One of the simplest, yet most effective training tools of all time is something that nearly every playground has (yet exists in very few commercial gyms)—rings.
And unless you’re a former gymnast or regularly train at a CrossFit gym, you probably haven’t used rings since you were a kid. Yet a sturdy pair of rings will only set you back about $30, and will add a whole new level to your training.
So why are rings such an amazing workout tool? Training with rings will:
- Add an element of instability to any exercise, automatically making it harder and more effective
- Seriously help to push through workout plateaus
- Increase the difficulty level and challenge of pretty much any bodyweight exercise
- Make you feel like a kid again!
Plus, once you master the basics, you can start doing even cooler looking (and extra fun) things like iron crosses, skin the cats, front/back levers and even handstand push ups using rings.
Yet if you think that adding rings to your workouts is going to be easy, you’re in for a big surprise. Training with rings is tough—even for the really fit. And while it’s an awesome goal to work up to crazy hard exercises on the rings, most of us aren’t quite there yet.
Here are four ways to ease into adding rings to your training:
Adding rings to your triceps dips adds a whole other level of difficulty, since not only do you have to still do a dip, you also have to balance yourself while holding that position.
To do a ring dip, you’ll first need to get yourself up on the rings, holding them at your sides with your palms facing toward your body and your thumbs facing in front of you. Slowly lower down as you turn your thumbs toward your body, holding your legs in front of you at a slight pike position and pushing your chest forward.
Ideally you want to aim for a 90 degree angle or below, but if you can only get a few inches down, that’s ok—just stick with it and you will get stronger!
Make it easier: You can actually use bands to make this exercise more doable when you’re first starting out—just take a band and loop it around twice as you grab one end with each hand. Hold the rings (while still holding onto the bands) and set your knees in the middle of the band below you, then dip down. It’s a little awkward, but if you can get into that initial position, it’ll help you build strength for full ring dips.
Alternatively, you can do ring dips while setting your feet on an elevated surface for extra support.
Push ups are an awesome exercise to add rings to, because the instability of the rings makes them way tougher! As a result, ring push ups will help you get really really strong, fast.
To do them, lower your rings so that they’re a foot or two off of the ground. The lower the rings, the harder this exercise will be. Get into a push up position with the rings directly under your shoulders, making sure to push up through your shoulders and tighten your core, glutes and leg muscles before lowering down.
Make it easier: If the full push up position is too tough for you right now, just raise the rings so that you’re in more of an elevated push up position.
Reverse push ups/rows
Reverse push ups, Australian pull ups, rows—whatever you want to call them, adding rings to this exercise is a fantastic way to build up the strength necessary to do pull ups. Even if you can already do a few pull ups, this exercise will really help strengthen your back and shoulder muscles as well as iron out any imbalances to help you push past plateaus and help you crank out even more pull ups and other cool exercises.
To do them, set up your rings so that when your laying down holding them, you shoulders are a few inches above the ground. Lay down while grabbing the rings with your shoulders directly underneath you. You palms should be facing away from your head and you should think about tightening your core and leg muscles. Pull yourself up toward the rings, allowing your palms to rotate as you do so so they end up facing each other at the top of the exercise. Make sure and lower all the way down before pulling yourself back up.
Make it easier: You can raise the height of the rings to make this exercise easier. Don’t worry, raising the rings will still help you get stronger!
L-sits are a great way to build up your core and triceps strength, and the instability of rings makes these even more fun (a.k.a. hard).
To do L-sits on the rings, boost yourself up so that you’re holding the rings by your side, feet off of the ground. Raise your legs in front of you, straightening them so they’re as tight and straight as possible. Make sure to keep your core tight and try not to let your shoulders creep up to your ears.
Hold for as long as possible—don’t worry if you can only keep the position for a couple of seconds, you’ll get better with practice!
Make it easier: To remove some of the difficulty of this exercise, try holding your knees to your chest in a tuck position rather than straightening. You’ll still build plenty of core and triceps strength this way.