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Whether you’re completely new to bodyweight fitness/calisthenics or a fitness veteran, rings are a great way to incorporate exercises that engage a wide variety of muscle groups in just a few exercises. For the beginner, they can help you build strength in ways that will eventually enable much more difficult and beneficial exercises (like pull-ups, l-sits and dips).
For advanced strength builders, gymnastic rings allow you to massively increase grip strength and most of the exercises engage your arms, shoulders, chest, back and core. Muscle ups, levers, handstand push-ups, one-handed pull-ups (among many others) can take your routine to a whole new level.
|Vulcan Elite 360 Wooden Gymnastic Rings||Easy Setup||Vulcan Elite Gymnastic Rings on Amazon|
|Rep Fitness Wood Gymnastic Rings||Low Price||Rep Fitness Wood gymnastic rings on Amazon|
|Emerge Gymnastic Rings||High Durability||Emerge Wooden Gymnastic Rings on Amazon|
Vulcan Elite 360 Wood Gymnastic Rings – Easiest to set up
These gymnastic rings use a carabiner and loop system that means you can quickly and easily set these up and take them down with little effort, and the way you set them up is pretty obvious at a glance. One end has a loop at the end, then every foot or so there’s other loops hanging off of the side. Basically, to set it up you loop it over a beam or pull-up bar then hook one of the included carabiners through the loop on one end and one of the numbered loops towards the other.
Add in the fact that it has sturdy Birch hardwood rings which are comfortable to grip, won’t get slippery when you sweat on them and can take a serious beating. Wood rings require little upkeep, last a long time and don’t really require anything extra out of the box to use them effectively. For more information on why, read my article on the 4 best gymnastics rings for home use.
I recommend these if you don’t really have somewhere at home where you can set them up and need to be able to mount and unmount them quickly and easily.
If these suit your needs, you can shop now for these rings on Amazon.
Rep Fitness Wood Gymnastic Rings – High quality, entry level price
The Rep Fitness Wood gymnastic rings offer many of the features you’d expect from top tier gymnastic rings, but at a more affordable price. The one trade-off is the fact that their QA isn’t perfect, so you may end up getting a set that is just shy of perfect. Sometimes the wood rings are a little rough and require a bit of sanding, occasionally the markings on the straps aren’t exactly parallel.
When looking at gymnastic rings, the straps being equally marked is important so that you can easily mount your rings at an equal height. Uneven rings can throw off your balance and cause issues that can mitigate the advantages of gymnastic rings workouts.
These rings use a cam buckle system which can be more reliable and longer lasting, but a little harder to set up. Essentially, you throw the strap over the horizontal object on which you’re mounting the rings, then feed the loose end of the straps through the buckle, not unlike a belt. Then there’s a small clamp-like part that pinches the strap inside the buckle. This is great because the weight you apply to it pulls the clamp tighter.
I’d recommend these particular rings if you want to get into gymnastic rings and don’t want to spend too much on the set up.
If you’re looking for an affordable way to try out gymnastic rings, learn more about them on Amazon.
Emerge Gymnastic Rings – Extra durable, for extra safety
Emerge boasts that they have “the most secure gymnastic rings” on the market, and they’re not exactly wrong. Most gymnastic rings are designed to support about 400-600 lbs, Emerge rings can support up to 800 lbs. They have extra wide (1.5″ wide vs the typical 1.25″) and double loop buckles that are designed to be extra stable and durable.
I’m fairly tall, stocky and (when I started using gymnastic rings) I was fairly overweight. Even though I only used rings for rows and angled push-ups, I was wary of putting so much of my weight on straps or ropes. For more advanced workouts, they can support your weight during even the craziest of routines.
I recommend these rings if you’re afraid of falling or breaking the gymnastic rings or straps.
Everything you need to know before buying gymnastic rings
Gymnastic rings are a great piece of equipment for a wide variety of reason. I’ll go over them here, as well as some basic things you need to know when you’re planning to buy gymnastic rings.
Getting set up – Where and how to install your rings
Generally you’ll want a sturdy horizontal bar to set up your rings. This can be a dedicated pull-up bar, or some monkey bars at a play ground, a beam in your garage, even a tree branch. So long as whatever you mount them on, they’re strong enough to support your body weight, gymnastic rings can be hung there. Here’s a more comprehensive guide on how and where to hang gymnastic rings.
If you went for the Vulcan Elite 360’s, all you have to do is throw the strap over the bar, loop it through the rings then hook your carabiner on the desired loop.
If you’re getting the Rep Fitness or Emerge gymnastic rings sets, which use cam buckles, here’s a quick, handy video for setting up your rings on a pull-up bar.
If you really don’t have anywhere where you can install them like this, you can do what I did. Either pick up a set of door anchors or you can just wrap them around a nice solid length of wood (like a broom handle) and hang them over the back-side of a door. Your rings should be on the side you pull towards yourself when closing it. As you apply your weight to the rings, the straps will pull the door shut, and the door frame will support your weight.
This particular setup is good for beginners, since you’ll only be doing inclined exercises to start with.
Exercises – Common exercises and their benefits
You’re a beginner if you’re not really in great shape yet. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in bad shape. A beginner is someone who just wants to be in better shape, maybe lose weight or build strength.
Gymnastic rings are great for exercise beginners because of their sheer versatility. There’s two main workouts that you can do even if you’ve never really worked out seriously a day in your life.
For a beginner setup, you’ll generally want to hang them from something mounted to the wall, or if you have something like a pull-up bar already, then you can hang it off of those at about waist height for these exercises. You can, however, just hang them over the top of a door.
The best part of gymnastic rings is that they have a lot of room for progression. Progressive exercises are ones that you can modify slightly to make them more and more difficult, effectively increasing how much of your bodyweight you put on your muscles allowing you to slowly build strength without needing a bunch of expensive equipment.
Ring push-ups are great if you don’t have the strength to do regular push-ups. Whether you’re overweight or short on strength (or both, like me when I started), you can do these exercises with relative ease and gradually increase the difficulty over time until you’re strong enough to do regular push-ups.
Here’s a handy video that shows the various levels of progression for ring push-ups as well as some details on form:
The best part about ring push-ups is that they engage more muscles than your typical push-up, requiring more involvement from your chest, back and shoulders. Even just the act of keeping your arms from swinging out or down as you perform the push up will build strength in places not normally affected by push ups.
Rows are a simple exercise where you lean back, putting some of your weight on your grip, then you pull yourself forward in a rowing motion. Like with ring push-ups, if you’re lacking in the strength to pull your body weight, just step back and reduce your angle until you reach a level of resistance that you’re comfortable with.
As you get progressively stronger, you just step further and further forward.
Here’s another video that does a great job of explaining the form and progression of rows.
The best part about rows is that they build up the supporting muscles you’ll need to eventually start doing full pull-ups. Pull-ups don’t just require strength in your arms, they require that you have the strength in your chest, shoulders, back and core necessary to keep your body from swinging forward. Rows help build strength in those areas, granting you a strong grip and better control of your body while pulling without putting as much weight on your muscles or strain on your joints.
For Intermediate exercisers new to rings
I’d consider you an intermediate exerciser if you already do a fair bit of calisthenics/bodyweight fitness or use a comprehensive weight lifting regiment. Strength building through bodyweight training is an excellent and affordable way to get in better shape. For a small investment, gymnastic rings can take those normal exercises and give you new ways to increase your overall resistance for greater strength gains.
By broadening your range of motion, normal exercises like dips, push-ups, pull-ups and rows engage more muscles in your upper body and core. Ring exercises also require a great deal of balance. Much like free weights require more muscle groups to exercise properly, gymnastic rings include more muscle groups in individual exercises, increasing your overall gains.
Here’s a few examples of exercises that require more strength and more muscle groups than their standard counterpart:
- Ring push-ups allow you to lower yourself further than if you push off of the ground, increasing engagement in your shoulders.
- Ring dips build greater grip strength and require much greater strength to maintain balance than when you’re doing them on parallel bars (or other parallel surfaces).
- Ring rows allow you more granular control over the amount of resistance you feel, and make it easier to progress towards declined rows.
- When doing pull-ups on rings, the fact that the rings can move out of the way of your pull-up makes it easier to maintain proper form, resulting in less unintentional levering.
- The fact that you don’t have to worry about your chest bumping the bar allows for a straighter upward pulling motion and greater engagement in the shoulders.
- Bicep curls
- Bicep curls with a free weight has little engagement outside of the bicep, but performing them on rings requires static engagement of the core, chest, back and shoulders.
Whether you’re new to working out at home, new to working out with rings or just plain new to working out, gymnastic rings are a great piece of equipment that have a broad range of uses for every fitness level. They’re good for general fitness, strengthening your upper body and core, and are compact and versatile enough to be used nearly anywhere.
Are there any tips you can think of for beginners considering getting gymnastic rings? If so, leave a comment below.