Friday, May 3, 2013

Gymnastic Rings for Exercise

Few things inspire people like the Olympics. Something about all the countries competing against one another that brings people together in a way that few other things do. 
While the track and field events often garner the most press and excitement, gymnastics has always fascinated me, particularly the Rings. The ability to control your own body suspended above the ground and manipulate yourself demonstrates a strength that few have mastered and most wish they had. 
While all the gymnastic disciplines demonstrate amazing agility and strength, the rings have always seemed to draw me in.
Lets face it, most of us would also love to have the physical strength and physique of a world class gymnast. Few of us have the discipline, attitude, or time to commit to being able to getting that way, much less the facilities or coaches available to us. Using the tools a gymnast uses can help us and incorporating gymnastic rings into your workouts can bring a whole new level to your physical conditioning.
While professional gymnastic rings are designed for flipping and doing crazy stuff that makes normal people gasp and shake their head, simple gymnastic rings are available for home use. Think back to your childhood you may have even had the metal kind of rings at your playground, 
you can even still find these at some muscle beach locations or at playgrounds, though it is rare. The most common rings today are made from either a high density composite plastic or wood. There are still some made from metal available as well, however I will not really be addressing these. 
Exercise gymnastic rings attach utilizing fairly simple strapping systems that make the rings light, portable, and easy to use.
The big benefit to the composite style ring is price. It is inexpensive to make them and they are extremely durable. Composite rings are lightweight and because of the low cost, lead the way as the best way to get into ring training. You would be hard pressed to find any good fitness supplier that does not carry a good composite ring set for an affordable price. The biggest detractor to composite style rings is grip. 
Common sense dictates that as plastic gets wet it get slippery. Exercise leads to sweating (if it doesn't you are probably doing it wrong) which makes the rings slippery. This usually leads to people taping the rings with athletic tape or something like that to help increase grip.
Wood rings have been in use since the beginning. Wood eliminates the grip problems that plague composite rings. As wood gets wet the grain is raised which provides increased surface area and more grip. The grain in the wood rings also holds chalk infinitely better then composite allowing for better grip and less wear and tear on the hands. Wood also just feels better to most people.
 It seem to "break in" over time and generally just works well. The trade off for getting the wood rings is price. Wood rings are more difficult to manufacture and this in turn drives up the cost. Most people do not start with wood rings but if you are planning on getting serious with ring work then I highly recommend just getting the wood rings from the start. You will never regret having the wood rings.
The first time you use rings you will recognize right away that they are extremely fun but harder then you thought. The next day when muscles you didn't know existed all are screaming at you, you will suddenly realize how cruel they actually are. It always amazes me to watch very strong guys who can crank out weighted dips like nothing get on rings and fail miserably at doing a set of 10 dips on the rings. The reason for this is the amount of stabilization that is required to work on the rings. Ring work incorporates not only the primary muscle being worked but the myriad of tendons, ligaments, and stabilizer muscles in the body. Rings teach you to feel your body in an entirely new way.
Rings also help to prevent overuse injuries that are sometimes plague typical "weight lifting" workouts. Rings allow full range of motion in multiple planes and allow the user to move the way his or her body wants to move. In a pull up the hands will naturally turn in at the top of the movement eliminating undue stress in the shoulder joint. The amount of movement will vary person to person.
Pushups on the rings are a real eyeopener for many people as well. They rings feel like they want to just shoot out from under you. Keeping your core tight comes into focus in a whole new way. Pushups can also be varied almost infinitely, again helping prevent overuse injuries.
Basic movements on the rings are dips, pull/chin ups, rows, L-sits, and push ups. The muscle up is also a great exercise that combines the pull up to dip in one movement. For a gymnast the muscle up is not even a rated movement, for the rest of us, it isn't so simple. 
You can also get to some other great movements like skin the cats, inverted push ups (handstands on the rings), ice cream makers, and maybe even an iron cross. Some of the movements have funny names but they are anything but simple. A quick search on YouTube will show you many of these movements.