7 Ring Dips Benefits
What are the benefits of gymnastic ring dips?
The benefit of ring dips over bar dips or other pushing exercises is that they improve your balance, coordination and body control. They also condition your shoulders to be more resistant to injuries as ring dips specifically strengthen the stabilising muscles around your shoulder joint. Ring dips are a more challenging exercise then bar dips and will increase your strength and muscles mass without taxing your joints.. Additionally they are a great way to progress to the highly coveted ring muscle up.
Check out the 7 great benefits of the gymnastic rings dip:
#1 Easier on your joints
In terms of pushing exercises, ring dips place less stress on the elbows, wrists and shoulders then other movements. This is because each ring is allowed to individually rotate 360°, so the ring can turn to the most comfortable position for your joints.
With barbells and dip stations your hands are locked in to a specific pattern because of the equipment is static and set in place. As you push up and down, your joints follow a predetermined path that's set by the bars. Your joints have to adjust to the equipment whereas gymnastic rings adapt to your body's individual movement.
Consider a standard dip station or set of parallel bars. They are typically set to a standard, non adjustable -one size fits all- width. This does not take into account someones individual build or frame.
If the bars are set to wide for you, then this will have an impact on your joints and put unnecessary stress on your elbows in particular. The tension should be felt by your muscles and not be placed on joints or connective tissue. If your dipping too wide this will lead to injury.
The optimal spacing for dips is so the point of contact (whether its rings or bars) is specifically shoulder width apart.
With rings you can adjust the spacing of the rings easily by ensuring the straps hang the appropriate distance apart. If you are 'in hold' at the top of the dip and your arms are straight then this is the optimal distance for rings dips.
The rotation of the rings is kinder to your wrists and shoulder as you can adjust the angle of the rings to suit the comfort of you joints, at different stages of the movement.
#2 Strengthens shoulder stabiliser muscles (injury prevention) and #3 improve your bench press
The main difference between ring dips and other pushing movements (such as bench press or push ups) is the instability factor.
Instability may seem like a dubious attribute for exercise equipment but the rings have a unique ability to specifically target and strengthen the muscles that support the shoulder joint.
The rings are free to move and in any direction as well as rotate 360° as they are suspended from a higher point (hung over a pull up bar, tree branch or garage beams etc.) as opposed to being fixed into to the ground and completely static (a dipping station or parallel bars).
Therefore the body has to stabilise itself throughout the movement.
When you are in a 'support hold' (any time your centre of gravity is above that of the rings) the feeling of instability of the rings is more pronounced.
The instability is most felt in the shoulders, chest and core as these are the muscle groups that are not only the primary movers for this exercise but also responsible for balance and coordination during dipping.
At first this instability can be rather overwhelming and you find your pushing strength gained from other exercises, such as bar dips or bench press does not translate over to ring dips.
This is not because your primary movers of chest and triceps are weak, but because ring dips expose a glaring muscle imbalance you probably didn't know you had.
There are a lot of conventional lifts that target and isolate the rotator cuff, such as the lateral raise and upright rows, but these exercises tend to target the muscle for more aesthetic purposes or to improve pulling strength.
They do not challenge the rotator cuffs capacity to keep the shoulder joint stable. Therefore these stabilising muscles tend not to be a primary target and tend to end up a lot weaker then the bigger muscle groups of the chest and arms.
This strength imbalance can potentially lead to injury as you handle heavier weights because primary movers are strong, but the muscles supporting the joints to keep them stable during these movements are not strong enough and you end up with muscle tears, connective tissue damage (ligaments and tendons) or impingement of the joint.
With ring dips your body has to adapt to this new stimulus of instability by an adaptive strength response. Because ring dips are so effective at strengthening the rotator cuff, you will adjust to the free movement of the rings and gradually become more proficient at ring dips.
The strength imbalance eventually becomes equalised. Strong stable shoulders have the obvious benefit of injury prevention.
Ring dips have been part of my personal calisthenics training regime for over 5 years and my shoulders feel rock solid. This increase feeling of stability has benefited my other lifts and helped me smash through strength plateaus in bench press, shoulder press, Olympic lifts etc.
Conventional dips now seem easy by comparison I can achieve a higher rep count as well as a heavier weighted conventional dip personal record.
Start training ring dips now and you can achieve heavier lifts then ever before.
#4 Excellent progression to the muscle up and other rings techniques (#5 proprioceptive component)
Another great benefit to ring dips is that they are an excellent gateway exercise to more challenging ring techniques, such as the ring muscle up. Because the rings can move freely (as opposed to static bars) there is more of an emphasis on developing the shoulder mobility required for muscle ups. This is particularly felt with dips that have a deeper range of motion.
I have an article on the ring muscle up transition phase and deep ring dips are one of the key progressions.
This is because, not only do ring dips familiarise you with the instability of the rings and mimic a key part of the transition phase of the muscle up, but also because there is an often overlooked proprioception element to the ring dips which to those that are new to gymnastic rings, tends to get over looked.
Proprioception is defined as 'the sense of the relative position of one's own parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement.'
What this means in the context of a ring dip is that you develop a new level of coordination and body control whilst simultaneously developing strength.
You have to be in complete control of your body and maintain balance whilst engaging several muscle groups in synergy.
This means there is a great deal of athletic crossover when in comes to ring dips as body control, balance, coordination and strength are all attributes that improve your performance at different sports.
Therefore if you play sports either competitively or for fun you will benefit significantly from incorporating ring training into your workouts, not only from the proprioception standpoint but from a shoulder stability perspective too.
#6 Ring dips for hypertrophy and #7 Strength
Ring dips are also are a great exercise to include into a muscle building workout. I personally have found rings dips have increase the mass of my:
and developed a defined core
The primary movers for the ring dip are the chest, shoulders and triceps and the forearms and core a recruited for balance, stability and exertion.
It must be noted that ring dips are far more difficult then bar dips, so it may take some time and practice to build up to the point where you can comfortably perform sets that have enough reps for hypertrophy and strength gains (8-12). If you need some help getting to that point check out my beginners guide to rings dips.
With ring dips, there is a really deep contraction in the chest. The rings help put an emphasis on the chest by allowing you to control the range of motion. So you can go deeper at the bottom portion of the motion where the chest is at peak contraction.
The level of chest and triceps engagement in the movement is also increased (compared to conventional dips on bars) by the instability element of the rings. Along with the shoulders and core, the chest plays a significant roll in keeping your body balanced and stable throughout the movements range of motion.
Because you have to keep your body stable at all stages of the movement there is more time under tension with ring dips compared with bar dips. Therefore all the muscles groups used in the movement are constantly at work.
Time under tension is one of the most significant factors for muscle gain. If you want to know more about the specifics of how this applies to hypertrophy then check out my article 'Can you build muscle with calisthenics'.
The optimal time under tension for muscle growth is 45-60 seconds per set.
The time under tension is practically doubled with ring dips as you have to stress the eccentric part of the movement (the lowering phase of the dip) far more then a bars dip. Solid, fixed parallel dipping bars negate some of the need for control and balance, so the eccentric phase of the movement tends not to be stressed as much.
The tempo of ring dips is much slower due to this need for control. The eccentric and concentric (pushing phase) portion of the exercise require a similar level of intensity which benefits for muscle growth and increase strength.
As with all pushing exercise there is a significant workload applied to the triceps and shoulders. However as stated in this article there is a particular emphasis on the stabilising muscles of the shoulder.
In particular the rotator cuff and the trapezius (traps) muscles that surround the shoulder are tested for their capacity to provide a solid foundation to allow the primary movers (chest and triceps) to do the work of pushing.
This leads to higher levels of muscle fibre recruitment from both the traps and deltoid muscles which in turn leads to strength and muscle gains that exceed other pushing exercises due to the higher intensity.
If you become accustomed to performing reps of ring dips and you want to scale to a more difficult challenge, you can add external weight to your dips with either a weight vest or dipping belt. If you need any help deciding which option for adding weight is right for you check out my article which covers the pros and cons of weight vests and dip belts.
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