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What is relative strength? Calisthenics is the most incredible art form of building the human body based on relative strength. This means the resistance is provided only by the body’s weight. Most of the time, you don’t have to rely on any equipment to develop a lean physique with calisthenics. You only need a flat floor for most exercises, a door to perform pull-ups with towels, or a tree branch. But, there is one apparatus that makes calisthenics much more exciting and demanding, and they are gymnastic rings. Gymnastic rings allow you to transfer basic exercises executed on a flat surface onto the apparatus. With this equipment, you’ll have more challenging experiences by adding more new movements to your calisthenics training. This also comes with the strap’s instability, making the exercises more challenging than performing on a bar or flat surface.
The rings have served a lot of challenges to my calisthenics training. I still have much to learn since more variations include different height adjustments to perform different exercises. With the rings, you get a complete full-body workout without the need to go to the gym. They are mobile, light, and easy to carry in a book bag when traveling. Let’s dive into why gymnastic rings exercises give practitioners an incredible workout regimen to develop an aesthetic physique.
The Origin Of Gymnastic Rings
The rings date back to the 19th century. In 1842 C.E., a man named Adolf Spiess described them as ringeschwebel, which means ring swivel. This ringeschwebel was triangular in shape instead of it being round. Adolf was a gymnast and educator who created gymnastic schools for both male and female enthusiasts in Switzerland and Germany. Another man named Friedrich Ludwig Jahn also contributed to the development of schools and was an educator in Germany. Friedrich was one of Germany’s leading proponents of using gymnastic rings in competitions and gymnastic schools. With the development of his schools also came the advocacy to inspire his native countrymen to fight against Napolean’s regime in 1811 C.E.
Before the round rings, we know today, a different version came before. That version was a triangular shape during the 19th century. In 1896 C.E., the Olympic games were brought back after its cancelation in 393 C.E. in Athens, Greece. The triangular rings were no longer necessary because a better version came to be. The introduction of the rounded rings made of wood made its way to the games. The man who won the first gold medal in the Olympic gymnastic rings competition in 1896 C.E. was Ioannis Mitropoulos. After him, there have been 25 champions in this extraordinary strength competition. Watching relative strength displayed at the Olympics with simple equipment is enjoyable, but very challenging to use. Even though triangular rings aren’t in Olympic competitions, they are put in school playgrounds or parks for children.
Gymnastic Rings Exercises
Performing on a flat surface or bars is challenging when you apply the correct alignment of the body to execute an exercise. Applying a tremendous amount of high volume to a set will also make any essential compound exercise hard. Following these two principles will allow you to develop a lean physique by reaching hypertrophy with just your body weight. But the gymnastic rings extend almost everything you can do on the floor or bars with this tool. You can change the height level evenly to perform horizontal or vertical exercises. You can also change the height level of each ring separately and use different angles to perform various exercises. Many say the rings can’t provide any leg exercises because it’s only meant for the upper body and core. They are wrong, and I’ll show that gymnastic rings can contribute to developing muscle mass with three leg exercises.
The most challenging exercises to perform on the rings are pushing exercises than pulling because it causes a shacking effect. As a novice, you’ll have short-term difficulty because of the instability of the straps. In my experience, pushing is a little harder to execute on rings than it is on bars or a flat surface. This difficulty involves supinating the wrist or the palms facing forward when raising the torso either horizontally or vertically. Rotating the wrist on the gymnastic rings is unique because you can’t do that on the floor or bars. The upside of the rings is it allows the rings to rotate without any restriction, allowing for a smooth transition. After doing pushups for a day, you’ll start to feel at ease, and the instability won’t be too difficult.
Challenging But Fun
I must admit that gymnastic rings are much more fun, and they are my favorite calisthenics equipment. It’s very versatile, and you can take them anywhere without going to the gym because the rings are all you need. They deliver a fantastic opportunity to explore various exercises that can be done far better and more challenging than the floor or bar. They are easy to carry, lightweight, and you can carry them in a book bag while traveling. You can set them up on any solid object like a tree branch, steel bar, or monkey bar. Their only downside is the lack of imagination in the practitioner’s mind, who can’t adjust to finding a way to use them. Let me show you the best exercises I do to develop an awesome full-body workout with gymnastic rings.
Look at an article on static stretching before engaging in any physical activity. This article shows you stretches to prevent you from underperforming and avoid tightness in the muscles.
Gymnastic Rings Exercises: Pushing
As I said previously at the beginning of this article, pushing is more challenging. The first reason is the instability of the straps doesn’t allow solid stability when pushing vertically or horizontally. When you do pushups on the floor or bars, your arms don’t shake. The stimuli the muscles receive from pushing from the floor allow the mind not to make more adjustments. That’s because the floor or bars are grounded, and it’s not unstable. The ring straps make it unstable because the straps aren’t solid. The second reason pushing is a little more challenging is that the mind must adjust to the instability of the straps. After consistently doing pushups for at least ten minutes, I adjusted to the new stimuli. Then I began practicing supinating my wrist every time I pushed my torso up.
Doing pushups on the rings is advantageous for developing a much stronger push and reaching hypertrophy. The pecs, deltoids, triceps, and forearms significantly strengthen over time during the pushing process on the rings. Here’s a list of pushing exercises I’ve been doing to develop the anterior side of my upper body with gymnastic rings.
The exercise is the only isolation movement for pushing. Even though this is isolation, there are three exercises you could do on gymnastic rings. The first one is the standing tricep extension. The involvement includes standing and leaning forward at a 45-degree angle. Do this to add body weight when flexing and extending the elbow. The second version is the seated tricep extension. Here, the rings are close to the ground, you lower the torso down, and you extend your feet out. All you have to do is lower the torso and extend the elbows to raise the torso.
The final version is the elevated tricep extension. All you have to do is keep the body straight at a 90-degree angle as you lower the body. Once you’ve reached the bottom, extend the elbows and keep the body straight without angling the torso forward. If you do this, you’ll be doing vertical pushups.
This pushing practice is much more strenuous than pushing the entire torso vertically on a solid object. Two factors are involved in the difficulty increase, the strap instability and rotation of the wrist when pushing up. You see, the vertical pushup requires extra attentive focus. With the instability of the straps, you’re going to be shaking if you’re a beginner. You’re also going to involuntary swing your body slightly when performing. To compensate for these effects, your going to do a few things. To diminish the swinging effect, slightly flex your hips to put your legs out. Second, you bend the torso forward at a 60-degree angle. Third, to stop the shaking effect, you press downward by activating every muscle involved and performing slowly. Fourth, lock your wrist tightly while raising your body weight as you rotate your wrist.
All these suggestions I’m offering have worked well for me to perform the vertical pushup on gymnastic rings. Before the vertical pushup on rings, I had previous practice on parallel bars. Understanding the mechanism of vertical pushups on a solid apparatus transferred well into performing on the rings. Unlike most beginners who use the rings for the first time and have that shaking effect, I had very little. After less than ten minutes of adjusting my mind to the new stimuli, I didn’t have that shaking effect. Realizing I needed to lock my wrist tightly while rotating my wrist on the rings helped to cultivate understanding. That understanding is the mechanism of how to perform the vertical pushup correctly on rings. My last suggestion is to have some experience doing the vertical pushup on a solid object like parallel bars. Vertical pushups on a solid apparatus are a great foundation.
Unlike vertical pushups, horizontal pushups are easier to perform. The first reason is that you can set the feet on the floor, allowing the body stability. This stability prevents the body from shaking or slightly swinging like you would during a vertical pushup. Second, planting your feet on the floor discards some body weight, allowing a much easier pushing exercise. Third, the shaking effect is less prevalent because you’re not raising and lowering your body weight vertically. All of these factors make the horizontal pushup a better option for beginners. My preference for doing pushups on rings is the straps allow flexibility to maneuver the rings. The beauty of the horizontal pushup is you can perform adduction simultaneously during a pushup on gymnastic rings. When you push your torso up, the motion doesn’t allow the hands to come together on the floor or bars. An advantage rings have over conventional pushups.
The pike pushup is an exercise that targets the anterior and middle heads of the deltoids, along with the triceps. It’s a compound exercise for shoulder development that also includes upper pec development according to the direction of muscle fibers. Now, a regular pushup exercises the anterior muscle of the deltoid but doesn’t include the middle head of the deltoid. The angled positioning during a pushup vs. a pike pushup of the shoulders is different when compared. When you stand straight, raise your arm by performing a 90-degree shoulder flexion. Then pull your elbow towards your rib cage, and put your other hand on your deltoid. Then extend your elbow as if you’re doing a pushup, and you’ll only feel your anterior deltoid contracting. But then raise your arm at a 180-degree angle, pull back your elbow, and extend out the elbow. This time, the middle head contracts.
To do the pike pushup on rings, raise your bum and your head leaning towards the floor. Your body should look as if you are diving when performing the exercise. When you are leaning forward, make sure that you include a full range of motion. You want to be able to engage both the anterior and middle heads of the deltoids. After leaning forward, push the torso back into position by extending the elbows. Unlike vertical and horizontal pushups, the pike pushup doesn’t require the rotation of your wrist. The pike pushup is a fantastic exercise as a prerequisite that will help transition into the handstand pushup. As I said, the exercise helps to strengthen the deltoids and develop muscle mass over time as you train them.
As the name says, you perform an archer by facing the floor. Doing this exercise requires the motion to be slow and smooth. Exercising like this allows coordination because you’re doing them on straps that cause instability. Another benefit to slowing down the tempo of the pushup is increased tension on the muscles performing. All of this will include building great pushing power with control and ease. The movement involves one arm extended and the other beside the torso simultaneously. By extending one arm out, you’re abducting without flexing the elbow. Then, when you adduct your arm to contract the pec, the elbow remains extended throughout the motion. The other arm almost follows the same motion as a regular horizontal pushup. The difference is the arm touches, and the elbow crosses the torso from the side when pushing the body up. An extra tension increase would be rotating your wrist.
Since the archer pushup requires one arm to perform abduction, the chest fly requires both arms to abduct. The difficulty of performing this exercise is the elbows can’t flex. Instead, they need to remain extended when abducting. You need to connect your mind, and body and perform slowly. There are two grip versions of performing the chest fly. The first one is the regular grip from the inside where your forearm extensors are touching the rings. Your grip has to be sturdy to withstand the amount of bodyweight gravity is pulling. The second version is the outside ring grip. This version is much easier because you’re gripping the ring from the outside. The grip is simply the forearm flexors touching the rings, allowing weight support and ease to perform abduction. No matter which grips you choose, both require you to press up with your pecs, without elbow assistance.
The exercise is more of an exaggeration of the horizontal pushup, except it’s a better version. The reason why it’s that you can abduct your elbows out more away from the torso. Then you can fully adduct your arms when you press your torso up, including rotating the wrist simultaneously. During the regular pushup, the elbows are kept close to the torso during the pushup. These are the differences between the horizontal and a Bulgarian pushup. The similarities are the elbows help to reinforce the amount of assistance they can give to make the pushup less strenuous. Why? Because when the elbows extend, your triceps assist by extending the elbows to help you press up.
Gymnastic Rings Exercises: Pulling
Pullups are great for developing the posterior side of the upper body. What makes back exercises great with the rings is adjusting them with various height levels. Instead of relying on a bar for vertical and horizontal pull-ups, you can change the height levels with the rings alone. Another benefit to this is adjusting the angle you position yourself. Think of it like a protractor; when you do a vertical pullup, you’re lifting yourself up in a 90-degree position. In this position, you’re exercising the lats, which would be the case because the muscle fibers align down. They align from the posterior side of the humerus down to the posterior iliac crest. Then change the angle of your body to 45 degrees with feet planted on the floor. You’ll target the traps and rhomboids by pulling the elbows back instead of pulling the elbows down.
Here are my top pulling exercises done on the rings. They are six exercises I experimented with to feel how much I can accomplish reaching hypertrophy for my back. Remember that you need to perform high reps to achieve hypertrophy in calisthenics. Another inclusion I add to developing strength is isometrics. Muscles engaged are the biceps, posterior deltoid, traps, rhomboids, and lats.
There’s only one way to perform the bicep curl on gymnastic rings. You have to lower the body to a 30-degree angle; while only flexing the elbows. You cannot retract the scapula while the elbows flex because you’ll be doing horizontal pull-ups. To perform the exercise correctly, keep the scapula protracted, while flexing the elbows. Doing this ensures you’re doing the isolation exercise the right way.
The vertical pull-up is a classic upper body strengthing exercise targeting mainly the lats, with the assistance of other muscles. The gymnastic rings provide different height adjustments to perform pull-ups for novices and experts. The difference between the bars and the rings is the rings are unstable, and the bar is sturdy. When you perform vertical pullups on rings, the body will have a slight swinging effect. To reduce this, you can apply two versions to align the body to implement a solid pullup. The first version is to flex the hips to extend the feet out. The second version is to expand your chest and your knees flexed. These adjustments allow a better weight balance of the centerline when performing a pullup on the rings.
The best part about pullups on the rings is you can perform all three hand grips simultaneously. Those grips are supinated, pronated, and neutral. Another benefit is you can widen the distance of the rings to perform better-pronated pullups. If you shorten the distance, the supinated and neutral grips will be more advantageous.
The great thing about the gymnastic rings is adjusting the height of the straps for various exercises. The horizontal pull-up is an amazing exercise by pulling the elbows across the torso instead of pulling downward. Different height adjustments can be done by using a chair, a 5-gallon bucket, or stairs for the feet. When the feet are on the floor, theirs less weight on the upper body. Think of it like a weight scale; most of the load is distributed to the feet. The upper body carries less weight, which allows the arms to repeat the motion without giving out too quickly. But when you elevate your feet, your weight distribution changes making your upper body heavier. This is what makes the horizontal pull-ups harder. Another benefit to performing with the rings is rotating your wrist from pronated, neutral, and supine.
One Arm Assisted Pullups
Of all the pullups I have listed in this article, the one-arm pullup is the most difficult. It’s a grueling exercise because all the body weight is distributed to one side of the body. Since the muscle targeted is the lats for pulling the body vertically, the lats have to be very strong. Alongside, the exercise requires a firm grip, bicep, teres, and core. To align the body correctly, flex your hips to remove some weight off the centerline. Perform the pullup by having a close grip next to the torso, and lowering the elbow next to the body. I advise that doing a one-arm pullup on the rings is better with the hand supinated. Pronating the hand to perform pull-ups is better to widen the arms out.
As of 2023, I can’t perform the exercise without an assisted hand helping me to raise my body. To do this, wrap your wrist with the other hand because the other arm assists with the other muscles. Another way to help out with the exercise, grab a towel, wrap it around the other ring, grab, and pull. These are the assisted ways I use to perform the assisted one-arm pullup. I’ll update this article on my progression toward performing this exercise without any assistance.
30 degree One Arm Pullups
The exercise is less grueling than a vertical one-arm pullup. You can perform the 30-degree one-arm pull-up with both feet planted on the floor. Even though theirs less weight on the body to pull, you still have to have good alignment. Good alignment and slow pulling are two keys to unlocking the door to this exercise. Both feet have to be one foot apart to equalize the off-balance. The other arm isn’t in use, so tighten your core, and slightly expect your chest. Doing this will allow better joint and muscle mobility to engage the muscles exercised. It’s a plus to perform the movement on rings. You can practice the exercise with all hand grips on the gymnastic rings. Rotating the wrist while performing the motion allows wrist mobility engagement and hand grip strength.
Aligning your shoulders by abducting them shoulder length and flexing the elbows will enable the upper back to be exercised. The pullups I mention mainly exercise the mid-region of the back. Those muscles are the lats, teres major, and lower traps. When you do pull-ups, downward or across the torso, the elbow is aligned next to the rib cage. When you want to exercise the upper back, you must abduct your shoulder, flex your elbow and retract your scapula. You will exercise the traps, rhomboids, teres minor, and major. The best grip to perform the face pull is a pronated grip because the elbow is away from the torso. Another fact about the face pull is the scapula doesn’t perform downward rotation, only retraction. The best body alignment for this exercise is 30 degrees. Place the feet on the floor and the rings four feet high.
The last piece of advice is to align the hands next to the face when elevating the torso. Doing this emphasizes the name face pull and guarantees a full back workout.
Similar to the face pull, the back fly exercise targets the upper region of the back. The exercise targets the rear deltoids, traps, rhomboids, and teres minor and major. You don’t perform a downward rotation, but retract the scapula for this exercise. The similarities end because the elbow stays extended throughout the pulling motion of this exercise. Place your feet on the floor and adjust the rings four feet high to perform a 30-degree back fly. Engage the pull by activating the rear deltoids, along with other muscles on the upper back. Perform with a slow tempo to build tension on the muscles when you do a lot of repetitions and isometrics. Why add isometrics? Because holding a position builds tension in the muscles. Doing this increases the changes needed to eliminate old muscle tissue and replenish it with new muscle fibers.
Gymnastic Rings Exercises: Core
Exercising the core, which includes the abdominals and obliques, is a unique experience to perform on the rings. There are various ways to exercise the anterior core, but unfortunately, there aren’t any for the lower back. The posterior side includes the lower erector spinae muscles. Much to my dismay, the exercises performed on the rings outweigh the one con I wish wasn’t real. You can perform ab workouts either hanging or on the support hold. When you are hanging, the exercises are more straightforward, but when you’re on a support hold, it’s challenging. Much of the ab workouts are lifting the legs. You can only do one exercise while your feet or knees are on the floor. I’ll explain this as you scroll down. Overall, exercising the body’s midsection on rings is fantastic for engaging the front and sides of the core. Here are my top four core exercises.
The exercise is similar to the ab wheel exercise. How so? First, you can place your knees on the floor or your feet for stabilization. Second, you flex your arms while extending the torso by leaning towards the ground. When you are flexing your arms, it means you’re rotating your shoulders back to raise your arms. Third, you extend the arms while flexing the spine when you position yourself back into the starting position. When you are extending your arms, it means you’re rotating your shoulders forward to pull the arms back. Of the two stabilizers, the knee is the easiest, but the feet are the hardest. The knee is easier because theirs more weight support, which allows the back muscles to hold your body weight. If you don’t have a strong lower back, you won’t be able to lower and raise the torso with the feet as stabilizers.
Of all the ab exercises, raising the knees is the most simplistic to do on gymnastic rings. It doesn’t matter if you’re hanging or in an L-sit position. Why is it the easiest? Because the extra weight from the lower legs is cut off from raising the legs. It also bestows the hip flexors more ease into raising the legs. The hip flexors are the main muscles that provide the actions of flexing and extending the lower body. Besides the abdominals exercised during the motion, you can include the obliques during the exercise. How can you exercise the obliques? You rotate your hips either to the left or to the right. Once you’ve done this, you can raise your lower body to contract the obliques. The obliques are muscles that allow rotation of the midsection according to the muscle fiber direction.
Similarities between the knee and leg raise include raising the lower body to exercise the abdominals and obliques. The difference between the knee and the leg raise is the leg raise incorporates the lower leg. The lower leg provides extra weight, which is more challenging for the hip flexors to raise the entire legs. In contrast, the knee raise eliminates additional weight provided by the lower legs.
Just like the name of the exercise says, you mimic the movement of how the windshield wipers move. You can do this exercise in two ways. First, you can raise the legs with the knees flexed and rotate the hips to the left or right. Second, you can uplift the legs with the knees extended and revolve the hips to the left or right. The exercise will exercise both the abdominals and the obliques.
Gymnastic Rings Exercises: Legs
Many people who use the rings think you can’t exercise the lower part of the body, which is the legs. You can exercise the legs in three different ways. They all require you to grab the rings, some are easy, and some are challenging. One exercise depends on an angle to increase the difficulty of the exercise. It’s straightforward without needing to do acrobatic movements like you would have to with your arms. I used to think just like the masses until I experimented, trying to figure out a way to do it. When I figured out how to exercise the legs, I was surprised at how easy it was. I have great engagement when I use the rings to reach hypertrophy in my legs. Now, let me show you three of the best exercises you can perform on the rings for your legs.
Assisted Pistol Squats
A pistol squat is an exercise that involves one leg to lower the torso; while one leg is extended. Thus, you look like a pistol while performing this exercise. Now, the activity is hard to do because you need to balance when you do this with one leg. Lowering you’re weight can be too much to handle if you’re a novice. This is why the exercise is suited for beginners to use the gymnastic rings as an assisted tool. Sure, the rings do revoke some of the weight off, but doing slow repetition and isometrics helps build tension. As you increase tension, you’re quads and glutes will tire out simultaneously.
Supinated Gliding Hamstring Curls
The supinated gliding hamstring curl is a unique way to exercise the hamstrings with the rings. The exercise involves facing upward, elevating the feet at the same level or slightly above the torso. Then, you begin gliding your upper legs and torso forward by flexing the knees. The exercise will target the hamstrings because the muscle contributes to the knee performing a flexion. The higher you elevate your feet, the more tension will occur because of weight distribution. The higher the feet are, the lighter the feet will be. The lower the torso is, the heavier the body will be. The positioning will cause the hamstrings to put more effort into flexing the knees. The results of this allow the hamstrings to increase in strength. You can also perform a one-leg gliding hamstring curl to increase tension.
One-Legged Calf Raises
The exercise is an easy activity to do. All you have to do is grab a ring, lift one leg, balance your other foot, and raise the calf. The whole point of doing this is to provide more tension to the calves. It forces each calf to lift a little more body weight without the support of the other calf. But the inclusion of the rings makes the exercise a little easier than doing it without support.
Gymnastic Rings Exercises: Isometrics
I keep mentioning throughout this article that gymnastic rings are more challenging to perform than on the floor or bars. The instability of the straps causes a shaking effect and a swinging effect when you hang on the rings. The entire isometric moves require you to extend the elbows without flexing them. Most exercises require the whole body to be straight while hanging vertically in an inverted position or horizontally supinated or pronated. These exercises are the most challenging to perform and require a lot of time and effort. It can also be dangerous, so I recommend a soft mattress or a spotter. This is to prevent any severe injuries from occurring during the learning process. As you get better, you’ll be able to do static holds for three seconds for most of these movements.
The front lever is an isometric exercise that requires full use of the posterior side of the body. Grabbing onto the rings while keeping the body straight in a supine horizontal position in mid-air is not easy. It’s difficult because the lats, erector spinae, and glutes are the muscles keeping the body straight. That puts a lot of tension on the back side of the body. But other skeletal tissues are included to provide extra assistance, the abs, serratus anterior, deltoids, and pecs. Since the body is in that position, gravity pulls the posterior side down. Another problem involves the weight distribution of the legs; the lower body is the heaviest to keep straight. That’s the reason why the posterior side needs a lot of development through various exercises to increase back strength. The exercise is no easy feat and it takes a while to perform it correctly.
Unfortunately, as of 2023, I can’t perform the front lever correctly because my torso isn’t strong enough to withstand it. I need to develop more strength, especially in my lower back muscle, the erector spinae. I’ll update this article once I’ve been able to master this exercise.
Instead of being in a supine horizontal position, your body is in a pronated horizontal position. The back lever requires a dense backside to withstand gravity pulling the lower half down. That lower half is the legs, which have a lot of weight pulling it down. Again, the posterior side needs a lot of strength development, especially the erector spinae and glutes. Those areas are imperative to perform the exercise because the vertical centerline cuts the body in half in mid-air. Those muscles keep the lower body raised. The arms are extended, meaning the shoulder joint is rotated forward when gripping the rings. To get into the back lever position, you perform skin the cat. You do this by hanging onto the apparatus and transitioning by rotating the torso backward. Once the torso is pronated in mid-air, you extend your legs out.
Unfortunately, as of 2023, I can’t perform the back lever correctly because my torso isn’t strong enough to withstand it. I need to develop more strength, especially in my lower back muscle, the erector spinae. I’ll update this article once I’ve been able to master this exercise.
The most straightforward isometric exercise is the inverted hang on the rings. Inverted is essentially hanging upside down; while keeping the body straight. Performing the task isn’t hard but requires a bit of strength. It demands the midsection to raise the lower half to invert upside down. The movement is a great way to transition to the front or back lever when lowering the legs horizontally.
An L-sit isn’t strenuous but requires strong hip flexors to elevate the legs and remain static. The purpose of the L-sit is to develop dense abdominals, hip flexors, and to a certain extent, strong quads. Of course, other muscles contribute to the static hold, like the triceps, pecs, and lats. Why? Because they assist the body while hanging on the rings. Since the straps are unstable, you must focus on remaining straight as much as possible. Doing this will guarantee that you won’t shake too much.
The handstand is another inverted hang isometric exercise, except it’s much more demanding. You perform this exercise by extending the elbows while lifting the body with the shoulders and maintaining a straight body. Even though this sounds easy, it’s not because this exercise is performed on the gymnastic rings. By now, you should know that the straps provide instability, causing a shaking effect, which requires balance. In my opinion, the most strenuous gymnastic rings hold is the handstand than any other static exercise. The entire weight of the body is withstood by the shoulders, elbows, and hands. If you don’t have balance, you’ll end up hurting yourself. I would recommend a soft mattress or spotter for safety during the learning process. Another safety measure is wrapping your legs around the straps and hooking them with the ankles. Doing this ensures that you won’t fall off.
The planche is the most difficult horizontal hold because of the extension of the elbows. The exercise looks similar to a pushup hold. The difference is the arms are abducted slightly from the torso, making it extra challenging. Not only do you need a dense posterior chain, but an anterior chain as well. The inclusion of both sides of the torso means multiple muscles are involved. Theirs two ways to lift the legs for the planche, both straight and separate. The linear version means straightening the body from head to toe in mid-air. The detached version is abducting the legs away from the horizontal center line. The linear is difficult because the lower back and glutes carry the load of the lower body. The other involves disbursing the weight from the lower body to allow the lower back a little more ease.
Unfortunately, as of 2023, I can’t perform the planche correctly because my torso isn’t strong enough to withstand it. I need to develop more strength throughout my torso. I’ll update this article once I’ve been able to master this exercise.
Doing an iron cross looks like you are crucified on a cross, not literally. The exercise involves vertical straightening of the entire body while abducting the arms. It’s an arduous gymnastic rings movement that requires other exercises as a prerequisite to strengthening the upper body. Those muscles include the deltoids, forearms, biceps, triceps, pec, and lats. Exercises like pushups, pike pushups, and pullups help to build upper body strength. Once you’ve done this, you can begin performing with the assistance of a light resistance band. Wrap the loop band on both hands, anchor it below the feet, and start training. After doing this for some time, begin performing the exercise without the band. Eventually, you’ll start to perform the iron cross.
Gymnastic Rings Exercises: Extras
These extra movements are the building blocks to performing the most challenging exercises on the rings. Two are straightforward; one is a fun acrobatic move, and the last is difficult to do, but rewarding. Taking the time to perform these movements will significantly benefit your training on the rings. Now, let’s check out these exercises that will humble you and you feel an appreciation for understanding the fundamentals.
The basic hold is a fundamental body position and the easiest to perform. The hold activates many muscles on the arms and torso that prepare the frontal side for frontal exercises. Exercises like vertical, and horizontal pushups, and ab exercises are frontal exercises.
The advance hold is a wrist rotation exercise fundamental to performing vertical and horizontal pushups while rotating the wrist. You can only do this with gymnastic rings and no other tool can provide this for your pushing exercises. Whenever you press your torso up, you must rotate the wrist simultaneously.
Skin The Cat
Skin the Cat is a warm-up exercise for shoulder mobility while handling the pressure of the body weight. The movement is a shoulder rotator that allows the torso to rotate back and forth while hanging. It’s imperative to warm up the shoulder joints before engaging in this exercise. To do this, swivel the shoulder joints clock or counter clock. Another integration of the movement is transitioning into other applications like the inverted hang. Other transitions the skin the cat allows is the planche, elbow lever, or front lever. The best part is you don’t have to fully flex your hips to have your knees touch your torso. Why? Because there isn’t any obstacle in the way like a pull-up bar. Doing Skin the Cat on gymnastic rings doesn’t have an object in the way to rotate back and forth smoothly.
If I had to choose between the pull-up bar and the gymnastic rings, I would choose the gymnastic rings. Gymnastic rings provide a must easier transition to performing the muscle up than a pullup bar. Doing the muscle up on the bar requires a swinging effect from swinging forward, then pulling up with power. When the chest reaches the bar, you must slightly flex your spine. It will enable you to perform a pushup on the bar and fully perform the muscle up while pressing up.
All you need to do is grip the rings into a false grip. The false grip is a type of grip in which you overlay the hand around the ring. With a standard grip, the wrist is straight, but with a false grip, the wrist is flexed. It allows the fingers to wrap around the lower area of the rings. The lower region of the ring crosses the palms diagonally from the index to the lower outside of the palm. Once you’ve established this, the transition becomes easy to perform. First, you pull yourself up without swinging forward, and once you reach the top, you rotate your wrist. At the same time, you flex the spine to position yourself in a pushup position, then press up. After doing this, you can finish the exercise with a basic hold or an advanced hold.
Overall, the gymnastic rings are the best apparatus to have for your exercises. Why? Because of the various ways you can apply them at different height levels to perform multiple movements. You don’t need to find a calisthenics park to find bars to supply high and low levels to exercise. The gymnastic rings bestow that; all you have to do is find a tree branch, set it up, and work. Another way is you can customize your workout setup as I did for my home gym. I don’t need to leave my home to exercise with the gymnastic rings unless I want to. But if you’re traveling, the rings are your best equipment for a complete workout. Again, I highly recommend the gymnastic rings for your calisthenics exercises. You won’t regret such a magnificent apparatus in your tool kit.
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