Filed Under (Fitness, Shoulder Injury, Shoulder Pain) by Rick Kaselj
A common question that I get asked from Fix My Shoulder Pain customers is what to do about ring training and shoulder pain.
I am not a ring training guy but Tyler Bramlett is.
He took on the question and has some great info to help you out.
Training on the rings is one of the most challenging ways to strengthen your upper body known to man.
If you never had a chance to work on the gymnastic rings then you may seriously be short changing the results you’re getting from your workout.
Shoulder & Elbow Pain and Gymnastic Rings
Many people are concerned with injuring their shoulders or elbows using gymnastic rings, but as long as you know the right sequence of exercises to follow, you can safely practice the gymnastic rings and actually end up building an incredibly strong pair of shoulders.
If you’re not sure whether or not ring training works, all you have to do is take a look at how strong, powerful, balanced and coordinated gymnasts are in order to be able to do moves like iron crosses, handstands and even just perfect supports on the gymnastic rings. So why aren’t you taking advantage of gymnastic ring training?
The reason why most people don’t take advantage of training with gymnastic rings is because they’re extremely challenging to get started on. In fact I would bet big money that you rarely run into a trainer that understands how to coach the rings and where you should get started.
The bottom line is most people don’t understand movement progressions, and this lack of understanding prevents them from becoming a better coach and getting better results in their workouts. You MUST use proper movement progressions when tackling the beast called ring training!
So where the heck do you start?
How to Prevent Injuries on the Rings
How do you prevent injuries?
And… How do you use the rings to build resilient and strong shoulders?
Well, you’re in luck! I’m gonna teach you a specific series of exercises that you can use in a progressive manner on yourself and your clients to build a strong and resilient upper body.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if it’s your first day going into training with gymnastic rings and you think you’ll get an iron Cross, your sorely mistaken. Every great gymnastic coach understands the idea behind using movement progressions and how it can benefit your training if you’re patient and focused.
Movement Progressions and the Rings
Think about it like this, the first time you walk into the gym the only thing they let you do with the gymnastic rings is bodyweight only rows or bodyweight ring push-ups.
Over time you build competency on these two exercises and you move up to a progressively harder movement. Things like ring dips and pull-ups become your new playing field and over time you can build from starting at bodyweight rows and bodyweight push-ups on rings to doing exercises like muscle ups, front rolls, front levers, back levers, presses to handstands and eventually moves like the iron cross, all injury free.
But if improperly coached… if you are too impatient… then, training on gymnastic rings can be dangerous. Here’s a blueprint to get you started using the gymnastic rings so you can build massive amounts of upper body strength that you cannot build any other way.
My hope is to teach you a precise progression that I have used successfully with dozens of clients to teach you the most popular ring exercises that most people want to be able to accomplish, the muscle up.
Muscle Up Exercise and the Rings
A muscle up is the act of starting in a hanging position below the rings and moving your body to a support position above the rings with strength and control.
If you’re completely new to the rings it’s not wise to jump into attempting your first muscle up. In fact I have a very specific progressive system that you can use to get started on your ring training, which contains three different steps before attempting your first muscle up.
But first you need to know a little trick called the false grip.
The picture below details what the false grip should look like as you have your hands on the gymnastic rings.
This will allow you to eventually move your body from underneath the rings to above the rings without the hassle of changing your grip. It is the most essential piece of the puzzle if your goal is to get better at ring training.
If you’re a complete beginner, start with these beginner level exercises.
False Grip Bodyweight Ring Row
The first exercise is the false grip bodyweight ring row. Grab onto the rings with a false grip grip on the handles and pull your hands into your armpits as deep as you can. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10 or more reps.
The second exercises the ring push-up. Place the rings about 1 foot above the ground and a push-up position. Try to keep your body nice and still as you go through a full range of motion. Be sure to keep your shoulders pulled back at the bottom as to not cause shoulder impingement. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10 or more reps.
Once you’re able to get multiple sets of 10 reps in the false grip ring row and full range ring push-up then you can move on to the intermediate exercises.
False Grip Ring Pull-up & Ring Dip
For the intermediate exercises practiced the false grip ring pull-up and the ring dip.
For the false grip ring pull-up grab onto the rings and be sure to maintain a false grip throughout the movement. Pull your body up towards the rings imagining that you’re trying to bring your elbows closer to your hips (this will help involve your core more).
Aim for your hands going below your collarbones or as deep of a pull-up as you possibly can. Try to perform 3 sets of 8 reps while maintaining the false grip the entire time.
For the ring dips, place the rings at a height where you can jump up to a ring support. If this is your first time jumping up to a ring support make sure to keep your hands tight into your hips trying to keep your knuckles against your hips the entire time. This way you will prevent yourself from flailing about in coming down from the ring support.
Come up to the support position and descend as you can while maintaining perfect control. It is extremely important that you maintain perfect control because if you wobble in a low ring support position you can cause harm to your shoulder.
A great way to work into full range ring dips is to perform progressive range of motion dips. Simply come down as far as you feel 100% comfortable and then come back up; over time you can go through a larger range of motion until you’re able to do full range of motion ring dips without any problem to your shoulders. One final thought is to think about always pulling your shoulder blades back as you come into the bottom position of the ring dip, this will put your shoulders in a better and safer position. Try to perform 3 sets of 8 reps in a full range of motion.
Once you’re able to get 3 sets of 8 reps in the false grip pull-up and full range ring dip then you can move on to the advanced exercises.
For the advanced ring exercises practice jumping through muscle up to the top position and then coming down with a slow negative.
Start by standing under the rings and maintaining a false grip with your hands. From there jump yourself through to a low dip position keeping the rings in tight to your body. Press up to a support position and then as slowly as possible try to come all the way to a full hang position. Be sure to take your time working on this exercise for sets of 1 to 3 reps.
Once you are able to do several slow and controlled muscle up negatives in a row attempt your first full muscle up.
To perform your first strict muscle up grasp the rings with a false grip and be sure to maintain it the entire time. Pull your body as high up as you can so that your knuckles are below your collarbone. From there trace your chest muscles with your thumbs coming from the center to the outside as you transition from the top of the pull-up to the bottom of the dip. This is the most challenging part of the muscle up and will require some practice. From there in the bottom position of the dip press up to a support position and you have completed your first muscle up!
Once you have completed your first muscle up simply work on getting single reps for more sets. If you can get one rep the first time the next week try to get two reps and the week after that try to get three and then four and then five and then finally work your way up to be able to do to several muscle ups in a row in a full range of motion. From there the sky’s the limit, five reps of a strict muscle up in one set or you can even add more weight your muscle up making it even more challenging.
Another way to progress even further is to choose more challenging exercises on the rings using the progressive movement method. You can do things like front levers, back levers, front rolls or back rolls.
The rings are no doubt one of the greatest ways to increase your upper body strength, balance and coordination at the same time this is why they’re so effective at building some of the strongest bodies in the world!!
Take your training slow and you will benefit greatly from using the gymnastic rings in your workouts.
Here are a few other articles from Tyler:
- Importance of Movement Progressions for Post Surgery Knee Recovery
- Goblet Squat as a Gluteus Maximus Exercise