The gymnastic rings are, without question, the best piece of equipment you can own for progressing your calisthenics skills. To really push yourself on to more advanced movements and techniques such as the Back Lever, Front Lever, the Iron Cross, Ring Muscle Ups, Handstand Push Ups, etc, there are some crucially important things to consider.
The first being, are you ready with form, knowledge and safety? This question is a bit of a free flowing one, and tends to be very subjective.
I find the best way to analyse this (certainly when I train) is to break down the ‘next level’ complicated moves into sections.
Let’s take the ring muscle up for example; I can perform the pull up in a false grip pulling all my weight up to my hips, I can perform a dip with full range of motion (ROM) and I can successfully perform the Muscle Up transition by protracting my shoulders, pulling my elbows high and keeping that false grip as I round over the rings.
Once I have mastered all these components separately I would then look into using either resistance bands and/or negative reps for training before moving onto to perform the full movement as a whole. Then I would look to perform more and more reps.
To support this, keep performing the basic components and add in accessory exercises to support your gymnastic ring work. For the ring muscle up, for example, you would want to include chest, lats, shoulders, bicep and tricep work for starters.
This sounds simple enough, but you might be struggling with one part of the movement, or you might feel correct in your form, but not quite be getting that ROM. Always video yourself on your phone or however you can, so then you can analyse your technique. Also seek the advice of other calisthenics athletes, if you can, or book in some sessions with a coach or personal trainer to help you assess your strengths and weaknesses through different movements on the rings.
People out there are more than willing to help, and are often very passionate when it comes to work in Calisthenics or on the rings. These rings skills take a long time to learn and master, so bear that in mind when training. Everyone has been where you are, so it’s not crutch or weakness to ask for help. The community out there is amazing so really dive in!
It’s all about the journey when it comes to the gymnastic rings, and there’s plenty of resources out there to help you. YouTube and Instagram can be great for starting to take things on board, but just remember it’s all about you and your training.
The next couple of things to consider are more specifically related to muscle engagement. You need to know what your body feels like at maximum tension with every muscle fully engaged. It’s a very strange feeling to get used to, but that’s why calisthenics is such an incredible way to train. That maximum engagement creates so much tension, moves can only be performed with perfect form for shorter periods or less reps.
Glute power is particularly important for training on the rings, particularly for the lever exercises. The glutes help stabilize the hips, keeping the body locked and straight. Hollow body strength is also key. Here we can use an anterior pelvic tilt, full glute and leg engagement to hold ourselves hollow. Hollow body drills on the mat are a great way to start learning what this feels like.
Gaining good compression strength is also a great way of learning to train on the rings, so that we can hold ourselves hollow above the rings. There are plenty of compression drills out there, and these are especially good for engaging through the glutes and hips. I’ll link to some videos below for inspiration.
You should also be using negative reps and/or resistance bands in your training to help you master separate parts of movements on the gymnastic rings. There is no shame in using accessories to help you, especially when you want to know what a full range of motion feels like.
Make sure you keep practising and working that false grip. The false grip helps you to gain strength on the rings, but also the correct positioning, to make sure you can use the rings in the maximum ranges of motion and planes of motion. This technique is painful, yet vital, so make sure you keep working on it!
To add to the false grip, make sure you also work on your straight arm strength for those next level gymnastic ring techniques. Your body needs to be taught how to activate not only muscle but also the CNS (Central Nervous System). The CNS is activated from greater muscle activation but also works the nerve fibres and provides joint stability. This is so the body can learn to push itself further and further in more extreme ways, which for development of those advanced gymnastic rings techniques, is really important.
The last key things to learn when training those advance ring movements are how Scapula protraction (engaging forward), retraction (engaging backwards), elevation (engaging upwards) and depression (engaging downwards) actually feel and work. Upward and downward rotation also play a part but less so with work on the rings. It sounds straightforward, but when you’re looking to engage every muscle to lock out correctly for these advanced moves, knowing how your body feels on the rings in those positions, with a ring pelican for example, is key to preventing injury and to help your body learn what it can be pushed to. I’d recommend practising some drills and warmup exercise that engage and strengthen the scapula.
So what are you waiting for? Tag us @gravity.fitness on Instagram so we can see your advanced moves on the gymnastic rings and how you are progressing!
Below are links to some YouTube videos, and their IG profiles from some great athletes to help you progress to the next level on the rings!