Calisthenics Rings

While most people have never used calisthenics rings, everyone has seen them in action before.

Every four years at the summer Olympics, we get to witness tremendous physiques and incredible upper body strength displayed by male gymnasts performing gravity-defying ring routines.

Watch the gold-medal winning performance by Brazil's Arthur Zanetti at the 2012 London Olympics below.

Although Zanetti makes it look effortless, anyone who has trained with them can appreciate how hard even basic movements become on the rings. 

Most men can't do five body weight ring dips without looking like an epileptic penguin.

Or maintain a steady, 10-second static support hold at the bottom of a push-up.

Unlike bar dips or push-ups on the floor where you're rooted in place, the rings add an instability element, which makes it so challenging.

They move within 360 degrees and expose any muscular weaknesses you have.

While that sounds interesting, let's discuss what you really wanted to know...

Can You Build Muscle With Gymnastic Rings?

Can You Build Muscle With Gymnastic Rings

One look at the upper body development of a ring specialist like Yuri van Gelder (pictured above) or Arthur Zanetti reveals the answer:

Yes!

Male gymnasts showcase the perfect athletic physique:

A thick chest...

Meaty arms...

Round shoulders...

And chiseled abs.

Because it's hard to overload the legs without external resistance to force growth, training with calisthenics rings doesn't produce much lower body size gains.

But they're unbeatable for building a muscular upper body. 

Calisthenics Rings Price

Since rings are an unconventional piece of training equipment used by Olympic athletes, they must be expensive, right?

Nope!

You can buy a quality pair for less than $100.

And it will last you for YEARS.

Calisthenics Rings Price

Make sure you buy high-quality, wooden gymnastic rings with sturdy cam buckles and heavy duty nylon straps capable of supporting 1000+ pounds.

Plastic is too flimsy and metal too heavy to enjoy training for hours on end.

Now you must be wondering...

“Where Can I Use Calisthenics Rings?”

Everywhere!

I've taken my trusty calisthenics rings all around the world.

Some of my most memorable workouts took place at the legendary Tompkins Square Park (see that black pair of rings in the picture below?) smack dab in the heart of Manhattan...

I've enjoyed magnificent seaside views between sets at a playground near the famous Charles River Esplanade in Boston...

And spent entire afternoons working on various dips, push-ups, and chin-ups at an outdoor park in Munich, Germany.

Thanks to their portability, calisthenics rings travel anywhere you go.

That said, most people will hang them up in their living room or basement for an at-home workout.

Which brings us to...

Calisthenics Rings Setup

Although setting up the rings doesn't require an advanced engineering degree, there is a bit of a learning curve in the beginning.

The whole thing will unravel during your set if you slide the strap through the wrong cam buckle hole (which many unaware people do)...

And you'll face plant the floor.

Getting it right will take a few tries.

This video shows you how to do it step by step.

Now that you have your rings set up, let's get to work!

Calisthenics Rings Workout for Strength & Muscle

Despite world-class gymnasts making ring workouts look like child's play...

You won't jump straight into the iron cross, planche, maltese, or other advanced calisthenics rings movements on your first day (not even your first year!).

Calisthenics Rings Workout

Beginners should always stick to the basics: 

Chin-ups, push-ups, dips, and their variations.

The rings make these standard exercises plenty challenging to produce new strength and size gains.

Here's a basic bodyweight and ring routine you can use to beef up your upper body:

Day 1

1a) Ring Chin-Up 3-4x8-10 90s.

(Weighted, if possible)

1b) Ring Push-Up 3x4x8-10 90s.

2a) Ring Inverted Row 3-4x12-15 45s.

(Higher angle than on Day 3)

2b) Ring Triceps Extension 3-4x10-15 45s.

2c) Hanging Leg Raise 3-4x10-15 45s.

Day 2

1a) Ring Dip 3-4x6-8 100s.

1b) Neutral Grip Chin-Up 3-4x6-8 100s.

2a) Close-Grip Push-Up 3-4x8-12 45s.

2b) Ring Biceps Curl 3-4x10-15 45s.

2c) Ring or Parallette L-Sit 3-6 sets (for 30-60 seconds total) 45s.

(Example: Set #1 13s., set #2 10s., set #3 8s. = 31 seconds total)

Day 3

1a) Ring Chin-Up 4x3 100s.

(Heavier than on Day 1)

1b) Ring Push-Up 4x6 100s.

(Elevate your feet or add external load to make it harder than on Day 1)

2a) Close-Grip Dip 3-4x8-10 45s.

2b) Ring Inverted Row 3-4x8-10 45s.

(Lower angle than on Day 1)

2c) Ab Wheel 3-4x8-10 45s.

When writing this article, I found this old workout compilation I had uploaded to YouTube back in 2015.

This was during my bodyweight training period when I felt burnt out and had shoulder issues from barbell lifting.

While some of my movements wouldn't pass the stringent judgement in gymnastics, the video shows you several progressions you can use to make push-ups challenging enough as you gain more strength and muscle.

Despite taking an entire year off from regular gym training to work on bodyweight movements, I later returned to dumbbells and barbells.

Why?

Because I believe you get better results by combining ring training with free weights.

Here's one way to change this workout plan if you have access to dumbbells, cable stations, and an EZ bar:

Day 1

1a) Chin-Up 3x8-10 90s.

1b) DB Bench Press 3-4x8-10 90s.

2a) Seated Cable Row 3-4x10-12 45s.

2b) Push-Up 3-4x10-12 45s.

2c) Hanging Leg Raise 3-4x10-15 45s.

Day 2

1a) Dip 3-4x6-8 90s.

1b) 1 Arm DB Row 3-4x8-10 90s.

2a) DB Hammer Curl 3-4x10-12 45s.

2b) Lying EZ Bar Triceps Extension 3-4x10-12 45s.

2c) Ring or Parallette L-Sit 30-60 seconds total 45s.

Day 3

1a) Chin-Up 4x3 90s.

1b) Push-Up 4x6 90s.

2a) Seated Neutral Grip DB Press 3-4x8-10 45s.

2b) Inverted Row 3-4x8-10 45s.

2c) Ab Wheel 3-4x8-10 45s.

Wrapping Up

Feeling burnt out from barbell lifting?

Dealing with nagging wrist, elbow, or shoulder pain?

Add calisthenics rings to your workouts for a novel but powerful growth stimulus.

They not only bring up your lagging chest, shoulders and arms...

They also give your worn-out joints a much-needed break from continuous, heavy loading...

And you can carry them in your sports bag wherever you go.

Nothing beats outdoor workouts where you get to enjoy vitamin D, fresh air, and natural movement.

Even if you stick to free weights as your primary form of strength training, sprinkle some ring exercises into your routine now and then.

You'll savor how fun and effective they are for building that muscular, athletic body every man wants. 

Yunus Barisik

Yunus Barisik, CSCS, has coached 500+ competitive athletes. His client list includes NCAA D1 champions, World Champions and NHL players.A former skinny-fat kid struggling to gain strength and muscle, Yunus managed to build a respectable 3x body weight deadlift. He has also helped dozens of scrawny men add muscle, hit lifting PRs they never thought were possible, and saved them from the skinny-fat curse.

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