use gymnastic rings, it's worth mentioning that the added mobility allowed by the rings can make their use more demanding. For this reason, it's important to warm up correctly before any session. This can be done by:
This is one of the more basic exercises that can be done with the rings instead of a suspension trainer. It can be used to develop throwing power and pushing strength. For physique purposes, it can also help shape the chest and the arms.
Some subtle advantages exist with the rings over a TRX-style trainer too. The separation of the two straps with gymnastic rings allow a greater width and depth in the exercise.
This means they can easily be progressed to flyes or deficit push ups and can also easily be adapted by raising the height of the rings and completing them upright.
Place your feet against a wall or on the floor with your hands in the rings. From there, a push-up is performed by bending the arms and shoulders until the hands are in line with the chest. Then, both are extended by pushing into the rings until the arms are straight.
Adaptation: Standing ring push-ups
Progression: Gymnastic ring flyes or deficit push-ups
Just like the push-up exercise, rows are another great exercise that can be easily made easier or more difficult. This exercise will help you develop your back and arms and prevent injury. It can also improve pulling strength and power.
Begin by placing the feet on the ground or against a wall. The row is performed by pulling on the rings to raise the chest up to the hands, using the muscles in the back and biceps.
For grapplers, throwers, or those who spend time climbing, gymnastic ring rows are a good movement.
Adaptation: Standing gymnastic ring rows
Progression: Feet-elevated gymnastic ring rows
This exercise has a relatively unique benefit when done with gymnastic rings. If you start the pull-up with palms facing away and rotate them inward as you pull, you can increase muscle activation in the lats more than any other type of pull-up.
This means that it can help develop pulling strength and back development more than any other pull-up. The exercise is also very difficult to do with a traditional suspension trainer due to its design.
For those who find a pull-up too difficult to start, you can use your feet to assist in the move. To make it more difficult, weight can easily be added with a dumbbell or dip belt.
Adaptation: Feet-assisted pull-ups
Progression: Weighted gymnastic ring pull-ups
This is another exercise that is much easier on gymnastic rings than on a suspension trainer. The added size and shape of the rings make it easier to reach greater depth and makes the exercise more shoulder-friendly.
The dip is performed by mounting the rings and lifting the body off the ground. From here, the elbows are bent until a slight stretch is felt in the front shoulder. Then, the arms are fully extended while the body is kept stiff.
For those who can't do a dip, the feet can be placed on a bench or a platform for added support. Like the pull-up exercise, it can also be made tougher by adding weight to your body.
Adaptation: Feet-assisted dips
Progression: Weighted dips
While the above movements focused on the upper body, this exercise works the core. The stability required for a front lever makes it a tough exercise for beginner. Luckily, it can be made easier by bending the knees into the chest.
Slowly, this can be progressed by straightening the legs and placing more stress on the abs and arms.
The exercise is done by starting off in a hanging position on the rings, with the hands facing away from the body. The body is then raised until it is parallel with the floor. This position is then held for as long as possible before returning to the hanging position.
Progression: Full front lever
There's a reason you see many gymnasts and calisthenics enthusiasts practicing this move. The iron cross can help develop strength all over the body. It particularly builds stability and strength in the lats and core.
Take note: this a very difficult move to pull off if you're a beginner. Keeping the arms closer to the body and supporting yourself with the legs is a better option. This way, you can slowly build up to a full iron cross for a tough gymnastic workout.
Adaptation: Isometric Iron Cross holds
Progression: Full Iron Cross
This exercise is one of the most popular movements used for the gymnastic rings. Again, this is because the rings allow for greater mobility and make the movement easier to complete.
The movement is carried out from a hanging position, with an overhand grip. This is followed by an explosive pull-up that transitions into a dip. Once again, using the legs to help lift the body by pushing off a platform makes it possible for beginners.
Adaptation: Gymnastic ring dips and pull-ups
Progression: Weighted muscle-ups
The hanging leg raise is both simple and exercises the lower abs, which can be neglected in most core workouts. It's also easy to do for both beginners and advanced athletes.
From a hanging position, the knees are tucked and raised into the chest, before slowly being lowered down in front of the body. This can also be made more difficult by extending the knees and raising the entire legs at once.
Adaptation: Reverse crunches
Progression: Straight-knee leg raises and weighted leg raises
Gymnastic Rings are not as popular for lower body exercises as most suspension trainers. This is because some find it awkward or uncomfortable to do due to the harder rings.
But, it can be more secure for some movements like the rear foot elevated split squat. Here, one ankle is placed in a ring while a split squat is performed by bending the knees until the rear knee touches the floor. This is before rising back up to the starting position.
This helps develop power and strength in the legs to help boost running speed and jumping.
Adaptation: Split squats
Progression: Single-leg squats
This is another great leg exercise that can be done on gymnastic rings. The glute extensions with a reverse leg curl is a great way to prevent injury and strengthen the glutes. This can help give more shape to your legs as well as improve athleticism.
The move is performed by holding onto the gymnastic rings and performing a glute extension. Once the hips are extended, the knees are bent and fully straightened for a number of reps before the hips are placed back in the ground.
Adaptation: Glute extensions from the floor
Progression: Single-leg glute extensions
Another great use for gymnastic rings are in cooling down from a tough workout. The separated straps mean they can be used to do a wide range of stretches. These can act as a gentle way to further boost mobility and relax the body after strenuous exercise.
For some ideas on gymnastic ring stretches for your cool down, you can see this video here.
For those looking for a simple training tool that to use for improved health and performance, the gymnastic rings are a great choice.
Once properly set up and used, the rings can offer an easy way to develop strength, stability, power and speed. Because of the use of the body, each exercise can also be easily be made more difficult or easy depending on your experience level.
The added mobility the larger handles allows also makes it a better choice than many conventional suspension trainers like the TRX or Rip60.
So, if you're considering including gymnastic rings into your training routine, then there are a few things you should consider:
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