4 Benefits of Weighted Ring Pull ups
Why you should be doing weighted ring pull ups
So with weighted pull ups you have already combined the benefits of calisthenics (functional strength) and weight training (scalable resistance training for progressive strength and muscle gains). For the ultimate compound movement you should choose rings over the pull up bar for better joint health, improved form and increased muscle engagement.
Here are the 4 biggest benefits of weighted ring pull ups:
#1 Easier on the joints
One of the stand out benefits of gymnastics ring training is that the rings are able move freely and rotate in any direction.
When doing pull ups on a conventional pull up bar you either adapt an overhand grip (for pull ups) or an underhand grip (for chin ups). Pull up bars are stationary, therefore your wrist, elbow and shoulder joints cannot move freely or transition between the two and have to follow a predetermine path of motion.
Your joints naturally want to turn and rotate to through different positions during the course of the exercise. The gymnastic rings allows the body to find the optimal position for your joints and connective tissue.
When you first do pull ups from a dead hang on gymnastic rings you will notice that your grip will start in a neutral position, similar to a normal pronated pull up grip, but as you lift to the top of the motion your hands turn inwards to the point the orientation of the rings is more like a chin up (suprinated grip).
This is the natural pathway that the joints and tendons want to follow when they are not being restricted by a static bar, that doesn't rotate like the rings do. Over time, bar pull ups can lead to pain and joint discomfort.
The rotation of the rings is beneficial if you are doing a high frequency of reps and if you plan to add weight to make each rep more intense.
If your adding external weight either in the form of a weighted vest or dipping belt then weighted pull ups on rings are the better option then bars. I always advise to add weight slowly in increments and rings provides the kindest, safest option for your joints so that you are not putting unnecessary strain on your joints, tendons and ligaments so that your body will remain free of injury or discomfort.
#2 Stricter form
Another consequence of the free moving nature of gymnastic rings is that they encourage good form.
The pull up bar is more forgiving when it comes to bad form and technique. Because the bar remains solid and fixed in place you can use some momentum, kick or swing more when trying to make a rep. This will ultimately shortchange your performance as well as strength and muscle gains.
The instability factor of the rings forces you to stabilise your body throughout the movement. This recruits stabilising muscles to work together to keep the body stable and coordinated when executing reps.
You cannot get away with swinging or using the equipment for momentum when your on the rings and there is more of an emphasis on the eccentric phase of the movement (lowering motion).
With rings pull ups you have to remain controlled on the descent whereas with bar pull ups the natural temptation is to drop down from the top of the rep and just concentrate on the concentric phase (lifting motion) of the exercise as you become preoccupied with hitting a specific number of reps.
The instability of the rings and emphasis on the eccentric phase of the movement may initially make the exercise more difficult, but there is a pay off.
The bodys adaptive response to instability is to strengthen the muscles that support your shoulder joint, your core and your forearms. This has two key benefits:
More muscles engagement for increased strength and muscle gain
If your stabilising muscles are stronger and more coordinated this will make your body more resistant to injury and have a crossover benefit for other exercises and on field atheletic performance.
When it comes to pull ups the rings instability strikes the perfect balance of being enough of a stimulus to force and adaptive response, but not too much of stimulus that the exercise becomes overwhelming. Therefore they are the perfect calisthenics exercise to add weight to.
#3 Weighted ring pull ups for muscle mass
Weighted Ring pull ups are one of the best compound exercises for building muscle.
This is because they incorporate almost all the major muscle groups of the upper body. This includes the:
Latismuis dorsi (lats)
Abs and obliques (core)
Pectoralis major (lower chest)
Infraspinatus, lower traps and Erector spinae (muscle groups in your back)
Compound exercises not only teach muscle groups to work in unison but also break down much more muscle fibres then isolation exercises (such as a bicep curl) rep for rep.
Pull ups engage several large muscle groups simultaneously for a more effective mass building workout both in terms of time efficiency and muscle building potential.
Whilst pull ups are an effective muscle builder all on their own, adding weight to them can make sure that your workouts remain in a state of progressive overload, so that the muscles are always sufficiently challenged in order to consistently induce hypertrophy (muscle growth).
Try to remain in a rep range of 8-12 reps for 3-5 sets and keep each set 45-70 seconds long for the optimal amount of time under tension. This is the best formula for maintaining muscle growth. For more info on this check out 'Can you build muscle with Calisthenics?'
With weighted ring pull ups you are combining the benefits of
A compound calisthenics exercise, thereby engaging more muscles at once
The scalable benefits of weight training (progressive overload)
and the benefits of ring training (more comfortable on the joints and more muscle engagement as your body stabilises itself rather then relying on the equipment)
If you adopt the correct principles of muscle building then weighted ring pull ups are a potent formula for building upper body muscle mass.
#4 Weighted ring pull ups for strength
As we've already discussed at point #1, ring pull ups are much kinder on the joints then conventional bar pull ups.
The natural rotation of the rings in compliance with the optimal position for your joints and connective tissue, makes ring pull ups are more suitable for adding weight for strength training then conventional bar pull ups.
As long as you progress in small increments (no more then +5 KG/ 10 lbs per work out) then the injury risk for weighted ring pull ups is incredibly low.
One of the major benefits or weight training when it comes to strength gains is that progress is very easy to track and it is easy to add additional weight as you get stronger therefore you can keep track of your gains.
The same principle can be applied to ring pull ups if you have a weight vest or dipping belt.
The best way to build overall body strength is always with compound exercise that engage multiple muscle groups such as pull ups, dips, dead lifts and squats.
The muscular coordination developed from these exercises has great crossover application to athletic performance and they are some of the most satisfying exercises you can do.
Gaining strength may seem broadly similar to gaining muscle, but there are key distinctions in the way that you should train. If you are attempting to increase your strength with weighted ring pull ups then you should train a relatively low rep range of 4-6 reps with a heavy weight. Do 3-5 sets but take long breaks between each set.
Take enough time of yourself to recover so you can put in maximal effort on your next set. My personal approach has been to train with approximately 60% to 80% of your one rep maximum lift and I aim for 3 sets of 4 reps. My one rep max is +70 KG and I train with +50 KG.
This may not sound like much in terms of the number of reps and sets, but I always try to avoid fatigue when strength training and instead focus on consistency. If I am trying to increase my personal best with weighted pull ups, I will train 2 or 3 times a week, therefore I am able to do 144 reps of +50 KG per month.
If I were to train to failure or burn out every workout the intensity of the workout would mean I would have to spend a significant amount of time recovering before I would work out again, I would perhaps be only able to train once a week and achieve far less reps over time.
They key to building strength is consistency over intensity, and this has yielded me great results over time.
To add weight with a dipping belt or weighted vest?
The two most common ways you can add weight to pull ups are with a dipping belt or weighted vest. I have an article discussing the pros and cons of belts and vests for weighted calisthenics but specifically for weighted ring pull ups I would recommend a dipping belt because:
Dipping belts are significantly cheaper then weight vests
The dipping belt does not get in the way of the pull up like the vest can as the belt is around your hips whereas the vest is around your upper body. This can lead to chaffing and discomfort.
Its easier to adjust the weights on a dip belt and there is no limit to the amount of weight you can add.
Vests are usually limited to 30KG (66lbs) and at this weight they are very difficult to put them on as you have to lift 30 KG of dead weight (like a sand bag) over your head. Taking it on and off is tiring and they can feel like another layer of clothing whilst your exercise and therefore get too hot.
If you have any further questions please leave a comment down below and if you are now planning to take your training to the next level with weighted ring pull ups please share this article using the social media icons down below.