If you’re wondering how to do Ring Muscle ups, you’ve come to the right place. Observing others do this phenomenal exercise may leave you wondering how you will ever be able to do a Ring Muscle up. We’ve been there as well, and yes, the Ring Muscle up is not an easy Calisthenics move by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s not an impossible feat either. Both men and women of all walks and talk of life have acquired this skill. Chances are, so can you. We’ll show you how to do the Ring Muscle up by deconstructing the move into its elements. We’ll then show you ways to train for each of these independent movements in 5 steps until you are ready for your first Ring Muscle up.
This article is complementing our video on How To Do Ring Muscle Ups:
What is a Ring Muscle up?
The Ring Muscle up is a very advanced Calisthenics exercise, consisting of a Muscle up practiced on a set of Gymnastic Rings, the grip adapted for use on the ropes. The technique consists of 3 distinct yet fluid phases: the Pull, the Transition and the Dip. Between these phases, you will adjust your grip on the rings accordingly to allow for the wrists and elbows to straighten out. We’ll briefly describe each consecutive phase of how to do Ring Muscle ups, and give a more detailed training plan for each phase later:
Start from a dead hang position while holding the rings with a False Grip. Pull up as high as you can, touching your chest with your thumbs. Only when you’ve managed to bring the rings up to your armpits in height are you ready for the Transition Phase.
At the full height of the Pull-Up, press your elbows backwards, lean forward and turn your wrists around, bringing the rings back to below your armpits at your sides. You are now ready for the Dip Phase.
With a regular grip now, press yourself up to full arm extension above the rings, then turn your shoulders outward, turning your thumbs outward too. You have now performed a single Ring Muscle up. Lower yourself back down in the reverse order.
Difficulty of the Ring Muscle up
The regular Bar Muscle up itself is an advanced technique usually reserved only for those Calisthenics practitioners with a fair number of training hours under their belts. The exact point at which you can start doing Ring Muscle ups varies from person to person. Factors like your bodyweight, height and muscle mass distribution all play significant roles in determining how successful you are at this exercise.
In our estimation, if you can perform 5 sets of 10 regular Pull-Ups, you should be ready to learn the Ring Muscle up and prepare for it through our video and exercise routine. It will still be tough, however. Before you stop reading here, we do have a solid strategy for you to accomplish the Ring Muscle up, even as a relative beginner. It will take time and effort on your part, but it can be done and, in less time than you might think.
Equipment Needed for the Ring Muscle up
The only absolutely required equipment for Ring Muscle ups is a set of high-quality Gymnastic Rings. We recommend getting one these 6 sets. They are of excellent Olympic quality and specifications, but are at the same time some of the most affordable Gymnastic Rings on the market (and which aren’t trash).
- Gornation Workout Rings Set: Excellent quality birch wood along Olympic specifications, generous 4.5 meters (almost 15ft) straps and a door anchor for home-use.
- Gravity Fitness Wooden Gymnastic Rings: Great quality wooden rings of Olympic measurements, and plenty of strap to work with in any situation, also available in 32mm diameter.
- Pullup & Dip Wooden Gymnastic Rings: Also, great quality wooden rings and durable straps which include a door anchor for home use.
- KENSUI Neo-Rings: Great quality birch-wood rings that feature both the 28mm Olympic standard half as well as a 32mm half dedicated to CrossFit exercises, like the Ring Muscle up.
- Duonamic Eleviia Rings Travel Package: good quality rings along with a complete travel package so you can take your rings anywhere with great ease.
- On That Bar Wooden Calisthenics Rings: Also good quality wooden Gymnastic rings with solid nylon straps and steel buckles.
Important to note here is the difference in ring diameter. The 28mm Olympic standard is most common and we can always recommend you get this standard if in doubt. The 32mm rings are specific to CrossFit, and CrossFit also knows this technique as an advanced exercise.
Here are a few tips for hanging your Gymnastic Rings specifically for the Ring Muscle up:
- Hang your rings at shoulder width,
- Don’t hang your rings too low from the mounting surface. A shorter length of rope/strap will cause less instability in the rings while doing your Ring Muscle up and minimizes swinging,
- Double loop the straps (for instance around your Pull-Up Bar) to further minimize lateral movement and back and forth swinging.
A Program on How to Do a Ring Muscle ups
We’ve explained the movement of a Ring Muscle up already and you can watch the video too for the precise movement. But doing Ring Muscle ups is easier said than done, and certainly I had my own difficulties in the beginning. I want to dedicate this section to how you can do the Ring Muscle up, with preliminary and preparatory exercises in a step-by-step manner. That way, you can acquire this new and amazing skill in the shortest amount of time possible.
#1 Learning the False Grip
The first step is to learn the proper False Grip. False here doesn’t mean “wrong”. A False Grip is simply a certain way of gripping the rings. The False Grip makes it easier for your wrist to transition from an overhand hang (like with a Pull-Up) into an underhand push (like with a dip). For a False Grip on the rings, do the following (or mimic the picture):
- Stick your opened hand diagonally through the rings so that the side of your wrist rests against the lowest point of the ring. The ring should press up between your thumb and fingers,
- Close your hand as if giving a very tight handshake (but don’t keep squeezing),
- Bend your wrist so that it makes a near 90-degree angle with the rings.
We would like to emphasize here that many strong athletes already have it in them to do the Ring Muscle up. For them, it is a matter of learning the False Grip technique and it is likely they can perform this exercise almost right away. The False Grip may feel counter-intuitive at first. Here are some progression pointers to get you accustomed to the technique.
- Practice applying the above False Grip properly without any tension. Get a feel for the rings resting against your palms and wrists. The rings will contact a lot of surface area, including the bonier parts of your wrists and forearms.
- Perform a dead hang with the False Grip to accustom your joints to the False Grip. You can also do this standing, lowering your weight to only put a part of your weight on your hands and wrists.
- Start practicing the individual Pull-Up and Dip Phase exercises.
#2 Pre-Workout Exercise
Before every Muscle up exercise, you can do the following exercises to warm up your muscles and joints. The Muscle up in general is also very joint-heavy, so a good preparation is important to avoid injury or strain.
- Wrist rotations (20 seconds),
- Shoulder rotations (10 seconds per shoulder),
- Arm rotations (10 seconds per arm),
- Ring Push-Up with an arm rotation (2 sets of 4),
- Chair Dips (2 sets of 4)/
#3 Pull Phase Exercises
We recommend practicing these exercises for the Pull Phase. The exercises are in order of difficulty.
- Ring Scapula Pull-Ups (work up to 3 sets of 10), then,
- Ring Pull-Ups (work up to 3 sets of 10).
#4 Dip Phase Exercises
You can practice the Dip Phase with the following exercises:
- Chair Dips (work up to 3 sets of 10),
- Static Hold in the low position, work up to 15 seconds,
- (Assisted) Low Dips using a Resistance Band (work up to 3 sets of 10 then gradually decrease the Resistance Band).
- Eccentric Dip (Paused Dip), start high and dip low then hold for 2 seconds before coming back up (work up to 3 sets of 10).
#5 Transition Phase Exercises
The transition comes down to technique. First work up the required strength with the exercises above. Then practice the transition technique with ever decreasing amounts of assistance:
- Box Muscle up: start in an L-Sit hang with your heels resting on a box/chair and perform the Ring Muscle up using the box/chair as a lever point.
- Reverse Box Muscle up: start with the box/chair behind you and rest the top of your feet on the box as if you’re kneeling but with your knees free floating.
- Standing Muscle up: start the Muscle up from a standing position. Start with the rings at shoulder height and increase the height gradually until you must jump up to reach the rings. By then, you are doing regular Ring Muscle ups.
Typical Ring Muscle Up Mistakes
A very common mistake we see people make is that they rush the process. The Ring Muscle up is as much a joint exercise as it is a muscle exercise. Your joints will take more time getting adjusted to the movements and forces involved. Take things step-by-step, like explained in the step exercise plan above. This will not only result in a more effective exercise but will also help prevent injury and long-term strain. Other technical mistakes we see often are:
- Turning the elbows outward during the transition phase, instead of keeping them close to the body.
- Starting the transition too early, putting too much stress on the elbows. First do a full Pull-Up until your thumbs touch your chest.
- Not putting their shoulders forward during the transition, which will also put too much strain on the elbow and result in a failed repetition.
- People using momentum (for instance by kipping their knees) for a dynamic exercise. This is very dangerous with the Ring Muscle up and you should keep the rest of your body under strain but still.
Ring Muscle up Progression
You’ve achieved your first Ring Muscle up and you ought to congratulate yourself on that. The technique itself is already a testament that you stick out above the crowd both literally and figuratively. Performing the Ring Muscle up is a show of strength and skill. But you can also progress if you should choose too. Here are a few ways you can progress with this exercise.
Going for Max Reps
Many are content with just doing single reps of the Ring Muscle up purely as a test of strength and skill. You can of course choose to make it a set exercise, trying to increase the number of reps in your set. Make sure you maintain proper form, including maintaining your false grip as you reach the bottom of a single repetition. Work your way up to, say 10 repetitions, interspersing your Ring Muscle ups with other exercises that strengthen the appropriate muscles.
Slow Ring Muscle Ups
You can add a lot of effectiveness to this exercise by increasing the time under stress of your muscles. The 1-minute Muscle up is a slow-motion move where you very slowly Pull-Up and Dip down where 1 repetition takes ~1 minute. The whole exercise then consists of just 1 repetition, but it’s a very long repetition. You can best start practicing this by mastering the Ring Muscle up first until you can do 3 sets of 10. After you’ve achieved this, slow down your repetitions or intentionally do 1 rep sets of a very slow Muscle up.
Weighted Ring Muscle Ups
Once you know how to do a Ring Muscle up, you’ll notice that it is a very effective compound exercise that should see you great results and progression. When you hit a plateau nonetheless, it’s a great time to start with Weighted Calisthenics. Even then, adding weight to your Muscle ups with a Weighted Vest, can still be a leap too great to make. We suggest you start with Weighted Pull-Ups alongside your Muscle ups in your exercise routine. Once you feel confident, add weight to your Ring Muscle up too.
The Ring Muscle up is a very versatile exercise once mastered. The rings especially make for very versatile Calisthenics equipment. You can try L-Hang Muscle up where you point your feet almost straight up. You can also combine your Muscle up with a gymnastic Front Roll.
Conclusions On How to Do the Ring Muscle up
We now know how to do the Ring Muscle up and maybe just as importantly; we know how not to do the Ring Muscle up. It is a hard exercise for sure, but not an unattainable one at all. At its core, we can dissect the Ring Muscle up into its individual elements and we discover that it consists mainly of two core exercises we are already familiar with: a Pull-Up followed by a Dip. Once we’ve acquired these skills (and maybe we already have), it becomes a matter of combining them into one fluid move on the rings. Here is where the False Grip comes into play, allowing us to do this transition between Pull-Up and Dip seamlessly. It’s not a very tricky technique once you know it, but it can take some getting used too. Especially your wrist joints may not be accustomed to this grip.
However, if you are already a strong athlete (say, you can do 10 Pull-Ups and 10 Dips already), acquiring the False Grip is the only skill you need. In many cases, I’ve succeeded in training athletes in the Muscle up in 20 minutes or less. This is provided they were strong already. For everyone else, learning to get to 20 Pull-Ups is a good start.
In preparation of the actual Ring Muscle up, we have several exercises at our disposal immediately making use of the Gymnastic Rings. Exercises like Ring Pull-Ups, Ring Chair Dips and Assisted Low Dips, among others, strengthen our muscles and readies the body for the Ring Muscle up. These aren’t that different from our regular exercises, just with the rings as an additional unstable factor. The combining of the two distinct Pull-Up and Dip phases in the Transition Phase can also be learned gradually with the help of a chair or a box.
Once you know how to do the Ring Muscle up, you’ve acquired a great compound exercise that you can extend. Weighted Muscle ups or Slow Ring Muscle ups are excellent next targets to aim for.
Frequently Asked Questions on How to Do a Ring Muscle up
A final few frequently asked questions, answered in some detail.
A Ring Muscle up is a Muscle up, combining a Pull-Up with a Dip, using Gymnastic Rings instead of a bar. The Gymnastic Rings add a level of instability the bar doesn't have, leading to activation of your muscles in various ways to keep yourself stable and suspended. The technique typically consists of a Pull-Up, followed by a switching of the grip and then a Dip phase before returning to the beginning hang.
The Ring Muscle up is a very advanced Calisthenics technique consisting of a Pull-Up and a Dip with an intermediary transition. Once the Pull-Up and the Dip are mastered, training for the Muscle up becomes easier. It is best to dissect the Muscle up into its elements and train each separately before combining them.
Muscle ups are performed on a static Pull-Up Bar, while Ring Muscle ups are performed on the Gymnastic Rings. The Rings provide an additional unstable element as the practitioner must also keep themselves hanging stable enough for an effective exercise.
With over 10 years of expertise in calisthenics, Jelle Smeding is a certified coach trained by the Calisthenics Educational Institute. Formerly serving as the director of the Dutch Calisthenics Union (NLCB.nl), Jelle now shines as our YouTube host, where he combines his passion for presenting with his skills in video editing. His content stands out for being not only educational but also thoroughly engaging and entertaining. Additionally, Jelle lends his expertise as our social media manager, ensuring a comprehensive digital experience for our audience.