Ring Training For Absolute Thicks

Over the quarantine period, and sans gym, much like the general population, I have been forced to get creative with my training. I became quite fed up with high repetitious, low weight work (I am an 8-10 rep girlo, and that is the cross I will die on) and fancied a new challenge. I decided to change my training to incorporate movements that I would never normally devote time to training in the gym environment. Specifically, bodyweight movements. And then, because that gets old fast, I wanted to learn to do cool shit. And rings training is full of cool shit.

Why I Started Rings Training

Gymnastic rings are super versatile and very much underutilised in training. My initial perception was that rings were exclusively for gymnasts and CrossFitters. Of which I am quite evidently neither. However, the more I looked in to it, the more enthralled I became. Furthermore, I have also a ruptured ACL that will require more surgery in the near future. I wanted to build a solid base on the rings, so that I could continue to train and progress on them while I recover from my ACL revision, as I obviously won’t be training lower body. I wanted a new challenge, and something I was always too chicken to try. Solution: swing out of a GAA post and ignore the horrified looks from passersby.

Barriers To Rings Training For Me

The Venn diagram of qualities required for success at rings training and qualities I have are two separate circles that do not intersect in any way, shape or form. Naturally, I decided this was still a great idea and wanted to challenge my limitations and work on my weak points. As the great Bob Kelso said, “nothing worth having comes easy”. He was definitely referring to my gymnastic prowess.

Me on the rings: Colorised 2020.

Having absolutely zero mobility.

Rings require a great deal of control and mobility. Which you cannot cheat or fake (most unfortunate). I have no mobility (nobility, if you will). So, I decided this would be a good challenge, and force me to work on this area. Mobility is an area of my training I have consistently neglected, and as a result I really struggled initially with the rings.

To overcome this, I signed up for the Movement101 Mobile4Life program (click here for more information). I started to practice their daily mobility routines, and do their Instagram live routine at least 3 times a week. I did this for a month before I went near the rings. I found their programming fantastic. Before I started Mobile4Life, I felt my shoulders to be the limiting the factor in a number of exercises for me. Particularly any movements involving glenohumeral abduction (lateral raises, shoulder press). I would feel like I was swinging the weight at points in movements, rather than having total control throughout each rep. After completing the introductory training of Mobile4Life, I felt I had the necessary skills and baseline competency to begin rings training. I didn’t want to rush into it and absolutely cripple myself. Can’t lose another limb.

Being a heavy bastard.

I am not a tiny, lithe Simone Biles by any standard. I am six foot, approximately 83 odd kg and have hypermobile elbows. Not a great starting point for gymnastics. I had two choices here: focus on leaning out a little to make it easier to progress, or get there slower. I chose the latter. The pandemic is not the time for me to be in a deficit. Furthermore, I have a good arsenal of resistance bands to assist me.

I had told myself I couldn’t train on the rings because I was too tall/heavy. And maybe that’s true, but I wanted to give it a bash anyway and see if I could prove myself wrong. And whilst I am by no means decent on the rings, I surprised myself with just how much I could do.

Not having a notion what to do.

I hadn’t got a clue what the hell to do. I had no idea where to begin, how to progress or even how to hang the poxy things. So, I decided to read around. I listened to podcasts, watched a rake of YouTube videos and read some articles. It then became the time for trial and error. So, I found a sample programme online and built up to training the main movements for beginners.

Training Rings for n00bz

I am an absolute pleb when it comes to rings, in case you haven’t read any other sections of this post. I decided to train twice a week, to allow my body time to adjust to the new stimuli. I found it quite tough on my shoulders and triceps initially, but over the last 5 weeks this has become a lot easier. Ring training definitely takes time and patience, which is something I lack. I have found it super challenging and rewarding, and I am getting more confident with the passing of time. I have continued to train lower body as normal using kettlebells, and do one other weight session for upper body. I incorporate a resistance band/ab circuit at the end of my ring sessions, where I work on the movements the rings require.

I found logging my reps and sets really beneficial to track my progress. I recorded the maximum time I could hold certain moves for, and the amount of reps I could complete with good form. I was actually surprised when I looked back and saw how much I had improved over the course of the foundational training phase.

Foundational Moves I Developed

  • Top position hold: Good jaysus, I was shaking like a leaf doing these for the first three weeks. My maximum time holding this position went from 5 seconds to 25.
  • Dips: I am so bad at these it is quite comical. I have to use the bands around a goalpost to assist me for me to even attempt a decent rep. Max reps: 3.
  • Reverse row to ring pull: I actually really like these, and found they improved my pull-up from. They were also good for getting me used to gripping the rings.
  • Tuck position hold: You are supposed to be able to tuck your knees to chest, and then extend them in front of you into the L-sit position, but I found when I attempted that I was just swinging my legs and getting no benefit from the exercise. I am just working on maintaining that knees to chest position with good form for time.
  • Pull-ups: I am working on my neutral grip pull-ups. I also do these banded, as I found myself kipping and overarching my back without it. I would like to achieve ring pull-ups without trash form, so I am being quite strict with myself and my progressions.

Going Forward

I feel I have established a solid base on the rings. Now my ability to program training for myself is extremely limited, and I would prefer to have a more experienced trainer guide me. I have no problem following a programme, and tailoring it for me, based on my own limitations and sticking points.

With this in mind, and based on my positive experience with the Mobile4Life programme, I have decided to follow their Rings101 programme. I am looking forward to the challenge, and finally achieving my quarantine dream of being able to do cool shit. Dreams don’t work unless you do xo

Published by Michelle Carroll

I am an online coach (MSc Sports & Exercise Nutrition, EQF Level 4 Personal Trainer, PN Level 1) and radiographer (BSc). I believe in empowering others to make better choices for their health through education. I think that the fitness industry has created a disconnect between best practices and “evidence-based” practices. I hope by chronicling my experience as a healthcare professional and my education as a fitness professional I can assist others on the path to bettering themselves.

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