the joy of strength training


January 23rd, 2008 at 8:56 pm

Ring training: getting started

You don’t have to be able to do muscle-ups and front levers to benefit from training with rings. They make even old favourites like push-ups and dips more challenging because you have to work to stabilise them. You’ll probably be surprised at how much more difficult an exercise can be on the rings – I know I was!

However, once you learn how to get the rings under control, you will want to aim for some of the more technically challenging gymnastic moves as well. You will get fantastic upper body strength, a core of steel and you’ll look very impressive at the gym to boot.

Have a look at my ring training video for demos of the easier ring exercises you can do to get started and read the guide below.


Ring dips are surprisingly harder than bar dips. The key to remaining stable in the dips is to keep the rings as close to your body as possible. When you dip down, aim to get your hands into your armpits. You get a much better range of motion with ring dips than you do with bars in the gym because they are much closer to your body.

Mastering ring dips is an essential precursor to learning the muscle-up. If you have trouble doing full ring dips for reps at first, practise negative ring dips. Use your feet to get yourself up into the top position and slowly dip down to the bottom position with no assistance. Once in the bottom position, use your feet to assist you to the top again.


For pull-ups, the rings will naturally give you a neutral grip (palms facing inwards), which is very wrist friendly.

Pull-ups are also part of the progression to learn muscle-ups, as you need the strength to be able to do, say, 10-15 pull-ups before starting to learn the muscle-up. With the rings you can start to get used to the false grip, which is necessary for muscle-up technique, and do false grip pull-ups to practise.

Watch a video seminar on how to do chin-ups with a false grip from Crossfit London

Inverted row and vertical row

There’s more than one way to row using the rings. The more normal method is to have your feet on the floor with legs stretched out in front of you, and pull your chest up to the rings using a rowing motion (see my video if you are not familiar with this move).

However, you can make it more difficult by hanging upside down and pulling your whole body up.

It’s tricky because you get a bit of swing and it’s hard to stay balanced in the position, let alone pull your bodyweight up. But worth the effort!


Like the dip, it’s easy to get a better range of motion in the push-up when using the rings, bringing your hands all the way into your armpits. The first time you do this, you will feel it the next day, even if you have been doing normal push-ups on the floor for years!

Because you have to work to keep the rings stable, decline push-ups (head higher than feet) are much harder than they would be if you were using something solid. Incline push-ups (feet higher than head) are even more challenging with the rings.


It’s easier than you think to get hold of some rings, or ring-like objects. Here are a few options:

  • Buy readymade rings specifically for this type of exercise.
  • You can make your own using some metal and straps. My rings consist of a bit of metal pipe threaded with a roof rack strap. I’m lucky enough to have a pipe with a curve in it, but straight pipe would also work.
  • You can put up handles hanging from chains, as explained in this article by The Mighty Kat.
  • And finally, you can even use a couple of judo belts tied together. I’ve tried it, they do work!

More exercises

Crossfit London’s Ring Training guide.

Some useful ring videos from Petranek Fitness:

Impressive stuff in this video clip ranging from relatively simple to quite advanced (handstand push-ups, one arm row, L-sit muscle-up)

Extreme rings from Muscle Beach!

Stumble it! Share Subscribe to this blog
  • 1

    Hi There,

    Just came across your site via STTB. My rings turned up from Ring Training last week. Just starting to get into using them! Good article.


    Rannoch Donald

    Rannoch on January 24th, 2008
  • 2

    Great article! This is exactly what the doctor ordered – a can-do introduction for the ring-curious, like me. Your lead assuring us that we don’t have to be ready for muscle-ups in order to enjoy the rings was exactly what I wanted to hear, to justify the expense. Getting psyched to try them now! Was delighted to see the link to my article – thanks much.

    The Mighty Kat on January 24th, 2008
  • 3

    @ Rannoch: Lucky you! Have fun with them.

    @ Mighty Kat: Cheers! I was the same actually – not sure whether I would really get into them. Hence the homemade version. However, having tried them out I can really see the benefits of moving “easy” exercises like dips and push-ups to the rings and being humbled.

    gubernatrix on January 24th, 2008
  • 4

    Great info. By coincidence I had my first experience with rings yesterday. The Tucson Crossfit met at a local gymnastics facility and we received instruction in rope, breakfalls, hand-stands, etc as well as rings. I did fine on dips and inverted rows. Couldn’t quite get through the transition on muscle-ups though!! That’s my goal! Thanks for the ideas on homemade rings. I definitely need to add some to the garage gym!!

    Andy on January 25th, 2008
  • 5

    Sounds like a great session Andy! Wish there was a Crossfit affiliate round these parts. I’m also going for the muscle-up this year, although I’ve got a lot of work to do.

    gubernatrix on January 25th, 2008
  • 6

    Awesome! I just ordered a pair of rings myself from Just waiting for them to come in. The first time I did a ring dip, I was amazed how difficult it was compared to doing dips on parallel bars. So far I’ve only gotten one muscle-up in and it was brutal (there’s a video of it on my blog showing just how brutal it was). Can’t wait for my rings to show up!

    Jamie on January 26th, 2008
  • 7

    Nice one Jamie! Had a look at the video. It’s great actually to see how hard it really is. Normally when you see videos it’s some gymnast who makes it seem like the easiest thing in the world!

    What do you reckon one needs to have (in terms of ring dips, pull-ups etc) before being able to do a muscle-up?

    gubernatrix on January 26th, 2008
  • 8

    I’ve heard that from a gymnast’s perspective, it’s one of the easiest ring moves, but as you could tell, I’m no gymnast 😉
    I think that just keeping up with the ring dips and pull-ups is really important. From various things I’ve heard or read, if you can do 12 good ring dips and 12 pull-ups, you should have the strength for a muscle-up. The rest is technique. The false grip and pushing forward through the transition are the important pieces to the puzzle.

    Jamie on January 26th, 2008
  • 9

    Thanks for that advice.

    gubernatrix on January 27th, 2008
  • 10

    Great article. Wish I had somewhere to set rings up. That’s one of the few things I haven’t been able to rig up around here.

    MoneyMan on February 24th, 2008
  • 11

    What a pity! I’m sure you can come up with an ingenious solution though.

    gubernatrix on February 24th, 2008
  • 12

    hey you can also make your own rings out of PVC and some webbing from dicks sporting goods. They work pretty nicely and cost about $10 which is like $70 less than that bull they’re trying to sell at

    Allen on March 3rd, 2008
  • 13

    What did you use to wrap the handles of your rings?

    Jason on March 10th, 2008
  • 14

    Jason, is that question directed at me? I haven’t wrapped them, they are just smooth metal at the moment. Is it advisable to wrap them?

    gubernatrix on March 10th, 2008
  • 15

    Yep, but maybe I looked at them wrong, I was making a set of rings for one of my clients using rope, and tying the ends off in giant rings. Problem is that the rope is not conducive towards a soft set of hands. Maybe I watched that video and thought that the home made rings had some sort of padding for the hands. If not it’s totally cool, train hard!!!

    Jason on March 10th, 2008
  • 16

    I will, matey!

    gubernatrix on March 10th, 2008
  • 17

    […] Ring training: getting started […]

  • 18

    Great stuff.. any suggestions on where to get the stuff to set up rings by the side of the house?.. thx

    David on October 6th, 2008
  • 19

    @ David: I’m not sure, I’m not an expert at DIY. I tend to take them to the park and hang them off climbing frames etc!

    gubernatrix on October 6th, 2008
  • 20

    I am 45…..getting started on the rings…..they really amaizing…..I do push ups, body row and “ring support”….in scale 1 to 10…mine ring support get around 1….but it does not matter to me…..getting stronger and fit with rings

    alberto on May 25th, 2010
  • 21

    With havin so much written content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright violation? My blog has a lot of completely unique content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my agreement. Do you know any solutions to help reduce content from being stolen? I’d really appreciate it.

    Anna Rodgers on December 10th, 2010
  • 22

    Wow, this paragraph is good, my sister is analyzing these things, therefore I am going to convey her. on February 25th, 2014


RSS feed for comments on this post | TrackBack URI