Climbers can certainly learn a thing or two from gymnasts when it comes to training. After all, theirs is also a sport where a high strength-to-weight ratio is important. One of the best additions that any outdoor athlete can make for their home gym is a pair of gymnastic rings. These simple tools are remarkably effective for developing muscles of the upper body and core.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
While gymnastic rings may conjure up images of uber-athletes in the Olympics doing super-human feats like the Iron Cross, they are also valuable for us mere mortals. Because they can move freely, rings are excellent for performing push-ups to work the chest and triceps as well as the small stabilizer muscles of the shoulder. Similarly, they work better for pull-ups than a fixed bar or hangboard; you can even stagger them in height for extra challenge. Instead of crunches and ab rollers, you can use rings to work the abdominals and obliques by doing curl-ups and planks.
The rings used by gymnasts, however, are expensive ($350 per pair) because of the high stresses they must endure. Fortunately, Elite Rings are an affordable alternative ($80 shipped) that are designed for fitness training. The rings are constructed of molded plastic, reinforced with ribs so they don't flex. They have just enough texture to offer a good grip without chewing your hands up. One-inch flat webbing easily adjusts in length with heavy-duty Ancra cam buckles. Unlike the knock-off Xtreme Rings (which already lose points for the name), the Elites have a slot that the webbing threads through to stabilize the rings; you don't have to use it but I found it helpful.
These rings are essentially perfect right out of the box--all you need is two sturdy anchor points in the ceiling about 18-inches apart. To hang them, I drilled two holes through a ceiling beam and installed eye bolts. Rather than threading the webbing through the bolts, I just use two carabiners so I can quickly take the rings down.
The Elite Rings come with printed training guide that shows the basic exercises. But you might consider getting the DVD ($20 extra), which shows a progression of exercises with proper technique and gives tips on how to change resistance. It also includes some extra footage of a professional gymnast making us all feel like weaklings. Good stuff.