7 Ring Push ups Benefits (Why they're the best push up variation)
What are the benefits of ring push ups and why are they the best variation?
Ring push ups are the best variation of push ups because it emphasises building strength in the stabilising muscles of the shoulder, increases coordination and requires more muscle recruitment in the chest, triceps and core compared to normal push ups. They are also a great progression exercise for more advanced techniques like ring dips and muscle ups.
Here are the the top 7 benefits of ring push ups;
#1 Strengthening of stabiliser muscles for injury resistant shoulders
Ring push ups have the added benefit of strengthening the stabilising muscles that support the shoulder joint. The rings inherent instability offers your neuro-muscular system a unique challenge. The equipment moves freely in any direction and can rotates 360 degrees. The benefit of this is that your body has to actively work to stabilise itself instead of relying on external stability from the ground your pushing off.
There are no conventional exercises that test the rotator cuffs capacity for stability to this extent, which is one of the reasons rings exercises are so challenging.
Most exercises that target the rotator cuffs are for aesthetic purpose as opposed to functional strength.
One of the key benefits of more stable shoulders is that they are far less likely to be injured.
Shoulder injuries often come when there is a strength imbalance between the primary movers of a pushing exercises and the stabilising muscles.
When the primary movers (chest, trapezius, triceps) are strong we think we can handle large amount of weight, but with weaker stabilisers the shoulder joint is sufficiently supported for heavier weights and its usually the connective tissue that pays the price. (tendons, ligaments, rotator cuff tear , dislocations etc.)
The shoulder joint is usual in that it has a wide range of motion due to the ball and socket structure.
The four muscles of the rotator cuff (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis) are the muscles that support the shoulder and keep it stable throughout its movement.
Gymnastics ring training, and in particular ring push ups trigger an adaptive response to instability training and they are the best way to train these stabilising muscles optimally to function the way they should for rock solid shoulders and to avoid any potential shoulder injuries.
#2 You can easily adjust the intensity
Ring push ups are very easy to scale in terms of difficulty. Put simply the further the rings are to the ground, the more difficult the exercise.
The lower your lean the more instability from the rings will feel and the greater proportion of your own body weight you will be pushing.
This makes the ring push up one of the key exercises for those that are beginners with gymnastics ring training.
As you progressively get stronger and more comfortable with the added challenges of rings push ups you can extend the straps and lower the rings closer to the ground so that your push ups are at a lower angle to increase the intensity of the push ups.
In the first frame of the photo the rings are set far higher, therefore the angle of the body is at about 45°. In the second frame the rings are set lower at nearly 90° and the intensity of the exercise has increased.
The inherent instability of the rings can take some time to adapt to. As your coordination and balance improves you change the difficulty of the exercise to suit your ability.
With some of the cheaper gymnastic rings that I have bought, the straps are too short to be able to lower the rings down to the right height for a push up, if the straps hung on a high anchor point, like garage beams or a tree branch. This is why I wrote a review of my favourite gymnastic rings for sale on amazon that are super strong, longer straps and made from durable birch wood (rather then cheap plywood that can break).
#3 Good progression to a ring dip
The ring push up is an excellent progressional exercise for the full ring dip. The ring push up utilises the same primary movers (chest, shoulder, triceps) as the dip and it develops the coordination, strength and balance required for the more advanced exercise.
The push ups typically supports anywhere from 60% to 80% of your entire body weight (depending on the height of the rings and the angle of your push up) because of the support that your feet provide from the ground.
With the dip you are supporting 100% of your body weight, hence the increase in difficulty.
The ring push up is the best preparation for the more advanced ring exercises that are in a support hold (any time your centre of gravity is above the rings) from dips to ring muscle ups as it uses the same muscle groups and mimics the level of instability felt in these exercises.
#4 Ring push ups for muscle growth and strength----propiceptive component
Ring push ups are far more challenging then regular push ups thanks to the instability factor and the greater range of motion with the rings.
Because the rings are off the ground and you are not restricted by the floor like you would be with standard push ups, you can really go deep at the bottom portion of the exercise and get a higher engagement from the chest, triceps, core, shoulders and forearms with a greater range of motion.
Rings push ups make the forearms are more of an active component of the movement. In contrast, with standard push ups the forearms play a more passive role due to the greater stability of being on the floor.
Ring push ups engage the muscle and tendons of the forearms to keep a strong grip and support this wrist. This results in a rock solid grip and a more stable wrist joint, thus improving injury resistance.
Throughout the duration of a ring push up there is constant time under tension. Even when you lock your arms out at the top of the movements your shoulders, chest and core still have to maintain stability so you are always engaging muscle.
Throughout the extent of the rep there is more muscle recruitment as you have to maintain balance and coordination as well as execute a deep push. If you haven't done ring push ups before you will feel the difference immediately.
This is one of the key factors for muscle hypertrophy. According to American council of exercise the optimal time under tension for set to stimulate muscle growth is between 45-60 seconds.
The tempo with which you execute ring push ups is a lot slower then regular push ups due to the variables of coordination, instability and greater control that is required with ring training.
A set of 8-12 repetitions ring push ups (the optimal rep range for hypertrophy) lands squarely within the 45-60 second optimal time frame as you have to stress the eccentric part of the movement in order to remain in control of the rings making push ups ideal for muscle growth.
With traditional push ups there is a temptation to practically skip the eccentric phase of a push up by dropping down from the top position where you arms are extended and just apply effort 'pushing up' on the concentric (pushing) phase of the exercise.
Therefore you can miss out on the muscle building capacity of eccentric training.
Ring push ups, by their very nature really puts and emphasis on eccentric training.
If you're training using the progressive overload principle and working within the optimal rep range for muscle growth (8-12 reps for 4-5 sets) then you will build a lot more functional, coordinated muscle in your chest, shoulders, arms and core then you will with regular push ups.
The increased range of motion also helps develop greater mobility in the shoulders. Standard push ups do not address or develop the mobility and flexibility of your upper body in the same way
The more mobile your shoulders are and the looser the muscles the less chance you have of developing stiffness or injury.
#5 Can help you improve your bench press technique
One of the major benefits of increased stability around the shoulder joint and in the chest from ring push ups is that strength transfers particularly well to improving your bench press.
Often the limiting factor for bench press is keeping the weight stable whilst pushing. If the supporting muscles around the joints are not strong enough then the primary movers (chest, shoulders and triceps) cannot exert as much force and work to their potential.
This could be holding you back from bench press personal records.
The ring push up challenges shoulder joint strength in a unique way to address any imbalances in shoulder strength as you adapt to the instability of the rings.
When you can competently handle in stable ring push ups for a good number of reps and sets then your stability on the bar will feel rock solid.
If you have hit a plateau in your bench press progress then it is time to focus on ring pushing techniques to take you to the next level.
#6 Better for your joint health
One of the key benefits of Gymnastic rings are able to rotate 360 degrees without restriction. This allows hands and therefore your wrists, elbows and shoulders to rotate throughout the movement too.
The body will naturally adjust the rings to a position that is most comfortable for your joints and connective tissue. Therefore the equipment adapts to motion dictated by your body for a more natural movement.
This is in contrast to how your joints move during a standard push up. When your hands are planted to the ground it does provide a stable base of support. However you hands remain static throughout the movement. There is no rotation in the movement therefore your ligaments, tendons and joints follow a predetermined plane of motion.
Overtime this can lead to discomfort, impingement and even injury to your connective tissue.
The rings inherently adjust to the body's optimal, preferred plane of motion as you are in control. This is far better for maintaining joint health and ensuring your body stays injury free.
#7 More comfortable for your wrists
Some level of wrist pain or discomfort is common with people who do a high amount of reps of standard push ups. This is because the wrist is held back in an almost hyper extended position. All your upper body weight is bearing down on this one joint that is bent at 90° from a neutral position.
This can induce joint impingement and lead to enough discomfort for you to not be able to do push ups or other exercises without causing unnecessary pain or injury.
When you adopt a grip on gymnastic rings for push ups, the wrist is in a neutral position and remains relatively straight to support your body. With regular push ups with your palms on the ground, your wrist are under pressure as the are in a relatively hyper-extend position.
With cumulative push ups this position becomes uncomfortable and it is the most common reason for wrist injury due to press ups.
The ring push ups negates this problem because of the neutral wrist position and the natural rotation of the rings allows you to find a position where you are most comfortable.
If you get to a point where you want to increase the intensity of ring push ups then a weighted vest is a good option. You can increase the weight and scale the exercise to an intensity that suits you.
However I think the better progression at this stage would be learn how do a ring dip. This is an exceptional exercise and requires you to support 100% of your body weight instead of the 60%-80% of your weight supported with a ring push up.
You can also try push ups on the rings without straps on the ground . This is not necessarily a progression of normal suspended rings push ups but it is definable a challenging exercise and it will certainly test your balance, forearm stability and grip strength.
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