Gym rings have gained popularity recently with the rise of CrossFit workouts, but what are the benefits of training with them? How do you use gym rings?
Why train with gym rings
Gym rings provide a challenging muscle building workout which is also challenging for your mobility, flexibility, and balance. 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 a locked position, a healthy joint should be strong and stable. Training using gym rings includes isometric holds where you lock your joints with appropriate load and leverage, which is great for developing the strength of connective tissue and in turn will strengthen your joints.
Build Functional Strength
Functional strength involves being strong through multiple planes of motion, allowing your body to pull, push, twist, and turn with ease. Gym rings allow your body to move in multiple planes of motion against force. All muscles in the body must work together to perform exercises on gym 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 using gym rings is not just for gymnasts with exceptional strength. Whilst exercises such as the iron cross, levers, and planches require exceptional skill, gym ring exercises can be scaled 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 itself, it utilises as many muscles as possible to work together in unison to keep you steady. A good gym rings workout will be particularly good for developing core strength by forcing you to engage your abdominal muscles 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 gym 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.
Where to put your gym rings is a big question. 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. 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, you're 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 to your average gym membership cost, 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 gym rings are often favoured as they feel more secure and are easier to grip. 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 exercise 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.