When your goal is to build a full, round chest with minimal equipment and joint stress, you won't find a better option than the ring push-up.
It does everything a standard push-up does... and then some.
Let's talk about why, past the newbie stage, you should make push-ups on rings an irreplaceable part of your workouts.
Are Ring Push-Ups Harder Than Regular Push-Ups?
The big difference between regular versus ring push-ups is hand placement.
In the former, your hands are rooted to the ground and can't move.
Since the rings can rotate 360 degrees, stability demands go through the roof, and they're difficult to control (at least in the beginning).
This means your entire upper body and torso have to work overtime to stabilize your body.
Prepare to eat some humble pie the first time you try this exercise, as you'll be shaking like a crack addict holding up a vomit-stained paper cup begging for coins on the corner of Seventh Street!
Which Muscles Do Ring Push-Ups Work?
Like floor push-ups, they hit the mirror muscles of the upper body – chest, triceps, and front part of the shoulder.
Top 5 Ring Push-Up Benefits
It won't take long before sets of 15-20+ reps on regular push-ups become too easy if you're following a smart, progressive training plan.
You can experiment with different grips and tempos, or add external load to increase difficulty.
Still, traditional push-ups provide a minor challenge for strong men.
That's where the rings come in. They make you feel like a beginner again.
Check out these five no-brainer reasons to include ring push-ups in your strength program when regular reps no longer push your limits:
#1. Excellent Strength Builder
Not only are the rings more unstable, the range of motion is also greater than on the ground.
You have to own each rep.
Especially during the eccentric (lowering) part, you must exert superb control over your body.
You can't just bang out 30 crappy reps like many guys do on traditional push-ups where they drop from the top position and apply force only on the way up.
The rings force you to slow things down on the eccentric and own the movement. Which is great for building more strength.
#2. Bigger Chest
Want a pair of thick, round pecs?
Forget about Smith presses, cable flyes, or the pec deck machine.
None of them can match the ring push-up. It beats all conventional exercises for packing on meaty muscle on your chest.
Just check out the chest development of male ring specialists for proof!
#3. Easy to Scale
Thanks to the adjustable straps, you can set the rings at whatever height works best for you.
The closer you bring the rings to the ground, the harder the exercise becomes.
Not strong enough to do that today?
Set the rings higher, so your body is elevated at around 45 degrees.
Build your strength and confidence over the next weeks/months in a more upright position.
Then work your way down bit by bit until your body is horizontal to the ground.
More on progression steps later in this article.
#4. Less wrist stress
Some lifters complain about wrist issues on floor push-ups.
The rings fix this. You're using a neutral grip (palms face each other), which reduces pressure on the wrist joint.
Now you can do push-ups without pain.
#5. Greater Abdominal Strength and stability
Besides challenging your chest, shoulders, and tris, push-ups on rings also force your abdominals to work overtime as they stabilize your body.
With rings, I always feel my abs during a hard set.
Can't say the same for regular push-ups.
Ring Push-Up Form
You won't find a more basic bodyweight exercise than push-ups.
But it's rare to see great form on them.
Thanks to higher stability demands, rings magnify all the common push-up mistakes – head dropping, hips sagging, lower back arching, and shoulders rolling forward.
Here's how to make your reps flawless.
The straps should be the length of your forearm (knuckles to elbow) apart and the rings just above the floor.
With straight wrists and feet shoulder width apart, turn the rings out about 30 degrees.
This is your starting position (aka support position).
Squeeze your glutes and engage the abs.
Begin the descent by turning the rings in.
Lower under control until the base of your thumb grazes your chest at the bottom.
If you can't maintain proper form going so low, cut the ROM shorter by touching your front delt to the upper part of the ring.
As you get stronger, strive to go all the way down.
Maintaining a straight body, reverse the movement. Think of pressing the rings through the floor.
Return to the support position with the rings turned out ~30 degrees after each rep.
Ring Push-Up Progressions & Variations
Most men are too weak to jump into ring push-ups right away.
You should be able to do at least 15 textbook push-ups before adding rings to your routine.
Elbows flare? Hips sag? Chicken head? Shortened ROM?
None of those count as good push-ups.
You aren't ready for the rings. Keep working on the floor until you can display textbook form.
Once your technique passes the inspection, follow these progression steps to make your push-ups harder over time.
#1. Incline Ring Push-Up (Hands Elevated)
When beginners transition from the floor to the rings, they shake like an epileptic penguin and lose core control.
It's an ugly, ugly sight.
To get used to the increased strength and stability demands from the rings, elevate them higher than your feet.
This angle puts your body in a stronger position, so you can practice moving your body over a full range of motion while honing your technique.
#2. Ring Push-Up
Regular reps with hands in the lowest position possible and feet on the ground.
#3. Decline Ring Push-Up (Feet Elevated)
Place your feet on a bench or box to create a decline.
This increases the range of motion, which produces tremendous chest pumps.
#4. Weighted Ring Push-Up
Besides increasing the ROM, you can amp up the difficulty with external resistance.
Once you're using several plates, you'll need a training partner to help place them on your back and keep them there during your set.
#5. Ring Flyes & Wide/Archer/RTO Push-Ups
Beyond the four basic variations I listed, you can take your ring training to the next level with flyes, archers, and other advanced movements.
Check out this video for more ideas.
Ring Push-Up Alternatives
After a sturdy power rack, an Olympic barbell with plates, and a chin-up bar, gymnastic rings are one of the first pieces of training equipment I recommend buying for your home gym.
Quality rings cost less than $50, so anyone lifting at home should get a pair.
Training at a public facility?
Outside of sports performance centers and CrossFit gyms, most don't have rings.
You could bring your own. I did it for years. But I also get you don't want to go through the hassle of setting them up in every workout.
Replace ring push-ups with dumbbell bench presses and weighted dips to chisel your chest.
Use perfect form.
Target the chest and go for huge pumps.
Progress gradually by adding weight or moving to a more difficult variation.
That's the recipe for adding new muscle to your upper body with ring push-ups.