So in the beginning of the video, that’s my buddy CR and he’s doing some incredible tricks. When someone holds two rings and just swings back and forth like that, the sport is called the “Flying Rings.” Then later, you see my other buddy Jeremiah (great guitarist/singer!) swinging from ring to ring and that’s what we call the “Traveling Rings.”
This is a 3-4x/week bodyweight training routine that allows you to build impressive (intermediate-level) strength with minimal equipment. All you need is the floor and a pull up bar for most exercises. If you have a pair of wood gymnastics rings, you could do even more!
Credit: The is intermediate-ish push/pull/legs split routine was created with the advice from the fundamentals of bodyweight strength training. The original inspiration came from the residents of Original Muscle Beach, Santa Monica who got me into the traveling rings. OMB is now my home away from home. The exercises were compiled from a multitude of sources including but not limited to the reddit progressions wiki, this post and other forums such as GymnasticBodies.com.
RULES TO MAINTAIN SAFETY:
- Everything in the lists generally go from the easier variation to the more advanced.
- DO NOT ATTEMPT the progressions if you have not mastered the prerequisites in red.
- Go to the next exercise only when you can do 3×12 or 60s holds of the previous with perfect form.
- If you cannot maintain proper form, go back to an easier variation or the prerequisite.
- If you feel pain, STOP. Never work through the pain. REST.
- If the rings are too difficult (they move!), use the parallel or pull up bars.
- Implement a Steady State Cycle for the static moves because a stronger foundation is better than injury down the line.
Need more guidance than just photos or video demonstrations? Look for the #1, #2 for links to full tutorials.
Wrists feeling funky? Give em a break and try this: Wrist Friendly Modified Bodyweight Routine
Bodyline Drills (Go for a 60sec hold)
Flex butt and then abs to lock that position and hold that in every bodyline drill. (Source)
- Plank (with full protraction)
- Side Plank (both sides!)
- Reverse Plank (with full retraction)
- Hollow Hold
- Hollow Rocks (prerequisite: HH for 60+sec)
- Reverse Hollow Hold
- Reverse Hollow Rocks (prerequisite: RH for 60+sec)
Note: I alternate between the dolphin and normal variants every week. The dolphin/forearm versions are great to give your wrists a break if they are feeling funky.
Skill Work (1-2min for support holds, 5-10 min for L-sit & Handstand practice)
- Floor L-sit progressions (goal is 1x60sec, more info here)
- Foot supported L-sit (press shoulder blades down)
- One Foot supported L-sit
- Tucked L-sit
- Less Tucked L-sit
- Full L-sit
- RTO L-sit
- Next? Here are Advanced L-sit, V-sit, Manna and Straddle L-sit Progressions
- Straddle L-sit? V-sit? Both require good flexibility so work on your splits!
- Handstand Practice [#1, #2, #3]
- Support Holds (goal is 1x60sec, never arch your back, be either in a neutral or hollow position)
- Rings Muscle Up Skill Work
Here is More Skill Work if you have the time for it
- Crow Pose
- Human Flag Progressions (do both sides) (#1)
Day 1 (Pushing)
Day 2 (Pulling)
Day 3 (Legs & Core)
Printer/Mobile Friendly Version so you can take this with you anywhere!
Supplemental Info and FAQ
Last but not least, like I said before, if you’re interested in a superior training routine, I have created this Rings-oriented Bodyweight training routine. Instead of a push/pull split, it’s a straight arm/bent arm split which I enjoy much more thoroughly. It is much more comprehensive in detail, progressions, info and layout and what I personally practice and update regularly.
Loosening the hamstrings takes dedication. I don’t know how old you are but at the time of this writing I am 29 years old and I’m literally trying to undo 29 years of never-stretching-my-hamstrings. I’ve been wanting (but not really trying) to touch my toes without bending my knees for about 10 years. It wasn’t until a couple months ago when I was able to finally do that.
The main reason why our hamstrings are tight in the first place is that we spend most of our lives with our hamstrings in a contracted position (i.e. we spend a lot of time sitting on a chair).
You have to stretch them FREQUENTLY. Once a week isn’t going to cut it. And neither is fruitlessly trying to just reach for your toes, bouncing and yanking on your back (please don’t do that). At minimum, I would say 3-4 dedicated stretching sessions a week. If you could stretch every day, even better. However, you shouldn’t push yourself to the absolute limits each time. You need to just get into your end-range and learn to BREATHE and calm down in these uncomfortable situations. It’s not all about pushing and pulling and contorting! You need to respect your body and understand that this is a PROCESS. This is one of the reasons why I practice Yoga. It’s really boring to just sit there and stretch, but yoga is what made it bearable for me and taught me tremendous lessons. It’s not only a great practice that ramps up your self awareness and increases flexibility, but becomes a moving meditation if you get in the flow of it.
I used to do Yoga (for about an hour), twice a week, once on Tuesday and once on Thursday. After Thursday’s session I would be quite limber and notice some progress, but by the time next Tuesday rolled around, I’d be back to square one! Those 4 days of not-stretching over the weekend reverted and undid everything!
Everything changed for me when I started to do yoga at a minimum of 3-4x a week so that my body didn’t have time to revert back.
So you have to stay consistent, dedicated and determined. Don’t be dismayed because you think it’s going to take a lot of time to do this. All you have IS time, feel me?
Memorize the sun salutations
These are one of the first movement flows you will learn in yoga and it is a very thorough, full body warm up. Esther Ekhart has a beautiful youtube channel and this is her sun salutations video with very proper instructions. If you are well versed in sun salutations just forward to 4:25.
After you have warmed up with some Sun salutations… check out Esther’s Yoga for Hamstrings video. She utilizes a tennis ball to loosen the bottom of your feet. She utilizes a strap as well. Straps are a godsend for people with tight hamstrings (you and I!). If you don’t have a cotton strap, you could use a regular belt or rope.
You might ask: “Why should I do these sun salutations? I just want to work on my hamstrings!”
When people think of stretching, they often think of only the muscle anatomy and only that target muscle. But you are not just muscles. You are also nerves, fascia, joints, etc. All of these are functioning together all as one and the sun salutations tackle many parts of the body at once. When you are stretching your muscles, you are not just moving muscle but also moving nerves which must glide freely to give your mobility. These nerves originate out of your spinal column and travel all the way and innervate your limbs and torso. People think of nerves as tiny fiber-optic-like cables, but they’re actually very significant in size. Your largest nerve, your sciatic nerve which extends from your lumbar/sacral spine down the length of your leg (and very much involved with the hammys) is almost an inch thick!!!
So anyway, the nerves are not set in stone. These nerves must glide freely to be able to give you more mobility. Believe it or not but tightness in the neck and in the bottom of your feet can and do affect the flexibility of your legs.
Your muscles are not too short.
Your flexibility has nothing to do with the length of your muscles. They are not physically too short. The length of them is absolutely fine. The reason you can’t stretch past a certain point is because your nervous system sends the message to CONTRACT THE MUSCLE once it reaches a certain point. The nerve may be getting compressed and not able to glide freely and sending the signal to STOP RIGHT THERE. But it’s doing it for good reason: to prevent injury. Never try to force the stretch like crazy, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE NOT WARMED UP. Remember to take your time.
Interestingly enough, if you were put under anesthesia, I could lift your leg up and without any resistance, slowly bring your shins to your forehead. In other words, you’d be able to do the splits if your mind and nervous system was set out of the way.
This is very much symbolic of life, right? You reach your comfort zone, your ego holds you back and tells you to not go beyond it. Because that’s what’s helped you survive all these years, right? But we don’t want to just survive. We are equipped with glorious minds that want better than that. We want to expand our lives and feel freedom. That’s why there’s that saying: Life starts at the edge of your comfort zone. Or as Bob Marley sang, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds.”
Which brings me to my last points: Breathing and your Mind. Stretching is very much a mental thing as well. The same way you are not just muscles, you also have this consciousness that is not separate from your corporeal body as well (I guess, unless if you’re under lots of drugs, haha!). When you reach your limits, your mind also anticipates what the limit is. Without progress this limit becomes habit and set in stone (in your mind). But it doesn’t have to be that way. What helps you extend your limits is to focus on your breathing. We tend to hold our breath when we are put in a stressful situation. Just breathe, man. Try to deepen the stretch only when you are exhaling. Exhale and go deeper. When you inhale, relax. And then relax even more on the exhale. Feel me?
tl;dr: stretch often to undo all that sitting, take a yoga class or use the power of youtube to do it at home, don’t hold your breath, exhale, stretch your entire body, you are not just muscles, yaddayaddayadda.
These videos feature some new lovely women you’d find on the traveling rings, providing more proof that the rings are not just a mans sport. Besides, they always look SO graceful and awesome… hopefully this empowers more women to go out there and play on the Traveling Rings!
I often hear the excuse, “But I have no upper body strength!” and I say… “Yeah, neither did I!” If you come out every week or two, you’ll get better and better each and every time. Besides, I don’t do the rings to stay in shape. I stay in shape because I do the rings. Spending a few hours a week here is bliss.
Here are a couple of new videos by Bruno, a long time regular of the rings.
> “Only 2 months on the rings… No Comments.”
And here’s a recent one by Hector Torres, called Free Motion.
So who am I going to see there?
Before you begin, WARM UP!
If you’re on the rings and you hear popping, snapping, creaking, then you need to stop and warm up and stretch your arms more. I don’t mean static stretches, I mean dynamic stretches that involve movement to get the joints moving. Just hang from the rings, do some rows, some incline push ups, shoulder rolls, move your wrists around, you get the idea. I often do stretches on the grass area and many other exercises before tackling the traveling rings.
How to travel from one ring to another…
Put some chalk on and remember, if it’s your third round or more, you’re running into the danger of ripping and you should probably stop until your hand repairs itself. (This may take 2-5 days depending on how tough your hands are to begin with; mechanic hands vs massage therapist.)
Written details of the above video:
1) Grab the first ring firmly with your dominant hand and RUN to the next ring. It helps a lot to start with a lot of speed because the more speed you have, the easier it is to maintain that momentum.
2) Once you grab the next ring, PULL only your back arm down (ring #1), let go and you will fly to the next ring.
If you’re immediately losing speed even though you’re pulling, it’s very likely that you’re pulling both arms. The ring that initially grabs the ring stays straight. So in other words, one arm is always pulling while the other stays straight.
3) Now all you need to do is get your legs involved so they don’t hang like dead weight and your arms don’t have to do as much work. For someone just starting out, it’s easiest to simply bring both knees up to the chest like you’re doing a strong reverse ab crunch. This will help you make it down and back the rings (if grip strength is available).
So it’s this PULL AND TUCK motion that will get you flying. What you’re trying to do is lift yourself up so gravity will help you swing to the next one. You could do this by pulling up your arm, kicking your feet, lifting your hips up or all three! The point is, don’t let your legs just hang idly like dead weight. The more you throw your legs or hips up, the greater you’ll fly and lighten the load on your arm. Once you get this basic motion down, you can do way more than just bringing your knees up: You can practicing kicking your legs and/or using your hips.
For even more speed, hold ring #1 and run back and forth, kicking the sand each time so you get faster and faster so when you grab ring #2 you are starting with a lot of speed. Here’s my tutorial video on how to do that:
Tip #1: Look Through The Back Ring. When you’re pulling the back ring, look back and through that back ring. This will force you to…
- Pull hard enough that you could at least be able to bring that ring in front of your face.
- Face your palm toward you, which will engage more muscles and give you more control.
- Eventually, you’ll be able to pull that back ring down even further, all the way to your hips!
Tip #2: The Cross Pull. The cross pull opens up a whole new world as it changes the way you swing. In regards to health, it alleviates a ton of pressure off your shoulders. It will also change your swinging.
When you grab the ring in front of you, instead of grabbing it and leaving it there, immediately bring the ring closer to the back one. If you’re flying high enough, you’re essentially trying to bring the ring across your chest closer to the other ring you’re pulling. If you’re not flying high, the ring is going to be above you, so you’re simply bringing it closer to the back one.
Tip #3: Practice this drill. Here’s an exercise to get you to twist your hips and get your legs involved. (NOTE: We’re NOT going to travel down the rings for this exercise.)
Hold a ring in each hand and hang. Spread your legs apart and start making a circle with your feet for many seconds, twisting your hips and entire body. As you come back to center, kick your right leg to the left. Keep twisting and scissoring your hips and legs like this. You may notice that you could kick or twist one side with much more force than the other. Try to be ambidextrous. Then, you ADD A PULL to the twist and you could really feel how this will help you.
Here’s a magic trick: If you simply look up, and follow the center pole that the rings are hanging from, you will be very smooth and it’s a very interesting effect because it cuts out all the thinking. You can disconnect your mind from your surroundings this way and your legs and body will automatically do what they need to go that way. So try looking UP, glancing straight ahead only to catch the next ring.
What I told you is just something to get you going. Whatever variations or modifications you want to do afterwards is totally up to you, so just PLAY PLAY PLAY! Just like dancing, everybody does this UNIQUELY and there is no right or wrong way as long as you’re not hurting yourself. If you see someone doing something awesome, just ask them afterwards how they built-up to that move and they will more often than not be VERY happy to help.
I’ll leave you with this video that is an absolute amazing show of creativity!