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Believe it or not, gym rings aren't made exclusively for Crossfitters, gymnasts and athletes. Gym rings can be an incredible tool for anyone looking to build strength, mobility and coordination.
Are they easy? No. Will it take time? Yes. Will it be worth it? Hell yes.
Gym rings are the two wooden or plastic circles you may spot dangling from two adjustable cords you may see people rather impressively hanging upside down off. But why should you give it a try yourself?
Why train with gym rings
Gym risks provide a challenging muscle building workout that there’s no hiding from. With a dumbbell you may get away with a half rep, but when it comes to a planche on the gym rings, there's no hiding. Each step of every movement requires practice and development of fundamental skills that then help to increase muscle as you lift your bodyweight to perform each exercise. Ring training stimulates the muscles to grow by exuding high levels of force on both fast and slow twitch muscle fibres depending on the exercise.
When in the locked position, a healthy joint should be extremely strong and stable, unlike when it is in the bent position. Remember how at school if you slouched on one leg the other kids would knock the back of your knees so you fell over? Well that’s why. Training using the rings practice of isometric holds where you lock your joints with appropriate load and leverage, fantastic at developing the strength of connective tissue.
Build Functional Strength
Functional strength involves being strong through multiple planes of motion, allowing your body to pull push twist and turn with ease. The rings allow your body to move in multiple planes of motion against force. All muscle in the body must work together to perform exercises on the rings, developing full body functionality.
Proprioception is your body’s sense of spacial awareness. Challenging your body by performing moves outside of your comfort zone such as an inverted hang (hanging upside down) whilst also being challenged by the instability of the rings increases your coordination and proprioceptive skills.
The range of exercises you can complete on the gym rings are not all just for gymnasts with exceptional strength. Whilst exercises such as the iron crosses, levers and planches require exceptional skill, gym ring exercises can be tamed for a variety of levels of strength. The straps are usually adjustable so you can work up to the tougher moves by starting with your feet on the floor and progressing from there.
Work your entire body
When your body has to work to stabilise it utilises as many muscles as possible to work together in unison to keep you steady. The rings are particularly good for developing core strength forcing you to engage your abdominals to stabilise and lift at once.
Good flexibility is required for most exercises on the gym rings, however if you're not quite there yet, the rings can also be used to to assist with stretching which then improves flexibility. Using the rings as extra resistance to pull against in your stretches can help you to go a little deeper into a stretch and accentuate the muscular benefits.
Gym rings are a portable tool which are easier to set up than you think. You don’t need much space for your gym rings. GMB states “ For height: “Giving yourself about 2.75-3.75 meters (9-12 feet) of height will work for most everyone. You can go a little lower if you’re just working on below the rings exercises, a bit higher if you are working on full inversions.” For width: “About 1.5 meters (~5 feet) of width around you is best. You’ll want to hang the actual rings at shoulder width or a little wider”. As for where to hang them your looking for somewhere which is sturdy and can hold your bodyweight. Examples include:
- A Beam from a high ceiling
- A local park pull up bar
- The local gym (if they don’t have one could you strap the rings over a Smith Machine or other device?)
- Build your own frame
Compared with your average gym membership cost, the gym rings can be a cheaper alternative approach to training. The cheapest rings are made of plastic, however these seem to feel less stable, wooden rings are often favoured as the feel more secure and are easier to keep grip of. Plastic can become slippery with sweaty palms, which is never a great combo if you're about to swing upside down.
Training on the rings makes it easy to move from one move to the next much like a yoga flow, meaning your workout takes less time. The instability of the rings makes every exercise much more difficult than it would be on a bar, so many people find the intensity of their workouts is increased and therefore the duration of the workout can be decreased.