23 Bodyweight Ring and Strap Exercises

by A Manly Guest Contributor on August 5, 2010 · 29 comments

in Health & Sports

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Joe Hashey, CSCS.

Every lifter must first be able to control their bodyweight before they progress onto weighted movements. Even after months or years of training, there are always bodyweight exercises in our program. Rings and straps are a great way to increase difficulty for the advanced lifters, while helping them gain a command over their own bodyweight.

History of Ring Training

Ring training was developed during the early 1800s in Germany. The original “rings” looked more like triangles than circles. As you will see in the video near the end of this article, we use both the circle and the triangle variations.

Free hanging rings first appeared during the Olympics in 1924 where gymnastics continued to innovate new movements. Vince Vaughan was seen training on the rings in the 2003 movie Old School. The only importance of Old School is that my athletes all want to attempt the iron cross and yell “still holding!”

Bodyweight Exercises Are for the Weak?

I had an experienced gym “guru” come up to me while I was performing ring dips and say, “You are strong, so why are you wasting your time on bodyweight exercises? Those are for the weak people that can’t lift the iron!”

I invited him to try a set of ring dips and despite his high degree of strength, he mustered up only one…barely. The rings were shaking all over the place, and he didn’t have the relative body strength to control the movements. To the point, fitness is a mixture of different abilities, and control over your own weight is near the top of the list.


Rings and straps have a great deal of mobility. As the lifter presses against the rings, they will often vibrate or move and stabilizing this movement creates a higher degree of muscle recruitment. We use them often during the accessory lift portion of our training protocols.

Additionally, both are portable, affordable to make at home, and easy to set up. Most importantly, rings and straps are versatile. We use them for a variety of exercises, unlike many gym machines that serve only one function. In the video below, you will see 23 different exercises we perform with hanging straps and rings, but we also use them on sleds and other apparatuses.

Big Three Ring/Strap Exercises

You won’t see many people using rings like gymnasts – that requires learning a whole new sport. However, these training tools can be implemented with exercises that you regularly perform.

Ring Dip. The primary muscles targeted during the dip are chest, shoulders, and triceps. As mentioned earlier, ring dips provide an entirely different training effect than bar dips. Ring dips will require a great deal of upper body strength and stability.

Ring Push Up. The muscles targeted during the push-up are similar to the dip – chest, shoulders, and triceps. However, due to the movement of the rings, a greater amount of core strength will be required.

Scarecrows. Looks easy, but scarecrows will target your rear delts and the muscles surrounding the scapula like few exercises can. The movement is performed by holding the straps in front of your chin while in the standing position. Pull the straps apart until your arms are straight to the side, parallel to the ground. To make the movement more difficult, simply slide your feet forward.

23 Ring/Strap Exercises


Rings and straps are an effective addition to any training tool box. Athletes have used rings for nearly two centuries. Both training tools have sculpted some of the strongest men (in terms of relative body strength) in Olympic history.

Thanks for reading and please post any questions you may have in the comments!


Joe Hashey is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. He is a former D1AA college football player at Colgate University, and owner of Synergy Athletics in Endwell, New York.

Joe can be reached through his popular strength training blog – www.Synergy-Athletics.com. He is currently giving away 2 effective free reports and a 30 minute video to all newsletter subscribers!

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Steve August 5, 2010 at 10:49 pm

I was interested in getting a suspension training system for the home since my gym doesn’t have it, and I was considering the TRX but it’s $200 for what seems like a bunch of straps. Any recommendations on a more affordable alternative?

2 Nathan August 5, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Hey Steve, try the rings at http://www.ringtraining.com. I’ve been using them for two years and they are excellent. About $75 plus shipping and handling will get you a great set of rings so that you can achieve muscle up capability and impress your friends at the gym. Happy training.

3 ShaunWilliamCallahan August 5, 2010 at 11:35 pm

i’ve used the TRX (with the military strength training video) for almost 2 years and minus an unrelated injury that kept me off it for 4 months its the best thing i could have ever bought… i’ve tried gyms all through high school, college and after but it never stuck..

but i seriously love my TRX. no bullshit.. worth every penny. so many exercises and you don’t have to find a place to mount rings or anything weird like that.. just find a door with however long your arms are on each side and your golden…

though i admit if i ever find a place i cant mount rings i totally would..


4 Cedrik August 6, 2010 at 7:36 am

CrossFit is the sport of fitness, it includes bodyweight training, weightlifting and plyometrics. You should all check it out for yourselves. It has become, besides my wife, the best discovery of my life. It affects everything from my energy level to my self confidence.


5 John Sifferman August 6, 2010 at 7:36 am

Hey Steve,

I’m a fan of the rings, too – best quality equipment you can get for suspension training IMO. Though, you can simply purchase your own straps at the hardware store and learn to wrap and tie them for various exercises. It’s tedious and harder on the hands – even with gloves, but it’ll save you 50 bucks. A friend of mine has Blast Straps and swears by them, but there are some exercises that aren’t possible with them.

6 JaimeD August 6, 2010 at 8:00 am

Aa a Crossfitter, I love rings and incorporate them into my bodyweight routines every chance I get. One of the best tools out there for major upper body developement.

7 Jamie Fellrath August 6, 2010 at 9:16 am

Another alternative is the Lifeline USA Jungle Gym – it’s pretty much the same product as TRX but is cheaper, from $50 to $80 depending on the model you choose. I love the thing.


8 jojo August 6, 2010 at 10:19 am

you can make your own with a rope

9 BHud August 6, 2010 at 10:20 am

I’ve been crossfitting for over a year- it is amazing.
Just ordered my first set of rings for my bday last week- I should have them for this weekend. I cant wait.

10 Joe Hashey August 6, 2010 at 10:47 am

In a follow up video I showed how I made the blue straps used in the video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f4KE97CnKU

I agree the TRX system is great! If you are looking for a cheaper alternative: rope, chain, nylon strapping, and seat belt strap are all easy to use and affordable.

Thanks for checking out my article and commenting!!! It is always an honor to be on AoM!


11 Vincent DiMarco August 6, 2010 at 12:53 pm

I use homemade blast straps using adjustable cam straps for a few dollars from Home Depot or strapworks.com (ratchet straps will do as well), snap links or carabiners for a few dollars and D-handles or stirrup handles, about $10 each from a fitness store. Works great and saves a bundle! Ring dips and push-ups are brutal, I don’t care how strong or experienced you are!

12 Jimmy August 6, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Thumbs down for not including the Muscle Up as a ring exercise.

13 Tom J August 6, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Thumbs up for spending the time to make a video!


14 ThatGuy August 6, 2010 at 10:57 pm

If you want some good cheap rings, do a search on youtube or google about homemade gymnastics rings and you will find some vids on how to make them with pvc pipe. It’s actually quite easy.

15 Kevin (Strongandfit.net) August 6, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Awesome post! When you look at the muscularity of gymnasts (especially upper body development) you know that body weight training is a great way to build muscle.

16 DK August 7, 2010 at 12:50 am

I agree with Jimmy. The muscle up and ring handstand push ups re two great ring exercises. Good stuff though

17 Tony August 7, 2010 at 1:44 am

I really love the article and video and very much appreciate the ideas this has given me for my workouts. But is it really necessary to have not one, not two, but three pop ups on the video that you can’t click off? It’s pretty annoying and distracting. I definitely understand that bloggers do articles for the exposure, but it was a bit much for me.

18 Darrin August 7, 2010 at 2:12 pm

I am a huge fan of bodyweight exercises. They are scalable and accessible – so no one has any excuse to not exercise. I haven’t tried any ring exercises yet, however. Looking forward to adding them to my repertoire!

19 Tony August 7, 2010 at 3:34 pm

More affordable straps, £22.50 for the basic model.

20 Eric August 7, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Steve try, “http://www.ringtraining.com” or “http://www.trainingrings.com”. The crossfit main site has a lot of resources for using gymnastic rings from the beginner to the advanced. Several crossfit vendors have begun to offer gymnastic rings, and the prices have dropped a great deal. Olympic great rings shouldn’t cost you more than a $85-$100 before shipping.

21 Kevin August 7, 2010 at 7:00 pm

A very interesting and informative article. Awesome job Joe!

Kevin T

22 LT August 9, 2010 at 6:06 am

Do rings and straps do the same kind of exercises or does one differ than the other one? I’m been wondering this because I want to buy one of the products and see which one might be better.

23 Jarrett August 10, 2010 at 12:14 am

Great article. I see some are asking about where to buy their own straps and what not. I’m not affiliated with the below site in any way, but there are two great articles on making the straps and using them. All you really need is a tree or bar of some sort and a few very cheap supplies(much cheaper than the $200 versions or anything else posted previously) and you’re in business.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Hopefully that will be of help to some, and also save someone some money. Check his “Homemade Equipment” section for other great and relatively cheap ideas for workout equipment. A this being a manly site, not many things are manlier than making stuff with your own hands, sweat, and elbow grease.

24 Tim Sun August 10, 2010 at 3:40 am

we offer TRX P1,P2,force kit
those are almost same with the original
TRX P1,price $ 21
TRX p2,price $25
TRX Force kit,price $ 22
not include shipping fee.
order is larger,price is lower.

for more imformation,please contact
email: sales@trx-straps.com

25 Craig August 10, 2010 at 3:30 pm

nice article, I have never tried rings however I try to incorporate body weight exercises into every workout.

26 Paramjit August 10, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Bodyweight ring exercises are some of the most difficult exercises. A mix of strength and balance is required. The balance comes from the activation of lots of fine muscles which regular exercises do not stimulate. Great article and awesome video.

27 mike battle January 31, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Just purchased a set of suspension trainers which includes 2 18 foot straps and 2 large oval rings. Hooks on any pullup bar, tree branch, swing set, etc. It cost me less than $50 and is very well built. The company is Christian’s Fitness Factory in Lancaster, Pa and they are on the web. THE BEST BUY in rings. I’ve done my research!

28 Gary March 3, 2013 at 11:29 am

I have both rings and the USA. You only need 1 or the other, but I love them both. I bought rings first. And then the USA while working on a cruise ship for six months.I have them both attached to my squat rack and use them as integral parts of my workouts. My one rec for the rings is that you purchase a set of adjustable ring straps by Brute Force. Not cheap but worth it when you want your elevation changes to be both quick AND accurate.

29 JLMA October 26, 2013 at 9:14 am

so is there a DIFFERENCE between RINGS and TRIANGULAR handles when it comes to:
2) doing NEUTRAL (palms facing) grip PULL-UPS?


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