In the wide world of fitness, where there’s a different contraption for isolating almost every individual muscle in the body, the idea of two rings hanging in the air, each suspended by a strap, seems rather primitive. However, with all of the fancy pieces of fitness machinery that exist today, if I had to select just one piece of training equipment to use for the rest of my life, it would easily be a set of gymnastic rings.
As simple as they may be, gymnastic rings are (in my view) the most versatile, convenient, and effective piece of equipment for strength training, and they should be an essential part of every strength athlete’s inventory. Everyone from elite gymnasts to competitive powerlifters to people who just want to keep fit can benefit from adding bodyweight exercises using gymnastic rings into their training routine.
These are just a few reasons why gymnastic rings are the ideal strength training apparatus:
Gymnastic rings are perhaps the most portable and convenient piece of strength training equipment you can own. All you need is something to hang them from—a bar, a tree, a railing, a basketball hoop—and you’ve got yourself a gym (with no fees and no lines to wait in!). With rings, you can train anywhere: at the park, at the beach, on vacation, or just in the comfort of your own home. I carry my rings around with me wherever I go; after all, a training session is always imminent!
If you’ve ever tried to support your weight or perform movements on a pair of gymnastic rings, you know that it’s no walk in the park. Unlike a bar, which is fixed in place, gymnastic rings are suspended in space, free to swing and move around. This forces you to stabilize your body when performing movements and engage multiple muscles that must work together. The result is an extremely taxing, functional, and effective strength and stability-building workout for your entire upper body and core.
And if strength building isn’t enough, rings are also extremely effective for improving mobility in the upper body. Many movements on the rings (for example, muscle ups and skin-the-cat’s) not only push your body’s range of motion, but also strengthen the muscles in that increased range, resulting in tremendous improvements in mobility. If your goal is to become both strong and mobile, there’s no better training apparatus than a pair of gymnastic rings.
What other piece of equipment builds incredible pushing, pulling, and core strength all in one? The versatility of rings is one of its greatest assets; there are dozens of exercises that can be performed using them. You’ve got your classic pull-ups, push ups, and dips, then you’ve got more advanced movements like muscle ups, shoulder stands, and forward rolls, then even more advanced movements like handstand push ups and front/back levers, then superhuman gymnastic movements like the Iron Cross, Maltese, and Victorian.
Any exercise on the rings can be scaled to suit your level of strength and skill, so no matter what level you’re at, you can hop on a pair of rings and make huge strength gains.
4. Time Efficiency
Because performing exercises on gymnastic rings is so physically taxing and engages multiple muscles at once, they allow for an absolutely killer workout in minimal time. No need to spend time isolating each muscle; a few sets on the rings will make sure you’ve hit everything—and hit it hard. So if you’re pressed for time and still want to get in a strength training session that will leave your upper body on fire and your arms feeling like jello, hit the rings!
Of all the benefits rings have to offer, my personal favorite is the creativity that they allow me to use in my training. I do occasionally follow the sets-and-reps method, but my favorite way to train is to create long supersets that flow from one skill to another, challenging both my strength and my artistry. Besides the gains in strength, stability, and coordination, the aspect of creativity that comes along with rings training is something I find to be incredibly rewarding.