Gymnastic Rings A-Z: A Complete Guide

Gymnastic rings A-Z: Rings hanging against palm tree background
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So, you’re contemplating adding a set of gymnastics rings to your home gym but you don’t have any idea where to start. You’ve run yourself in circles attempting to take in all the information you can get your hands on and you’re feeling like you might have bitten off more than you can chew. Have no fear! Hang in there and let us give you the full rundown on all things gymnastic rings.

Gymnastic Rings Basics: What Are They and What Do They Do?

Gymnastic ring systems have been around for ages and have recently started to make a major comeback in the everyday fitness realm (mostly due to the popularity of CrossFit).

This one system can essentially replace numerous pieces of gym equipment from pull-up bars and dip bars to rowing machines. The amount of exercises that can be completed and the level of strength that can be attained with two small circles is honestly astounding.

Wood, plastic, and metal gymnastic rings lying on green grass with nylon strap rolled up

If you’ve been researching rings, you may have seen the term “FIG standard” and thought “what does fruit have to do with my new workout?”. FIG is the acronym for The Federation Internationale de Gymnastique, which is the world’s oldest international sports organization that sets the standards for Olympic gymnastics competition. But, enough with the history lesson; on to the real info!

Rings can come in a slew of different grip diameters, but there are two main gymnastic ring diameters that you’ll readily find in your quest for the perfect set:

  • 1.1″ FIG standard rings (Olympic standard)
  • 1.25″ standard rings (CrossFit standard)

Beyond the material of construction (which we’ll get into later), grip diameter is one of the more important factors to consider when making the decision on which type of gymnastics rings to buy. You wouldn’t think that an 0.15 in would make a huge difference, but, in gymnastics rings, it does.

person holding two gymnastic rings in hand to show different diameters

FIG standard rings are made with the gymnast in mind and are best suited for people of smaller stature with smaller hands. The smaller diameter rings are the optimal (and only) size to train with for gymnastics purposes. However, the narrow, less stable grip does have a tendency to be more impactful on the joints, which is why you see so much athletic tape on the wrists of gymnasts.

Where the smaller rings are more usable by those with smaller hands, the 1.25″ standard grip diameter rings are suitable for almost all hand sizes. The thicker ring grips allow you to have much more surface to hold on to, which enables you to control your body with greater stability than you’ll find on the more narrow rings. They’re also generally more comfortable for dips, pull-ups, and most other bodyweight exercises

Even with smaller hands, you’ll find that the larger grip helps you develop grip strength and overall ability.

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Why Ring Training is a Good Idea

As simplistic as they may be, gymnastic rings are one of the most versatile and valuable pieces of training equipment you can buy. Not only can you completely overhaul your physique, but you can do it on a shoestring budget.

Montage of strong man doing gymnastic rings muscle ups

Gym equipment can get extremely pricey. Why purchase multiple, space-consuming pieces of equipment when you can buy two rings and a set of straps? Who says you have to have thousands of square feet to get the body you want? Gymnastics rings can enable you to increase your strength, build muscle and reduce your body fat with minimal space.

The benefits to ring training are endless:

  • Increased upper body strength
  • Core and abdominal development
  • Natural movements can mean less joint injury
  • Increased flexibility
  • Completely portable (you can take your ‘gym’ with you ANYWHERE)
  • Affordable

Drawbacks and risks to gymnastics rings and ring training

As with all training regimens, there are going to be drawbacks. A few that I’ve found are:

  • Gymnastic rings offer zero stability and do require a modicum of strength to start with
  • Many of the pulling exercises require a high mounting point, which could be problematic with low garage ceilings
  • Rings can put excess stress on the hands, wrists, and elbows if not properly used

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Rings and Things: What to Look for When Buying Gymnastic Rings

If you search ‘gymnastic rings’ in Google you’ll see a seemingly endless list of rings. How do you even begin to choose the right ones for you? Which rings are the best for your desired workout? Which brand is a worthwhile investment and which is a waste of your hard-earned money? Do you choose wooden, plastic, or steel rings? So many questions!

Instead of sweating and swearing through thousands of products and reviews, let us do the hard work for you!

Pair of Rogue Gymnastic rings hanging on pull-up bar in suburban backyard

Best gymnastic rings brands

Our top five brands for gymnastics rings are:

  1. Rogue Fitness
  2. Rep Fitness
  3. Garage Fit
  4. ProSourceFit

Best material for gymnastic rings

As previously stated, the composition material of the rings you choose is one of the most important elements to be considered when making this important purchase. The rings you choose for your newest workout routine can be a bit overwhelming. Should you go with wooden, metal, or plastic rings?

Wood, metal, and plastic rings sitting on a black weight bench

The best material for a beginner rings enthusiast, in our opinion, is wood. And here’s why wooden gymnastic rings take home our gold medal:

  1. You cannot beat the natural, superior grip
  2. They’re lightweight and super portable
  3. They absorb sweat better than steel or plastic rings
  4. They’re easy on the hands, which means you won’t end up with gnarly calluses and blisters
  5. They’re great for just about any exercise you can dream up
  6. They’re affordable

Best gymnastic rings to start with

While you’ve been busy reading reviews, we’ve been testing and trying out the best gymnastic rings we could get our hands on. Literally.

Here are our top tier choices in wood, metal, and plastic:

Rep Fitness Wood Rings

Rep Fitness wood gymnastic rings on grass

Rep’s wooden rings are made from Baltic birch yielding a smooth, strong surface with a great natural grip. They also have numbered straps, so you don’t have to try and level your rings by eye (or use a stick). In terms of pricing, they’re the best bang for your buck when compared to other wood rings. Though they aren’t suitable for continuous outdoor use (i.e., you can’t leave them outside because they’ll swell and warp), they’re our number one choice for an indoor ring system.

Rogue Fitness Metal Rings

Rogue fitness steel gymnastic rings hanging from pull-up bar

The Rogue Gymnastic Rings were one of the very first products manufactured by Rogue Fitness in 2006 and still sit high upon their sales list today. The powder-coated rings are great for outdoor use without worrying about corrosion or rot and will last as long as you do! Their major drawback is the straps aren’t numbered.

Garage Fit Plastic Gymnastic Rings

GarageFit gymnastic rings sitting on green grass

Garage Fit Gymnastic Plastic Rings have everything you could ever ask for in a set of rings. They’re lightly textured for increased grip, durable, portable, suitable for indoor or outdoor use, and even meet Olympic standards for size and weight. Plus, they’re affordable, have numbered straps, and come in a variety of colors to complement any gym decor.

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Getting Started with Rings

You’ve got your brand new rings! Now, what do you do?

How to hang gymnastic rings

Before hanging your rings, you’ll need to make certain that you’ll have ample overhead space for when you are above your rings (in support hold, for example), as well as enough space for when you are performing exercises beneath the rings. The ideal amount of room, which will vary depending on your height, is somewhere between 8 feet – 8’6 feet (or 2.4 – 2.6 meters for you civilized folk).

The great thing about rings, though, is that they always come with adjustable nylon straps, so assuming you got sufficiently long straps, you should have plenty of wiggle room!

Next, you’ll need to determine HOW you’re going to get your rings affixed to the ceiling. There’s a number of ways you can do this:

1. Utilize existing rafters (or any sturdy overhead anchor) to pull your straps over. I use my outdoor pull-up bar.

Wooden gymnastic rings hanging on pull-up bar with graphic indicating correct width to hang (20")

2. Use heavy-duty, weight-rated eye bolts permanently drilled into wooden or steel overhead support beams (or directly into a concrete ceiling) approximately 20″ apart. Clip carabiners onto the eyebolts and run the ring straps through the carabiners.

A pair of eye bolts and pair of carabiners on black background

3. Use a ceiling- or wall-mounted pull-up bar

Gymnastic rings hanging from ceiling-mounted pull-up bar

4. Build a freestanding or permanent ring frame

5. Use a mounting system like the Rogue Ring Hanger 2.0

Rogue Ring Hanger screwed to ceiling

Regardless of how you decide to suspend your ring training system, your rings should be at a width of approximately 20″ (~50 cms) or just slightly wider than your shoulder width to ensure comfortable and safe training. Having your rings too close together will hinder your movement, and having them too far apart will both hinder your movement and damage your shoulders.

How to clean gymnastic rings

Now that you’ve purchased, suspended, and utilized your gymnastic rings, how do you keep them nice and clean?

First, you may be wondering why you would need to keep them clean? Ring training is tough, and you will sweat if you’re putting any effort in. Also, the amount of friction between your hands and the rings means that you’ll leave plenty of skin on them. Sometimes you might even lose some skin and then leave blood on them!

Finally, you’ll probably find that adding some chalk to your hands helps you maintain a solid grip, even when you start sweating (good weight lifting chalk is the stuff you’ll want to use). Letting your rings “hold” some chalk is fine. Letting the chalk cake on the rings is no good.

So, once you’ve finished with your workout, simply wipe down your rings with an antibacterial cloth to remove the excess sweat. If you’re using unsealed wooden rings, you can also use mineral oil or Murphy Oil Soap when cleaning to maintain the health of your wood. Ensure you wipe any excess oil off with a clean, dry, lint-free cloth.

Beginner Gymnastic Rings Exercises and Movements

man doing push-up support hold on gymnastic rings in back garden

#1 Ring Plank Hold

  • Feet slightly apart
  • Keep core engaged and arms straight
  • Rings closer to floor = harder

2-4 sets of maximum hold (as long as you can)

This exercise builds:

  • Shoulder stability
  • Core strength
man doing push-up support hold on gymnastic rngs in back garden

#2 Ring Push-Ups

  • Start in Ring Plank Hold
  • Keep elbows tight to the body for stability and shoulder safety
  • Lower yourself until chest in line with bottom of rings
  • Return to starting position for reps
  • Rings closer to floor = harder

2-4 sets of 10 reps

This exercise builds:

  • Pectoral muscles
  • Deltoids
  • Triceps
  • Shoulder stability
  • Core strength
man doing push-up support hold on gymnastic rngs in back garden

#3 Ring Rows

  • Keep body straight
  • Keep core engaged
  • Pull rings to chest
  • Focus on squeezing shoulder blades together
  • Walk rings out to make easier (body more upright)

2-4 sets of 10 reps

This exercise builds:

  • Lats
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Posterior deltoids
  • Biceps
Man doing a support hold on gymnastic rings in backyard

#4 Ring Support Hold

  • Lift yourself onto the rings
  • Straighten arms and hold yourself upright
  • Active shoulders = push shoulders down and away from head
  • Engage core and keep arms tight to the body
  • If too difficult, lower rings to height where you can take some weight with your feet

2-4 sets of maximum hold

This exercise builds:

  • Shoulder stability
  • Core strength
  • Pectoral muscles
  • Triceps
man doing push-up support hold on gymnastic rngs in back garden

#5 Dead Hangs

  • Hang beneath rings
  • Arms straight and core engaged

2-4 sets of maximum hold

This exercise builds:

  • Shoulder stability
  • Core strength
  • Upper back strength
  • Grip strength
man doing push-up support hold on gymnastic rngs in back garden

#6 Ring Knee Tucks

  • Start in ring support hold
  • Contract shoulder blades back and down
  • Bring knees up to chest in controlled motion
  • Return to starting position and repeat for reps

2-4 sets of 10 reps

This exercise builds:

  • Shoulder stability
  • Core strength
  • Abdominal muscles
  • Hip flexors

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Gymnastic Rings A-Z: Final Thoughts

Rings are a great compliment to your growing home gym and an excellent way to increase your strength, stability, flexibility, and muscle endurance, all while decreasing your body fat in a fun and free way!

I know that gymnastic rings can seem a bit overwhelming in the beginning, but I promise that if you stick with it, you’ll be swinging happily into the new you before you know it.


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