The best gymnastic rings for CrossFit

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I’m sure plenty of people out there will tell you outright, “rogue rings are the best for CrossFit.” While they’re not necessarily wrong, they’re not entirely right either. There are plenty of options out there, and I’m going to discuss those options, and their advantages and disadvantages, and things you might need to know about gymnastic rings in general.

If you’re not sure why you need them at all, I can tell you that they’re a highly effective inclusion in your routine. They’re massively increase core and upper-back engagement during typical push/pull exercises. They are to pull-up bars and similar equipment what free weights are to weight machines.

They require far more strength, balance and bodily control to maintain proper form. Even if you’re not performing especially difficult exercises on them, the amount of effort and range of muscles required to perform them properly will help you build strength in ways that will catapult you forward in your progress towards greater strength, flexibility and endurance.

The best gymnastic rings for CrossFit

Specific ModelUse case
Vulcan Elite 360 Wood RingsRegular gym Vulcan Elite Wood Rings on Amazon
Rogue RingsCrossFit gymRogue Rings on their website
Emerge Gymnastic RingsHome GymEmerge Wood Rings on Amazon

Vulcan Strength Elite 360 Wood rings – Common gyms

If you don’t have access to a gym that’s well equipped for CrossFit, but still go to the gym for your workouts, then Vulcan Strength makes the rings you’ll want.

Their rings are made from coiled Birch Hardwood, which makes them extremely resilient, meaning you can carry them around without having to be careful about them. The wood also offers a comfortable and stable grip which can be augmented with chalk.

Their carabiner-and-loop mounting system makes it fast and easy to mount and unmount them. Simply toss one end over the bar, hook the carabiner into the loop at the height you’ll need for your exercises, then hook the carabiner on the rings to the straps. It also makes it much easier to adjust their height (and to be sure they’re the both the right height) if you need to change the height of the rings between exercises.

Lastly, they’re usually cheaper and easier to find (Click here to check the price on Amazon).

Strengths

  • High quality coiled Birch Hardwood rings that will probably outlast the straps
  • Easy to use carabiner-and-loop mounting system

Weaknesses

  • Limited 9′ adjustment range not ideal if mounting on extremely high bars

 

Rogue Rings – CrossFit Gyms

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that these are great for CrossFit. Rogue tends to cater to the CrossFit community in particular, and their gymnastic rings are no exception.

Their baltic birch rings are also quite durable, lightweight and offer a comfortable grip that won’t slip even when it gets wet with sweat. Their cam buckle style of mounting is generally easy to use and can accommodate any bar height. The cam buckles themselves are also solid metal, meaning they can support enormous strain without slipping or damaging the straps.

They also offer their straps in 16′ and 40′ variants, offering a ~7′ adjustment range on the shorter ones, and up to 18′ of adjustment range on the longer straps. Additionally, the 16′ variant comes with a built in Velcro brand fastener to keep excess strap out of the way when doing your exercises.

To top it all off, they have a number of stylish and useful accessories, from a carrying bag to colored straps, as well as mounting options for your home if you can’t make it to the gym. You can find them on the Rogue website.

Rogue rings are best for use in CrossFit gyms because of their versatility and quality. You can hang them from wall mounted bars for angled workouts, regular pull-up bars and (if you have the longer straps) the high bars. Plus, if you can’t get to the gym, you can always buy door anchors or a ceiling mount of your own to set them up at home.

Strengths

  • Durable and comfortable solid birch rings
  • Straps come in a variety of colors and lengths to suit your situation
  • Solid metal cam buckles built to last
  • Numerous compatible accessories allowing you to use them at the gym and at home

Weaknesses

Emerge Gymnastic Rings – Home Gyms

Emerge fitness makes it a point to let you know that they have the “most secure” gymnastic rings on the market. While their wooden rings are nothing too crazy, Baltic birch, they definitely get the job done and offer a decent grip.

Where they shine is their straps. Rated for up to 800 lbs, their 1.5″ wide x 15′ long, cross stitched straps are some of the strongest you’ll find in gymnastic ring sets. They’re also conveniently marked for precise hanging.

Their heavy duty cam buckles are just as sturdy as the ones you’ll find with Rogue rings.

These are ideal for home setups, since they’re designed to last through regular use, can easily withstand being mounted on unusual supports (like beams or tree branches), and are budget friendly (often a concern of those home exercisers). For more home gym recommendations, check out my article on the best gymnastic rings for home use.

If you’re already convinced click here to check the price on Amazon and get your own pair of Emerge gymnastic rings.

Strengths

  • Ultra heavy duty straps that can handle up to 800 lbs
  • Heavy duty all metal buckles
  • 100% money back guarantee
  • Cheaper than most premium rings without sacrificing on quality

Weaknesses

  • Shorter (15′) straps meaning they can only have a 7′ adjustment range

The benefit of Gymnastic Rings in CrossFit

There are tons of benefits to including gymnastic rings in your CrossFit routine, so I’ll take some time to go over them one by one.

Versatile

Gymnastic rings can be installed nearly anywhere with minimal effort. Don’t have a sturdy horizontal beam/bar? Throw it on a branch. No trees? loop the straps around a broom handle and hang them over your door. Using a strange hotel gym? Bring them. Working out at home on some days and the gym on others? Bring them.

You can take them with you and set them up for a wide variety of workouts.

Aside from the versatility of installation is the range of exercises that provide various benefits to suit your needs at your current level of progress. You can do workouts that focus on multiple muscle groups (like l-sits and rows) to build stamina and control, isolate muscle groups (bicep curls, front/back flies or rotator cuff pulls) for pure strength, perform isometric exercises (hand stands, levers and false grip training) to enhance balance, and more.

Proprioception

Proprioception, your general awareness of your body and what it’s doing, is absolutely essential to performing pretty much every exercise on the rings. Due to the inherent instability of the rings, you’re forced to compensate for the fact that the rings could swing forward, back, left or right as you perform your exercises. Learning to control that requires that you be aware not just of the main muscle groups you’re working, but of the smaller supporting muscles.

Mitigating that instability isn’t as simple as flexing your muscles or pulling in one direction, you have to balance them all out. Pull too far in and your hands will get in the way of your body movements, too far out and the resistance will move to another muscle group. Being able to push and pull at the right level to keep your hands in the right place as you do your dips, push-ups, rows, pull-ups, l-sits and other rings exercises require that you are more aware of your body and have more granular control over various muscle groups.

This is beneficial from a CrossFit perspective because it will make you far more aware of your form when performing other strength building exercises.

Grip strength

Needless to say, working on rings requires prodigious grip strength. Even on lighter exercises you’ll be putting some portion of your body weight on your hands. Mild declined rows  will start you off with a small fraction of your body weight on your grip, but over time the strain of maintaining your grip while also performing more complicated maneuvers (rolls, muscle ups, one-handed pull-ups, etc) will effectively require a grip strength exceeding your weight.

It also requires that your grip maintain its strength while shifting through positions. If you have trouble with your grip, even basic exercises on rings, particularly pull exercises, will help you improve a great deal in that regard.

Low joint impact

Thanks to the fact that rings are so versatile, you can easily start off on the low end of various exercise progressions. By applying enough effort to test your joints but not damage them, you can stimulate growth in joint durability over time.

Due to the fact that many of the exercises spread the effort across multiple muscle groups, the strain on your joints is similarly divided.

Multi-muscle group engagement

As mentioned before, there are a variety of exercises that engage multiple muscle groups. However, every exercise on the Gymnastic rings engages more than one. Proper form often requires engagement of the core, shoulders and (of course) arms to some degree.

Exercises like l-sits, v-sits and levers focus in your core, but require a great deal of effort in your arms, shoulders, back, and even your legs.

Ring push-ups, particularly decline push-ups and front flies, allow for greater involvement of your chest, as well as your arms, shoulders, core and upper back.

Due to the fact that rings are inherently unstable, the number of muscles that have to be involved when performing any one exercise is greater than you’d find with other forms of equipment or calisthenics.

Maintaining control of your form, your balance and ensuring that your strength is actually moving you in the right direction requires numerous muscle groups working together.

 

Gymnastic Rings in CrossFit – Frequently Asked Questions

What are some basic gymnastic rings exercises I can start with?

Push-ups and rows are the simplest, have the lowest strength requirements to start off, are the most intuitive and have a high skill ceiling. Ring push-ups are exactly what they sound like, push-ups, but on the rings. You can start with standing ring push ups, and as you progress, simply step further and further back, putting more of your weight on your arms. Eventually, you can progress to decline push-ups, wide grip or narrow grip push ups, etc.

Ring rows are simple as well. Keeping your body straight, hang backwards supporting your weight on the rings, the lower yourself, then pull back up. This is a great exercise to build towards pull-ups, as it builds much of the supporting strength you’ll need to perform them.

Where should I set up my gymnastic rings?

The beauty of gymnastic rings is that you can set them up in a myriad of places. At home, a pull-up bar is ideal, but they can be mounted on any horizontal beam or bar that can support your weight.

Here’s a more comprehensive guide to setting up your gymnastic rings at home.

Conclusions

Gymnastic rings are an essential inclusion in a CrossFit regiment. They allow you to consolidate gains that would otherwise require a dozen or so other exercises into just a select few. Their highly adaptive nature also means that beginners, adepts and experts can all find exercises to help them surpass their limitations.

And here are a few more options for you to choose from:


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