Gymnastic rings are steel or wooden rings 7.1 inches in diameter. According to the International Gymnastics Federation or “FIG” regulations, the rings hang from belts 9.8 feet long and 1.6 feet apart. Because of the extreme upper body strength that gymnastic rings require, only male gymnasts typically compete on the rings. Gymnastic rings that may or may not meet FIG regulations are re-gaining popularity among athletes training to increase strength and tone.
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Still rings were historically standard equipment in gymnasiums before the time when health clubs appealed to the masses. Over time, gymnastics rings fell out of style among the general population. Currently, athletes seeking strength and power are rediscovering gymnastic rings, and new equipment that uses the same physical principals as gymnastic rings, such as TRX by Fitness Anywhere are finding their way back into the fitness setting.
Since the rings can move in three dimensions, your body works extra hard to stabilize the rings as you move. Any miscalculation in the force a muscle puts out sends the rings swinging, and the opposing muscle group must correct the error to halt the swing. For example, if you push the ring too far from your body with your shoulders, your back must now work against your body weight to bring the ring closer to your body. Because of this, gymnastic rings build phenomenal coordination and muscular control. Also, since all the supporting muscles are engaged to keep the rings from swinging, the primary muscle group in any one exercise must work harder to complete the movement on its own.
Gymnastic rings build a lean, toned physique. Since the muscles only get as big and strong as they need to be to support your body weight -- a relatively unchanging load -- you won’t develop the muscle-bound look that lifting ever-heavier weights produces. Also, since gymnastic ring training engages so many muscles, the effect is balanced muscle tone. Because rings teach your brain to communicate effectively with your muscles, it develops power and coordination in other sports’ movements.
Gymnastic rings are versatile. When the rings hang near the floor you can perform a variety of exercises that train the whole body and adjust the difficulty based on the angle between your body and the floor -- a more upright posture is easier than a vertical posture. Rings are also inexpensive and easy to transport. Because you can suspend the rings from nearly anything, such as a tree branch or sturdy closet rack, you can use them just about anywhere.
Because of the balance component involved in gymnastic ring training, it isn’t for beginners. Athletes should have a solid strength foundation and good balance to avoid injuries when beginning gymnastic ring training. Athletes with wrist or shoulder injuries should also be careful when using gymnastic rings, paying attention to pain signals from their bodies that indicate possible injury.