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.
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.
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 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).
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