If there’s one piece of equipment that every gym, health club and fitness centre should have access to, it’s the gymnastic rings. They may look basic, but the gymnastic rings are the most comprehensive piece of equipment when it comes to bodyweight training and can add a whole new dimension to your routine. Here are a few of the many benefits.
The unstable nature of the rings adds a new level of complexity to movement. A ring push up, for example, will allow you to explore a more versatile range of motion as opposed to what you’d get in a fixed hand position. This activates more of your stabilisers and develops movement quality.
2. Upper body strength muscle gains
When you look at a typical ring gymnast physique, the words strong and muscular probably come to mind. Being suspended above ground makes the movements more demanding on the muscles, requiring control and time under tension, therefore stimulating strength and muscular adaptations. With adequate sleep, nutrition and progressive overload you have a great tool to up your strength and muscle gains.
Mobility is the ability to move through an unimpeded range of motion. Most ring exercises are compound movements which means they involve multiple joints and muscle groups. The exercises challenge your ability to maintain control while under tension and move through a range of motion. For example ‘skin the cat’ which challenges you to rotate your body in between your arms until your arms are twisted behind you, exploring your shoulders’ full range of motion.
Is a sense of how we perceive the position and movement of our body. Other than maintaining coordination on a day to day basis, proprioception is imperative for precise, often unconscious body movements. The rings allow you to explore your body’s positioning while suspended in the air. This teaches your body to move as one unit as opposed to isolated movements which have less functional everyday application.
The gymnastic rings make a great travel companion for those wanting to train while abroad. They’re cheap (roughly $30-80AUD), lightweight (less than 2kgs), easy to set up (2-3min) and can be set up in almost every park or playground, all you need is a bar or a tree. So, if you’re like me and can’t go travelling without working out, the rings are a great addition to the suitcase.
6. Training transference
Gymnastic ring training yields great performance transference, improving your performance in many sports and even regular resistance training. For example, improving shoulder mobility and strength via ring training can drastically improve your overhead position with snatches or clean and jerks and even help you out from an injury prevention perspective.
7. Creativity and fun
In my own practice and with those I teach, I find most people have a child-like curiosity towards ring training and often enjoy exploring the various ways they can be used. This appeal and form of play shifts the chore-like nature of exercise (for some) and keeps us striving for progressions long-term.
The rings are something you should definitely not rush into and expect to be proficient in overnight. The gymnastic rings require a lot of practice and can put your body in compromising positions, so be mindful of knowing your limitations with fatigue and instability, researching how to progress appropriately and know when to bail out of exercises. I highly recommend visiting a competent trainer or rings workshop before getting started.
Personally, since training with the gymnastic rings my stability, control, mobility, proprioception and enjoyment for exercise has increased. Regardless of your training experience the rings can be easily incorporated into any training program.