It’s time to become…. Lord Of the Rings!
The value of exercises doing on the rings cannot be exaggerated. If you want to know more why working out using gymnastics rings is not the same as when you’re using a bar, read our other article (link). You will find there also useful tips concerning proper gymnast rings’ grip. In this article, however, we’ll try to explain how to start the workout on rings, and what should be done before the first training. Because exercising on rings is not easy, and you shouldn’t treat it as just another thing you do among workout on a bar, using a bench or other equipment. To make your training safe, you’ll need some preparation. And remember – you don’t have to be the best from your very first moments on gymnastic rings. If you want to make true progress and not suffer from injuries after each gymnastic rings workout, you should tailor the exercises to your level. But to do that, you have to know on which level you’re really are. In other words, you need to assess your abilities in the three areas: strength, flexibility and motor control. Then you’ll know whether you are ready to begin the full workout on rings or is it best to work on some skills first. And always you can exercise on rings which are set lower (on the level of your shoulders for example) or standing on some sturdy elevated surface. But you have to know your weak and strong points first.
Are you ready? Strength.
Once again – exercising on gymnastic rings cannot be compared to simple workout without it. It’s because gymnastic rings allow increased range of motion during for example dips. And that is of particular risk to shoulder ligaments and other soft tissue. Unless one thing – unless you’re strong enough to handle such a range of motion. But how you can be sure whether you’re strong enough or not. Simple – by trying. Of course, that doesn’t mean plunging to a full dip on a very first day of your encounter with the gymnastics rings! Try the first exercise on lowered rings or standing on some elevated surface. OK, but what if you see it’s not time for you to start exercising on rings yet, that you just don’t have enough required strength? Well, then you should practice, focusing on increasing your straight arm strength. Here are some tips as to how can you do it:
- You can start with good old push-ups and then proceed to such exercises like for example L-Sit. Or maybe not even that, but exercises preparing for L-Sits may be a good idea: sit with your legs bent. Keep your feet on the ground and practice lifting your butt by pushing your hands down. Remember shoulders away from ears, butt directly beneath your shoulders! Next step is to lift one foot off the ground as well (maintaining the angle). Then try to lift both feet at once. If you have an impression that you have too short arms for that, remember that in most cases the problem lies with not pressing your hands down hard enough. Then you can start widening the angle of your knee. The goal is to have two straight legs in the air!
- And here’s another step you can take: try using parallettes. They are raised off the ground, so they also offer an increased range of motion, but it’s more manageable than in the gymnastic rings’ case. You can do such exercises as L-Sits described above (L-Sit itself and all the exercises preparing for it) or a plank lean: elbow pits facing forward, begin in a push-up position. Lean your body as forward as you can. Hold it as long as you can. You can work on how long you can keep the hold, and then try taking one foot off the ground while leaning.
You have to realize that exercising on gymnastics rings requires flexibility. Not only the average person flexibility but a lot more. So before you start serious gymnastic rings workout, it’d be best
if you tweaked your flexibility a bit. And fortunately, there’s a way to become more flexible – stretching. If you don’t like it, because you somehow don’t see any payoff after your effort, try following exercises. They are targeting shoulders movement restrictions which you could have developed during years of sitting at work or not exercising enough.
- Shoulder circles, but bit different than usual. Don’t do it in a standing position, but rather on your hands and knees. Start with knees beneath your hips and hands just beneath your shoulders. Create a circle with your shoulders by moving them to your ears, then towards your hips, down away from your ears and up towards your head. Keep pressing your hands to the ground and focus on having your elbows straight. Do the circles in both directions and then try doing them with alternating shoulders.
- You can very effectively stretch the back of your shoulder in the following way: lay on your stomach with arm by your side. Stretch the other arm across your chest with the palm facing up. Don’t let your shoulder move toward your ear too much! Using your shoulder muscles pull your chest down toward the floor. Do ten reps moving in and out of the stretch and then hold it for 30 seconds.
- Start in a kneeling position with your feet behind your butt. Lift your hips while raising your arms at the same time. When you’re in a top kneeling position with your arms straight, open your shoulders but don’t arch the back.
Are you ready? Motor control
And then there’s the control thing. The rings are totally unstable, so if you don’t want to wobble and shake on them, you have to be able to control your muscles. Of course, it will all come with practice, so if even after some tips you’ll read here you’ll find it difficult to stabilize the gymnastic rings, don’t give up! And remember to put the ever right rules to practice – start with lower reps count, put quality over the quantity and so on. You can also try to concentrate on muscle contraction during exercises, for example dips – while doing it, try not to lower yourself immediately but rather hold your buddy up for a while.
Let’s start with something basic…
OK, after all the assessment and preparation is done, you can start the gymnastic ring exercises! But still, it’s best to work your way to such exercises like front lever through lots of seemingly easy but extremely useful in hindsight, basic exercises. And here’s another good point: with a lot of this exercises you don’t need a lot of space so, you can practice it with gymnastic rings at home.
- Grab the rings in an underhand grip and keeping your feet on the ground practice pulling your shoulders down and together. Then start pulling your chest up at the same moment (still keeping your shoulder blades down and back). In the beginning, keep your feet on the floor but gradually work to lift them as well.
- The next step is adding the knee raise to the previous exercise. You basically do the pulling down shoulders with supporting yourself on your toes and then lifting your knees as high as you possibly can. After a while you can start doing a front tuck – you don’t straighten your legs when they’re up, but focus on control your body when your knees are above your head. Then you can lower your butt a bit and keep it there and then lower your feet to the ground.
- The next step is to open the tuck a bit – when your butt is lifted up and almost in one line with your head start straightening your legs a bit at a time.
- And here’s another kind of exercise you can try: go on your knees and place the gymnastics rings at your head height. Steady your arms in front and slowly rotate the rings to the back. Go deep into the stretch and make sure you exhale throughout the movement. When you’re deep in the stretch, rotate the rings inward. After a while, rotate them back outward and then move them back to the front.
- Put the rings higher and proceed to German hang position (full shoulder extension, which means arms behind your back while grabbing the rings). Take some steps backwards to deepen the stretch. Rotate the rings inwards.
- Grab the rings and jump into an inward hang. Do not hold it, but rather put your toes immediately to the ground. Hold the stretch for just a moment and then walk your feet forward rotating your arms. You can also pull yourself back up and go through the hang in the inverted form. You can practice with the hang a bit, trying to control the body as you pulling it up and lowering it down.
…just to land short of something awesome
All these prep exercises will help you do some amazing stuff on the gymnastic rings. If you’ve really mastered all the basic exercises you should be able to perform a front lever or a German hang:
- With front lever, you grab the rings and lean back to make your body horizontal to the ground. It’s the exercise which activates your whole body – arms of course but also core, abdomen and lower back which prevents the hips from dropping down.
- And German hang means that you do the inward hang and put your legs behind your head lowering them down. You try to place the legs (not touching the floor) right below the rings. And then you just hang in there!
These are of course but two of the amazing and dangerous looking exercises you can perform on gymnastic rings. Proper self-assessment and preparation won’t take the amazing part away but will surely make you less prone to injury during your workout on gymnastic rings.