Ring Dips Alternatives and Scaling Options

The ring dip requires joint stability, proprioception, and strength; all of which are not something many beginners walk into the gym possessing. While ring dips may be at the top of a beginning athlete’s to-do list, they should be sure to master scaling and alternatives before jumping into a fully blown workout involving this highly skilled and strength fueled movement.

To properly scale the ring dip coaches must drive home the concept of injury prevention and readiness with eager athletes, as they may neglect their own bodies in the name of nailing a ring dip (or managing to survive a ring dip WOD). Likewise, some individuals may not have the shoulder stabilization or foundational strength (beginners and yes, often women due to generally less upper body mass). For those individuals, alternatives should be offered to make sure there are no corners rounded or progressions skipped.

Therefore, in this article we will offer some helpful ring dip scaling options as well as some foundational alternative movements for all level athletes. Remember to put your ego aside and learn how to perform the movement safely before relying on ballistic kips and squirming like a worm to nail those ring dips. Your long-term fitness and joint health will thank you later.

Helpful Ring Dip Progressions

The below video does a great job of demonstrating a few scaling options and alternatives to the ring dip, which can be programmed during workouts or skill sessions. Note, that for those of you who are learning for CrossFit purposes, I highly recommend NOT performing ballistic style kips, AMRAPs, or any other variation where form is lost to function until you master the movements below.

Floor Push Up

While it may seem basic, I see SO MANY people do horrible push ups. Sagging hips, shoulders internally rotated, and the upper back resembling a turtle are just a few. Resist the urge forget form and build some serious strength and body awareness with strict, perfect push ups. Without mastering this foundational movement, you can bet your bottom dollar the ring dip (done with strict, proper form) will be near impossible. Substitute floor push ups on a 1:1 ratio to ring dips in a workout.

Ring Support Hold 

It’s as easy as supporting yourself in a tight, vertical position on the rings. While it seems easy enough, this isometric hold challenges your shoulder, core, and body stabilization and can increase strength at the finishing position of the dip. To further maximize your performance and bulletproof your shoulders, I highly recommend performing holds at the bottom of the dip (make sure you aren’t collapsing the shoulders) AND at various stages throughout the range of motion (elevator dips/holds). Substitute holds of any duration ring dips in a workout, anywhere between 3-5 seconds of holding per repetition of ring dip.

Ring Push Up 

Once you have mastered the push up on the floor AND can stabilize yourself throughout the various stages of the dip, it’s time to step up you push up game. With strict and controlled form, perform push ups on the rings to build stability, strength, and body awareness. As you progress, slowly walk backwards so that the rings are now directly under the bar (anchor point). Once you can perform strict, slow, fast, and elevator ring push ups (from above), you are ready to move on. Substitute ring push ups on a 1:1 ratio to ring dips in a workout.

Parallel Bar or Box Dip

Master the dip movement and develop necessary strength on a stable surface (stacked boxes or dip bars) is key, as strength is angular and movement specific! By performing these, you will now be able to better prepare for performing strict dips in an unstable environment (rings) which requires a great deal of strength, shoulder and core stabilization, and body awareness. Substitute bar or box dips on a 1:1 ratio to ring dips in a workout.

Band Assisted Ring Dip

Now that you have mastered the above movements, it is time to get you onto the rings to perform some assisted dips in a controlled environment. Band assisted ring dips (in addition to having a coach or fellow athlete help spot you) are a great scaling option to bridge the gap between the ring dip and all the other prerequisites above. Substitute band assisted ring dips on a 1:1 ratio to ring dips in a workout.

Master the Strict Before You Kip

Please respect your joints, connective tissues, and body by building the necessary strength, muscle mass, and neurological and motor control via strict ring dips BEFORE performing ballistic kipping ring dips. Getting injured while keeping because you aren’t skilled enough (or strong enough) to resist the forces placed upon your body is preventable 🙂

Ring Dips a Plenty!

Check out the articles below on how to ring dip properly and more!

Featured Image: @elleryphotos on Instagram

Editor’s Note: BarBend reader and coach Sophie Manfredi had this to add after reading this article:

“This article does a great job of reminding athletes and coaches alike, of the importance of building foundational strength, mobility, stability and technical skill before attempting to master more advanced progressions like the ring dip. By setting ego aside to focus on the basics, you will not only avoid injury, but will prevent bad habits from developing, which in turn will make you a stronger and more efficient athlete in the long run. When in doubt, talk to a personal trainer or coach for scaling options and modifications.”

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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