Ring Dips Progressions

The ring dip is a fundamental bodyweight movement seen in competitive fitness events, gymnastics, and bodywight training. Performing dips on rings forces the body to create tension, stability, and increase body control to properly (and safely) perform the movement. 

In the below ring dip progressions guide, we discuss:

  • Benefits of Ring Dips
  • Ring Dip Risk Disclaimer
  • sHow to Integrate Ring Dips into Current Training Programs
  • 10 Ring Dip Progressions and Regressions
  • Ring Dip Sets and Reps General Recommendations

Ring Dip Disclaimer

It important to note that the ring dip referred throughout this article is the strict ring dip, NOT kipping. Failure to demonstrate control and strength in strict gymnastic versions prior to kipping movement can result in injury, joint and connective tissue stress, and poor technique.

Additionally, individuals with shoulder injuries should be cautious when performing this movement, especially in unstable and kipping situations. Failure to properly demonstrate mobility, joint control, and strength can result in injury.

Benefits of Ring Dips

Below are three (3) benefits of ring dips (and dips in general) that strength, power, and fitness athletes/coaches can expect when integrating the ring dip progression into their current training program.

Increased Gymnastics Skill and Strength

If you are an athlete/coach that is concerned with movements like muscle ups, ring-based exercises, and bodyweight training, ring dips are a must-train as they are components of more complex gymnastic-based ring training movements. Training ring dips can help strengthen specific muscle groups needed for ring-based gymnastics, enhance muscle coordination and stability, and help to increase overall positional strength and awareness in sport-specific ranges of motion.

Upper Body Muscle Hypertrophy

Ring dips work the triceps, pectorals (chest) and anterior shoulder muscles primarily, making them a good exercise to add upper body strength and lean muscle mass. Ring dips are often done under a strict tempo which can increase the time under tension when compared to more fixed-support ring dips and push up training. Note, that if you are a stronger, more advanced athlete, performing ring dips in excessive volumes (with or without load) can cause excessive strain to the shoulders and surrounding muscles/connective tissues if not programmed and progressed in a logical manner.

Muscle Coordination and Stability

Ring training can improve muscle coordination, enhance shoulder and wrist stability, enhance core strength, and increase positional strength and stability for movements the required balance while ring training. In addition, training with unstable supports can increase muscle activity, develop new muscle recruitment pathways, and potentially increase overall strength and muscle hypertrophy capacities.

How to Integrate Ring Dips into Current Training Programs

Below are (3) ways to integrate the ring dip into current training programs. Note, it is important that coaches and athletes understand the unique differences between ring dips and other dip exercises, and understand the inherent risks of performing ring dips (see above disclaimer).

Gymnastics Training Days

Functional fitness athletes and general fitness goers can integrate the below ring dip exercise progressions into skill-focus training sessions (assuming gymnastics are a skill that is being worked upon) to allow the body to be at it’s best (neurological or muscular) when doing this more complex dip variation. In doing so, you can limit the fatigue at the onset of training to the triceps, shoulders, and chest to allow for maximal stability and strength while training the ring dip.

Bodybuilding/Accessory Days

Ring dips work the upper body pressing muscles, like the triceps, pectorals (chest), and anterior shoulder. Adding these into accessory blocks on upper body focus training days (after overhead pressing, bench presses, etc) could be a great way to increase upper body lean muscle mass and strength.

EMOMs

Adding gymnastic-based movements like ring dips into EMOMs (Every Minute on the Minute) workouts are a great way to build quality movement, muscle mass, and still improve work capacity without allowing fatigue and poor technique to negate training. While you could also integrate these in more AMRAP-based workouts, this could increase the risk of poor technique and muscle fatigue to settle in, potentially increasing injury risks to the joints, connective tissues, and muscles involved in the ring dip movement.

Sets, Reps, and Weight Recommendations

Training the ring dip and its movement progressions/regressions should be done so in a controlled manner to decrease the likelihood of injury. The ring dip is a highly skillful and challenging movement for even advanced athletes, and therefore should be done in moderate volumes, slower velocities, with little to no load. Below are general recommendations for ring dip sets and reps. Be sure to read through the following ring dip progressions and master those prior to moving on to ring dip training.

Beginners

Beginners should take precaution when partaking in any new type of exercise in which stability and control highly demanded. The shoulder joint can be susceptible to injury if proper scapular stabilization and support is not taken, or if the lifter loses muscular control at deeper ranges of motion. Beginners should take precaution when performing these by (1) using bands to help assist the movement, (2) perform and master various progressions above, and (3) never sacrifice form for quantity of training volume. General recommendations for ring dip training are 3-5 sets of 3-5 repetitions at slow and controlled full range of motion repetitions (potentially with isometric holds and pauses at various stages to improve stability at susceptible positions).

Intermediate and Advanced Athletes

Using loads, tempos, and higher volumes can be done with more advanced athletes/lifters who have established superior muscle control, strength, and joints stability throughout the entire range of motion. While this exercise is an upper body strength movement, it is important to not overload this movement with too much loading as injury can occur very easily to the shoulder joint/junction if proper precautionary measures (such as those discussed above) are not taken regularly.

Ring Dip Progression Guide

Below is a systematic approach the learning, coaching, and developing a safe and strong ring dip (strict).

1. Push Up

The push up is one of the most fundamental bodyweight exercises out there. It teaches body control, upper body strength, core stability, and can be easily transitioning into more complex bodyweight movements. Below is a video demonstration on how to perform a perfect push up.

2. Ring Push Up

Once you have mastered the floor push up, it is time to transition you onto the rings. This transition will force you to become stability in the shoulder complex, find body awareness, core stability, and learn how to move and grip the rings. Below is a video demonstration on how to perform the the ring push up.

3. Strict Bar Dip

Learning the dip movement on fixed, stable bars is key to developing proper joint mechanics, muscle hypertrophy, and strength in the upper body (triceps, chest, shoulders, back).

4. Tempo Bar Dip

This is a more controlled variation of a bar dip, one that has the lifter remain in control on a cadence both in the eccentric and concentric portions of the lift. Furthermore, you can have the lifter pause at various position (bottom, half way, top) to acquire angular specific strength and stability which will be needed at later stages in the progression.

5. Kipping Bar Dip

While we are looking to learn the strict ring dip, kipping on a bar can have its benefits. For starters, it makes the movement happen quicker, forcing the lifters to learn to control momentum and the speed of the movement, all while establishing a better relationship with the body/bar. The increased loading on the joints and tissues due to the more violent kip and eccentric component (assuming the down portion is faster) can also help to overload this dip movement.

6. Ring Support Holds (Bottom Position)

Learning how to stabilize the body on the rings in the bottom of the dip is critical to pectoral (chest) and shoulder (tissues and joints) health. Failure to find control, strength, and stability at the end range of motion can often result in injury to the connective tissues and ligaments in the shoulder, as well as improper joint tracking and alignment.

7. Ring Support Holds (Top Position)

Learning how to support oneself at the top of the dip is just as critical as learning at the bottom. Too often lifters will resort to supporting oneself on shrugged shoulders, internally rotated joints, and sub-optimal pectoral and triceps involvement. Learning how to use the core, pectorals, triceps, and upper back to stabilize is key to injury prevention and learning the ring drip.

8. Band Assisted Ring Dip

The band assisted ring dip is a regressed/modified version of the ring dip, similar to using a band in the assisted pull/chin up exercise. By placing a band, you manipulate a lifter’s bodyweight, typically making is easier at the bottom of the dip and vice versa. This can help weaker lifters learn the mechanics and slowly develop proper technique and muscle mass necessary for the strict ring dip.

9. Tempo Band Assisted Ring Dip

Similar to the tempo bar dip, the tempo ring dip is a slowly controlled ring dip done to specific cadences. Learning how to control the smaller muscle and motor unit is key to maximizing muscular control and hypertrophy in this movement.

10. Ring Dip

At this point, you should have learned proper body positioning, stability and control, and develop the muscle memory strength to apply force throughout the entire range of motion in the dip. Below is a video demonstration on the ring dip (strict).

Featured Image: @chrisjespinal on Instagram

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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.