15 Best Gymnastic Ring Back Exercises To Build Strength

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Gymnastics Ring Back Exercises

Gymnastic ring training can be an effective and efficient way to build strength in your upper body.

Not only are they lightweight and easy to transport, but you don’t need a lot of space to set them up either.

Plus, gymnastic rings offer plenty of movements that can help you get stronger quickly.

There is something for everyone regardless of fitness level or experience with the equipment.

In this article, we will explore fifteen of the best gymnastics ring back exercises.

You can do these at home or at the gym in order to strengthen your back muscles safely and effectively.

Introducing Gymnastic Rings

Gymnastics rings are versatile and powerful pieces of equipment used to challenge athletes in various ways.

From building strength, and improving grip, to honing balance and coordination, a ring workout brings many benefits to any user.

The rings consist of two circular handles that hang from straps or ropes.

They can be used for a variety of exercises, including pull-ups and muscle-ups, dips and push-ups, handstands and planches, as well as many other gymnastic movements.

Suspension training with rings is also an important tool for developing foundational strength.

This increased range of motion allows you to move your body in ways that simply can’t be done on flat surfaces.

They are also an excellent way to mix up your training routine and challenge yourself in new ways.

For example, by changing the height of the rings or their distance apart, you can switch up the difficulty of an exercise and target different muscle groups at once.

Different Types of Gym Rings

Gym rings generally come in three different materials.

Some are made out of plastic, while others are made out of metal or wood.

Plastic rings are lightweight and easy to transport and can be used for outdoor workout routines.

They’re also great for beginners as they don’t require very much money to purchase.

Metal gym rings are typically more expensive than plastic rings, but they offer greater weather resistance.

They’re also the second-best choice behind wood for advanced athletes due to their increased weight capacity.

Wooden gymnastic rings are the most popular choice for strength training and gymnastics.

They provide a unique combination of stability and flexibility, as well as an attractive look with a great grip.

Also, wood is typically the material used for the official Olympic Rings.

No matter what type of gym rings you choose, make sure it’s rated for your body weight and that you feel comfortable using them.

After all, safety always comes first!

Also, be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for the proper use and maintenance of your rings.

The 15 Best Gymnastics Ring Back Exercises

1. Bulgarian Pull-Up

Bulgarian pull-ups target the lats, traps, rhomboids, and biceps.

This exercise builds shoulder stability while providing an accessible yet challenging progression toward more difficult bodyweight movements.

Unlike using a pull-up bar the rings allow you to rotate your arms as you pull up and down, sparking new stimulus for a greater mind-muscle connection.

  1. With your glutes and core engaged, grab the rings with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder width.
  2. Starting from a dead hang position with your arms straight, pull yourself up in a straight line.
  3. As you pull up begin rotating your hands inwards so your palms are facing you.
  4. Once the rings are even with your shoulders, slowly lower back down to the starting position.
  5. Making sure to re-rotate your arms outwards with your palms facing forward at the bottom.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

You can make this movement easier by placing your legs on the ground for support or more difficulty by adding ankle weights.

2. Body Ring Row

The body row is a pulling exercise that requires a strong grip in order to hold onto the rings.

Helping to build grip strength, along with a stronger back and lats.

It also helps to improve posture, as well as core strength, and muscular endurance.

  1. You will start in a horizontal position by holding onto the rings with your arms extended and legs straight out in front of you.
  2. You will then engage your core and lats to pull yourself up until your chest is even with the rings.
  3. Before slowly lowering yourself back down to the starting position in a controlled manner.

Difficulty Level: Beginner

The body row can be adjusted to suit your ability level fairly easily.

You can do so by adjusting the angle of pulling by moving your feet.

The further forward the feet are with your body parallel to the floor, the more difficult it is.

Conversely, to make it easier, you just need to move your feet closer to the standing position.

3. Muscle Ups

The muscle up is a combination exercise that builds strength and control.

It requires pulling yourself up to the rings and then pushing your body up over them, fully extending your elbows at the top.

This motion is great for engaging your biceps, back, and triceps as well as your chest, and shoulders.

The difficulty of this movement makes it an ideal addition to any upper-body gymnastics program.

  1. Grab the handles with an overhand grip.
  2. With your body straight, begin pulling yourself up until the rings are at shoulder height.
  3. At this point, your gonna rotate your hands into the neutral position as you lift your torso over the rings.
  4. Once you’re over, push up using your triceps, until your arms are fully extended.
  5. Then, begin lowering yourself back down to the dead-hang starting position.
  6. This should all be one fluid motion.

Difficulty Level: Advanced

To make muscle-ups easier, you can lift your knees to your chest as momentum before lifting your torso over the rings.

This can help give you a boost of power, making this part of the move a bit simpler.

4. Iron Cross

The Iron Cross involves an isometric hold providing a static muscle contraction without any joint movement.

These holds are beneficial as they reduce the risk of joint injuries while still sparking muscle growth.

Particularly in the shoulders as well as the arms, back, core, and chest.

The pose is prominent among gymnasts due to its ability to challenge one’s physical strength and body control.

  1. Get into the top position by jumping up or doing a muscle up to get your torso above the rings.
  2. From here, you’re going to slowly lower yourself downwards, while spreading your arms apart.
  3. Once, your arms are parallel to the floor, hold this position for at least 2 seconds.

Difficulty Level: Advanced

By lowering the rings, you can use your legs for support while practicing the cross.

This will allow you to keep your body close to the ground, using your legs as a base.

5. Scapular Ring Push-Ups

Scapular push-ups require protraction of the shoulder blades, which will focus more on the lats and still engage the chest, front delts, and triceps.

Using the gymnastics rings will also help work smaller stabilizer muscles for improving stability and balance.

  1. Set your rings at about knee height and assume an overhand grip on the handles.
  2. Step back with your feet to create a straight line between your upper and lower body.
  3. Protract your scapula by slightly rounding your upper back, while maintaining a neutral head and lower spine.
  4. With your arms straight, begin the downward phase by retracting your scapula, without moving your arms.
  5. Then, protract your scapula back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat this sequence for 2-3 sets of 5-15 reps.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

You can modify scapular push-ups by adjusting your body angle.

To make them more challenging, you can decrease the angle of your body relative to the ground, forcing you to engage more muscles.

To make it easier, you can increase the angle of your body by standing more upright.

6. L-Sit

The gymnastics ring L-sit is a challenging exercise that requires arm control, leg flexibility, and coordination.

Not only does it work the obliques, but also the lats, triceps, quads, hip flexors, and chest.

  1. Lift your torso above the rings using a neutral grip to get into the support position.
  2. With your upper body and arms straight, begin raising your legs in front of you.
  3. Make sure to keep your toes pointed forward, feet close together, and legs straight.
  4. Stop once your body forms a 90-degree angle, holding this position for 30 seconds.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

To make the L-Sit harder, you can add in leg raises for an increased challenge.

Just lift them straight out in front of you, as high as you can manage without compromising form.

Then lower them back down, and repeat this motion for 10-20 reps.

For a modified version, try holding the L-sit with bent knees.

7. Bulgarian Ring Dip

Bulgarian, or wide-grip, dips are great for targeting the muscles of the chest, scapula, triceps, and core.

Although you won’t get as much back engagement, you’ll still be using your lats.

The instability from the rings forces you to keep your core tight during the entire motion.

This exercise is commonly used as a progression toward Iron Crosses.

  1. Grasp the handles with an overhand grip, wider than shoulder width.
  2. With your body straight, begin pushing upwards, while twisting your palms inwards so that they face each other.
  3. Go up until your arms are locked, then reverse the motion until your elbows are bent at 90 degrees.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

You can adjust the difficulty by:

  • Creating extra momentum by bending your knees, and raising them as you push upwards.
  • Changing up your hand positions to create more instability.
  • Adding weight or a resistance band while performing the movement.

8. Layouts

The layout focuses on utilizing gravity and momentum to challenge your strength, agility, and coordination.

It is similar to the dumbbell pull-over in that it emphasizes stretching the muscles while engaging the core.

The primary targets of this exercise are the serratus muscle, chest, triceps, and lats, but it also works to target the spinal erectors and abdominals.

  1. Set your handles at about waist height.
  2. Step back far enough to put about an arm’s length of spacing between you and the handles.
  3. Stand straight up, extend your arms, and grab the rings.
  4. Brace your core, and begin leaning forward while simultaneously moving your arms over your head.
  5. Reverse the movement once you’re roughly parallel with the floor, and your arms are flush with the sides of your head.
  6. Repeat for 10-20 reps.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

The difficulty of the layout can easily be adjusted by setting the rings higher or lower.

This variation in angles allows you to target different muscles while also preventing you from plateauing in terms of progress and strength gains.

9. Y Raise

The Ring Y-raise is the bodyweight version of a dumbbell Y-raise and targets the upper back and rear deltoids.

It involves using two rings, one in each hand, to pull up against your own body weight.

This requires strong grip strength and core stability as you raise your arms above your head while keeping them straight.

The Y-raise can help build muscular endurance as well as improve posture.

With practice, this exercise can be used to increase shoulder and wrist mobility.

  1. Position your rings at shoulder height and stand so your feet are lined up directly underneath them.
  2. Grab the handles and lay back so your arms are straight.
  3. From here, pull your body forward and move your arms overhead to create a y-shape.
  4. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top.
  5. Then lower back down to the elevated laying position.
  6. Repeat for 15-20 reps.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

You can make the Y-raise harder by decreasing the angle between your body and the floor as you lean back.

10. Single Arm Inverted Row

The single-arm inverted row requires you to pull your body up with one arm as you hang from one ring.

This unilateral move not only helps build muscular endurance but also targets both sides of your back muscles evenly.

Making it great for addressing any muscular imbalances you might have since it works each side independently.

  1. Set the handle at waist height and assume a neutral grip with your right hand.
  2. Stand with your feet in front of the ring and lean back, keeping your body straight, and arm extended in front of you.
  3. Tilt-back with your left shoulder and begin pulling yourself towards the ring using your elbow.
  4. As you go up, move your opposite arm forward.
  5. Stop once your right fingers are touching your torso.
  6. Lower yourself back down to the starting position and repeat.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

There are a couple of ways to adjust the inverted row difficulty level.

One way to make it easier is by using both hands instead of one at a time.

You could also stand up straighter to decrease the pulling force of gravity.

To make it harder, move your body into a more horizontal position, or wear a weighted vest.

11. Front Lever

The front lever is an incredibly powerful exercise that can help you build foundational strength throughout your entire body.

It’s especially beneficial for strengthening your core, glutes, thighs, back, and arms as well as smaller stabilizing muscles in between these major muscles.

This isometric hold helps to engage all the muscles involved in a single motion and puts them under tension for an extended period of time.

That not only helps to increase muscular strength and agility but also improves posture, balance, and coordination.

  1. Begin from an inverted hanging position.
  2. Lower your legs while rotating and flexing your wrists forward until your entire body is parallel with the floor.
  3. Point your toes forward and keep your eyes locked on them.
  4. Hold this position for 10-30 seconds.

Difficulty Level: Advanced

Here are several ways to modify this hold:

  1. Start by mastering the inverted hang position.
  2. Keep your knees bent during the hold.
  3. Try it with one knee bent and one leg extended.

12. Archer Chin-Up

Archer chin-ups can help improve your overall body control and spatial awareness.

The slightly more complex motion required with this variation of the traditional chin-up uses a pushing and pulling motion.

As one arm pulls up, the other arm pushes out to assist in getting your chin over the rings.

This places emphasis on the lat of the pushing arm while the pulling arm may feel slightly more bicep involvement.

Additionally, shoulder and trap engagement will also promote better alignment and improved spinal health.

  1. Begin in a standard pull-up position.
  2. From here, pull yourself up towards one ring with one arm, while simultaneously rotating that arm into an underhand grip.
  3. Extend your other arm outwards on the other ring and use it to push upwards.
  4. Once your chin gets above the rings, reverse back down into the dead hang position with both palms facing forward.
  5. Continue the motion, while alternating sides.

Difficulty Level: Advanced

You can decrease the difficulty of this movement by raising your knees while pulling yourself upwards.

This extra momentum will assist you in completing each rep.

13. Face Pull

Face pulls are an excellent way to strengthen and stabilize your shoulder muscles.

It works the rear deltoid, rotator cuff, and muscles in the upper back area including the rhomboids and traps.

Doing them on a regular basis can help improve alignment and posture, as it helps increase stability at the shoulder joint.

You will also see a carry-over in strength for other pulling exercises with regular practice.

  1. Set your rings at chest height and stand with your feet positioned underneath them.
  2. Assume an overhand grip and lean backward with your arms extended in front of you.
  3. Retract your scapula and begin externally rotating your hands upward to pull yourself toward the rings.
  4. Stop once your forearms are pointed upwards, and bent at 90 degrees on each side of your head.
  5. Lean back down in a controlled manner and repeat for 15-30 reps.

Difficulty Level: Beginner

To make face pulls more difficult, you can hold the top position for longer.

You can also manipulate the force of pulling by either raising or lowering the rings.

14. Uneven Ring Pull-Up

Uneven pull-ups are similar to the single-arm version.

Except that instead of letting the free hand hang while you exercise your working arm, you use it as an assister.

This works the back, biceps, and delts more intensely while focusing on isolating one side to increase activation and minimize imbalances.

The assister arm may even get some tricep activation.

  1. Start by setting one ring higher than the other. (A good rule of thumb is to set the top one a whole ring length higher than the bottom one)
  2. You’re then going to grab the handles using an overhand grip. One arm should be bent, and the other completely straight.
  3. Pull yourself up towards the top ring, using your lower arm as a guide.
  4. Once your head is above the top ring, lower yourself back down to the start.
  5. Repeat for reps, before switching sides

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

You can adjust the difficulty level by using more force from your bottom hand as you get yourself over the rings.

You can also use your knees as assisters, which will give you a little boost to complete the lift.

15. Planche

Doing a planche is an impressive feat of strength and skill!

To perform it properly you need to be strong enough to support your body with only your hands, while your arms and legs are extended.

The primary muscles worked include the wrists, triceps, deltoids, core, rhomboids, and serratus anterior.

However, due to the nature of this hold, secondary muscles such as the glutes, lower back stabilizers, and hamstrings will also be activated.

  1. Start from the support position and lift your knees upward into the tucked position.
  2. Now, raise your legs backward while spreading them apart.
  3. Maintain a neutral spine and keep your head facing the floor.
  4. Hold the planche for 10-60 seconds.

Difficulty Level: Advanced

A great way to progress toward doing a full gymnastic ring planche is to start with one of the foundational moves.

Either the neutral grip bar planche or the floor variation.

These will teach you how to balance your body, while also building up the strength and confidence for you to progress up to the rings.

What 3 Back Exercises Should I Do?

You should consider doing 3 back exercises that work different sections:

– Bent Over Barbell Row: This targets large parts of your back, including the latissimus dorsi and teres major.

– Dumbbell Pullover: This move is great for strengthening and stretching your entire lats, along with your serratus and chest.

– Reverse Fly: These are designed to work the often neglected areas in your upper and mid back, such as the rhomboids, trapezius, and rear delts.

Do Ring Dips Work Back?

Ring dips are not the most effective exercise for targeting your back.

However, when performed with your scapula properly retracted, you will stimulate your upper back.

You can also space your arms farther apart to increase the involvement of your lats as well.

Are Ring Exercises Better?

Ring exercises are excellent for training your strength and stability.

They provide an effective workout that targets multiple muscles at once.

Plus, they’re relatively low-impact compared to other forms of exercise.

This way you can enjoy a great workout without straining your joints, depending on what exercise you decide to do.

How Effective Are Ring Rows?

Ring rows are incredibly effective for building strength in the upper back, lats, and core.

They also simulate many of the same movements as pull-ups, so you can use them to identify strengths and weaknesses.

Summary: Build a Better Body With Gymnastic Rings!

Gymnastics rings are a great tool to help you build strength and tone your back.

With the right exercises, you can target specific areas in order to maximize your results.

The 15 exercises I’ve discussed should give you plenty of ideas for how to incorporate this versatile piece of equipment into your workout routine.

Always remember to warm up before starting any physical activity.

And if necessary consult with a medical professional prior to beginning an exercise program involving gymnastic rings.

With consistency and dedication, these calisthenic-based movements will help take your training regimen and physique to the next level!

Sources:

https://www.shape.com/fitness/tips/how-to-l-sit-exercise

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/11-gymnastic-rings-exercises

https://www.fitstream.com/exercises/bulgarian-pull-ups-a6029

https://thehomefitfreak.com/wood-vs-plastic-vs-metal-gymnastic-rings/

https://www.fitstream.com/exercises/support-position-a27

Eric De Cremer
Eric De Cremer

Eric is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and competitively trained powerlifter. Feel free to contact him anytime at edecremer@wildnswole.com!