Best Equipment for Building More Muscle – May Not Be For Everyone

Perhaps like most men, one of the main goals in life is to develop a strong physique. This is not only great for impressing others, but having great strength comes with many benefits. They can include:

  • Being able to lift heavy things
  • Better health
  • More energy
  • More confidence
  • Gain in popularity
  • Reduced likelihood of injury

Although we may all want that strong, fit physique, the journey to obtain it is NOT the same for everyone. Some individuals try really hard and still struggle to gain a few extra pounds of muscle whereas some don’t have to try as hard and can easily gain muscle.

My Journey in Developing Strength

I was not the usual type that focuses ONLY on upper body strength. In fact, I was quite the opposite. I was someone who focused more on leg strength. I did not necessarily train for it specifically through weight training, but more so through sports that involve legs. Basically, I was like a guy who never skipped leg day.

A majority of my leg strength comes from my background in Tae Kwon Do, a martial art focused on kicking. Since kicking was practically all I do in that sport, it is no wonder why my legs were stronger than my arms. Therefore, when it came to gymnastics, sprinting, parkour, squats, kicking sports, or any activity involving legs, I tend to do better than others that do not have that leg background.

Something Changed

There came a point in time though when I needed to lift heavy objects (including people) for quite some time. This was where I started to realize that I needed to train my upper body strength more. My upper body strength was above average, but I figured a little extra training can do wonders. I remembered that there was one equipment when I was involved in gymnastics that I always avoided, and it was also one that required A LOT of upper body strength to use well. I decided to purchase a set and give it a try. The equipment that I decided to give a try was: Gymnastics rings. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases)

I wasn’t necessarily a professional or took official classes for gymnastics, I was more so like the guy who went to the open gym sessions to mess around and try different moves. I mean, I did take an “introduction to gymnastics” class during college but what I mainly learned there was balancing, rolling, stretching, jumping, and doing conditioning exercises. Not necessarily the most muscle building type of movements, but still better than nothing. Quite oppositely, gymnastics rings WILL build muscle (and extra).

Why Gymnastics Rings are So Effective in Building More Muscle and Strength?

With regular types of exercises, one can say that the movements involved are fairly “stable” or “fixed”. For example with doing bicep curls. The only resistance would be the weight itself and the workout involves a “one directional” movement. To increase the level of difficulty, one would just need to increase the weight of the dumbbell. Another example would be doing push-ups. Although you are using your body weight, the movement is fairly “one directional”, mainly up and down even if it involves core and various arm muscles. Of course, free weights (less one directional) are better than machine (fully one directional).

Gymnastics rings, on the other hand, are different. The movements you perform are NOT “stable” or “fixed”. This means that your body will not be moving in a “one directional manner” (on a stable platform) but rather in a “multi-directional manner” (with an unstable platform). In order for your body to perform those movements on the rings without falling off them, it will need to recruit more muscle fibers than it normally would with “one directional” exercises. These extra muscles would then work to stabilize your body during gymnastics rings use. If you use those extra muscles more often, they become stronger (and bigger) too.

In Other Words…?

That may all sound a bit confusing, but here is an example. Let’s compare regular exercises to be like standing on a solid platform (floor) which is fairly simple. Gymnastics ring exercises can be like standing on a Bosu ball (the half yoga ball) or a floating platform/log. So between standing on the floor versus on a Bosu ball (or log), the latter requires so much more effort because it is combines both strength with balance. You are unable to relax at any given moment and you are using more muscles to avoid falling off the platform.

Additionally, with regular weight lifting, you would perform one of your sets, take a break, then continue with your additional sets. With the gymnastics rings, you don’t necessarily take a break but you transition in between movements. During each movement and even during the transitions, your muscle is contracting the whole time. Gaining muscle happens in one of two ways: increasing the resistance (the weight used) and also the time during contraction. Gymnastics rings help accomplish BOTH which means MORE muscle building.

What Exercises Can You Do With Gymnastics Rings?

Honestly, the amount of movements are endless and up to your imagination. In gymnastics, the goal is to always strive to perform the most difficult movement. Of course, not everyone is trying to become a gymnast, but here is a video of some basic movements you can try.

Best Rings Exercises Video

Beginner exercises

  • Ring support hold (just hold yourself there)
  • The usual “stable” exercises (Rows, Pull up/Chin ups, Dips, Push-ups)
    • If some of these are difficult, you can use your leg for support: both legs at first, then 1 leg, then none
    • Whenever possible you can also rotate your wrist during these exercises for an added level of difficulty

Intermediate Exercises

  • L-sit, chest fly, skin the Cat (like a back/front flip motion), Muscle-ups
    • You can combine these with the beginner exercises above for an added level of difficulty
    • i.e. Dips + L-sit, Push-up + chest fly, Pull up + L-sit, etc.

Advanced Exercises:

  • Iron Cross, Body Levers (back or front), Handstand

Basically, you want to start easy and build your foundation. It can take a while but once you gain more strength, you can slowly work your way up the level of difficulty in exercises.

My Experience with Gymnastics Rings

Since I had that background with gymnastics and parkour, I did pick up on the gymnastics rings a bit easier than most people. After about a week or two, I already started to notice significant increases in my strength.

From one of my (hardcore) sessions, I was able to gain 2 pounds of muscle overnight. I only say this because that same day, I only had 500 to 800 calories and it was all from eating chicken vegetable soup with rice. Other days, I would gain 2 pounds after eating 2 regular meals (1500 to 2000 calories worth) and then lose those pounds the next day (net gain of 0 or 1 pounds). So that weight had to have come from extra muscle mass. My water intake/outtake, restroom habits, and everything else were pretty regular.

When I tried my push-ups and other “stable” exercises, I immediately notice how much easier it was. It was quite amazing. I was also able to balance better when doing handstands and I was also able to do push-ups without my legs touching the floor. Not quite a full planche yet but maybe one day.

Currently, I still have not been able to perform the advanced movements.

My Experience with Weight Training

I also had my fair share of regular weight training for my upper body also. I did the usual bench press (I was able to lift 205 pounds for a set of 5 at one point in my life), bicep curls, chest fly, rows, lawnmowers, you name it, I probably did most movements with free weights and machines. For certain movements, my weight trained body was stronger but bulkier for certain muscles and I did lack in flexibility. I was also a lot heavier and couldn’t perform some gymnastics moves with ease. In terms of a more balanced strength/muscle build with flexibility, I think my gymnastics rings trained upper body did better for me.

This is not to say one is better than the other since it really depends on what one is looking for. Here is a video on gymnastics movements between that of a bodybuilder and a gymnast. It is quite interesting to watch.

Bodybuilder vs. Gymnast Video

If you are looking to gain muscle while toning down, check out my post about intermittent fasting.

Summary

Since the movements done on gymnastics rings are “unstable”, your body will recruit more muscle fibers to aid with the movements. This will lead to more overall muscle building and increase your strength.

This is not to say you should give up your weights especially if you love and have been doing it your whole life. If you want to target certain muscle groups to build in size/strength, weight training will help. But just as an alternative/supplement, you can incorporate gymnastics rings into your exercise routine. You will train muscles that you’ve never train before which equates to even more muscle building. Just remember that initially, it will be extremely difficult, and do not expect yourself to be at the same level of a gymnast!

Now what if you combine BOTH weight training AND gymnastics rings (weighted vests, ankle/wrist weights, etc.)? Now that might be something worth trying for the ultimately muscle gain…

By taking small steps to train yourself with the basic movements, you will gain strength day by day as well as muscle mass. Who knows, perhaps after a few months of training on the rings, you might find yourself able to do movements that you never would’ve guessed was possible!

Did you enjoy this life hack for gaining more muscle? Please leave a comment below!

35 thoughts on “Best Equipment for Building More Muscle – May Not Be For Everyone”

  1. Mike,
    I really enjoyed your article. You do a great job in establishing credibility right off the bat. I did not expect you to promote using rings for a full whole-body workout that would increase muscle mass and stability. What a great idea! I loved the video you shared. I would have it open in a new page, just a tip. It was fun to see the weightlifter trying to do the ring exercises. They sure look hard! I remember doing gymnastics as a little girl and it was difficult even then as an 8-year-old. The art of gymnastics for a fit body is not frequently done. Nice article and thanks for bringing me back in time to some good gymnastic memories. 🙂 Lily

    Reply
    • Hello Lily! Thanks for your comment and also for that catch of opening the video on a new page! I will make that change. Gymnastics is a really great way to stay fit. It might not be the easiest sport/art but even the basic movements of it just gives your body a really good workout. Glad this article was able to bring you back in time of good memories 🙂

      Reply
  2. Mike,

     I really enjoyed your article. You do a great job in establishing credibility right off the bat. I did not expect you to promote using rings for a full whole-body workout that would increase muscle mass and stability. What a great idea! I loved the video you shared. I would have it open in a new page, just a tip. It was fun to see the weightlifter trying to do the ring exercises. They sure look hard! I remember doing gymnastics as a little girl and it was difficult even then as an 8-year-old. The art of gymnastics for a fit body is not frequently done. Nice article and thanks for bringing me back in time to some good gymnastic memories.  Lily

    P.S. I love this topic!

    Reply
  3. Hi Mike, thank you for such an interesting Post. I can honestly say I have never ever thought about using gymnastic rings in my workouts. However, now my eyes have been opened. I can see the benefits especially as you correctly mentioned how using different muscle fibers will increase strength and muscle. Just like using free weights instead of a machine. You also mentioned gymnastics which everyone should put into their training regime to help with joint movement and being more supple. This is particularly important as we get older.

    I shall now speak to my local gym and have a go on their gymnastic rings. On second thoughts, getting a set for myself may be the better option so I can practice before falling flat on my face in front of others !!!! Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Hello there David! Thank you for your comment! I am happy to hear that you now see the benefits of gymnastics rings. It feels like an underrated workout equipment. Although it is already hard as it is, I think when people start to hit a plateau and it becomes a bit too easy, they can increase the difficulty by wearing weighted vests as well. But that may not be for another long while (for me).

      Reply
  4. When building muscle one has to make up their mind and get the right equipment because if you don’t ha it you wouldn’t be making progress as you gym on. You have listed some very good tools/eqipments that can be used and seeing the gymnastic ring here matters to me a lot and I have to give the credits for the information shared 

    Reply
    • Hello there! Thanks for your comment. I definitely agree with you about the importance of making up the mind to do something before anything can actually be accomplished (such as with building muscle). Glad to hear that the gymnastics rings matter a lot to you too, it has been my favorite training equipment this year.

      Reply
  5. Hi Mike, this is a great post and I agree being strong gives you health benefits, strength, energy, confidence and reduces your risk of injury. I am a martial artist and enjoyed your piece on tae kwon do and glad to hear this was your back ground. Giving you plenty of leg strength which you was able to use to your advantage in your training.

    I have experience in weight training with standards weights and have had good results but the introduction of gymnastic rings really appeals to me, from you post there are incredible benefits the building of extra muscle (stronger and bigger) in record time. This will appeal to many reducing their workout times and giving them that gymnast body. 

    Great post, thanks 

    Wince

    Reply
    • Hello there Wince! That is awesome that you have that sports background with weight training and martial arts. You most likely have that fine balance between pure strength and flexibility. It’s amazing how all these sports inter-relate with one another. There is even a sport that incorporates all of them called “tricking” or “martial arts tricking”. It is quite impressive what practitioners of tricking are capable of.

      Reply
  6. Haha thanks for the article my guy! As a guy who’s trying to bulk up, I found this super helpful. As it stands right now, it’s quite difficult for me to go to the gym. However, I’ve been trying to workout at home to try and balance things out. I need more, equipment, so this article couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks again! 

    Reply
    • Hello there! You are welcome. Going to the gym is difficult especially during this time with the COVID-19 going on. Due to that, I too am finding ways to workout at home. Glad that you were able to see the benefits suggested in this article. I wish you success in your goals of bulking up!

      Reply
  7. When it comes to muscle building it is good to know first of all the kind of workout that is required followed by buying the right equipment. Put these two together and you will have a good workout program. With a good workout program, you will be able to improve your health along with having the right mindset.Thanks so much for sharing a well-detailed post that will be a help to so many people.

    Reply
    • Hello Norman! I agree, it is definitely good to know the proper workout and necessary equipment before attempting to build muscle. Otherwise if there’s no results showing, it can be quite discouraging. Glad to hear you thought this article will help many people.

      Reply
  8. This is a very interesting read and you quite rightly mention how using different muscle fibers will increase muscle strength. I used to do gymnastics when I was in junior school, but I had not thought of doing a workout using gymnastic rings. Being strong and fit certainly has health benefits and I will start using gymnastic rings to improve the strength in my arms. 

    Reply
    • Hello there! That’s really awesome that you did gymnastics before. I actually did not think of training with the rings when I was taking a gymnastics class too (I just focused more on the acrobatic movements at the time). It wasn’t until I researched how gymnasts built their strong physique that I really looked more into it. 

      After training with it for some time and then stopping due to weather conditions (just a little over a month), I really noticed how much stronger it made me and how much strength I lost when I stopped training with it. Definitely planning to get back into it again when the weather gets warmer (since I don’t have anything at home to hook the rings onto)! 

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  9. Gymnastics rings… that’s a fascinating one. Your argument is rock solid, but probably not for me, you’re right, lol. 
    It’s not so much because it wouldn’t do the intended effect, more because as a martial artist, I look for a different kind of muscle. What do you recommend for a martial artist, namely, a Kung Fu martial artist who wants to build dynamic tension but not too much bulk?

    Reply
    • Hello there! That is perfectly okay since the rings are not for everyone! I too have practiced martial arts and I am familiar with what you are looking for. I recall kung fu is more of a striking martial art so you will be needing fast, powerful punches and kicks. To improve those motions, you will be need a lot of explosive muscle power.

      So exercises that involve a lot of explosive power (like plyometrics) will help you with that. Some examples include clapping push-ups, box jumps, tuck jumps, etc. When these motions become easy, you will want to keep pushing past your limits each time. 

      For example with clapping pushups, at first 1 clap might be tough so work with that for a while. When it gets easy, try 2 claps. Then later, 3 claps, 4 claps, add a rotation, back claps, you name it. Remember to incorporate stretching as well because that will give you speed due to the improvements in the range of motion. Hope that helps!

      Reply
  10. Thank you for posting such a great article.
    I never realized that using the rings was so much more difficult. My son spends a great deal of time in the gym so If you don’t mind l would like to pass this along to him. I’m quite sure he will love reading it.

    Reply
    • Hello there, Richard! Thank you for your comment! I do not mind you passing this article to him at all (please do)! Hopefully he can benefit from this article as well!

      Reply
  11. Oh, this is very wonderful to see and it is really nice to see that you can tell us about how sometimes the eulquipments are not for everyone. It’s some really good stuff and I like the fact that you can out something like this together. I should look to share this kind of information with more people.

    Reply
    • Hello there, Aug! Thank you for your comment. Do please share this article, I am hoping this article can reach out to those who are really looking to build a more balanced set of muscles and really attain great strength, and especially for those who tried really hard and have been unsuccessful. I can’t even begin to imagine how discouraging they may feel.

      Reply
  12. Thank you so much for this interesting and veye helpful article, this is very easy to understand and it’s so straight forward.. I’ll share this article to some of my friends cos it’s gonna be very helpful and resourceful to them. Thanks for sharing this life hacks, it is nice it have it and I’ll check more out

    Reply
    • Hello there! You are welcome and I am happy to hear you enjoyed the article. Definitely will be creating more articles on other life hacks in the near future. Hope your friends are able to reach their fitness goals in this new year!

      Reply
  13. Hi there! Such an amazing article!  I had fun going through this beautiful review. Prior to reading this I have never seen any of my brothers use a building ring, when doing their muscles building exercises. Well thank you for taking time to share this informative review because I am definitely going to share this with them. 

    Reply
    • Hello there, Virtue! Thank you for taking the time to read this article and sharing it with your brothers. I am hoping they can see the benefits of using gymnastics rings as well!

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  14. I am excited about buying my own gymnastic rings. I have seen the results in one of my friends and am eager to try them myself. Thank you very much for sharing your own experience. I found it very helpful and encouraging too.

    Now, off to buy my own gymnastic rings (at last, can’t  wait for the shipment to arrive).

    Reply
    • Hello there Paolo! That’s really awesome that you have friends who are also using gymnastics rings and gaining great results. Hopefully now that you have your own set, you can also start gaining results!

      Reply
  15. Hey Mike,

    wow, I never knew that gymnastic rings are so suitable for muscle building. Usually, I ignored them when I visited the gymnastic hall. I didn’t see any value in them because they didn’t look “challenging” or useful to build a big chest. But as you describe it, they are indeed very helpful to create a stronger upper body.

    As I understand, with the gymnastic rings you do not only train the main muscles that you usually train when working out with straight exercises but also other muscles that you may have never really used. This is great because it gives you a tremendous stability in those areas that you exercise. It looks for me like a house. Our big muscles are the bricks and the other finer muscles are the cement that holds the bricks together. Without the cement, the bricks are becoming loose and can fall apart. In the body, it would perhaps result in an injury. So, gymnastic rings are really helpful!

    Thank you for this article, again a great life hack that is very useful

    All the best,
    Sergej

    Reply
    • Hello there, Sergej! I was like you too whenever I visited the gymnastic halls, I was more focused on doing the acrobatic movements on the floors. It wasn’t until I was told about how difficult it was that I finally decided to take on the challenge. You are right that by using the rings, you do train muscles that you normally don’t so as those (small) muscles get bigger, they all add up into more bigger/stronger muscles overall. Great analogy with the house, cement, and bricks by the way!

      Reply
  16. Mike – 

    This is quite an interesting article on building muscle.  I’ve lifted and done just about every exercise under the sun and have never once considered doing the gymnastics rings.  Awesome insight all the way around, I want in on these rings after reading!

    A couple questions/comments:

    How often is realistic to do gymnastics rings?  Could you do it every day without risk of injury?

    Where can someone casually try out gymnastics rings?  I can’t say I’ve ever seen them at standard gyms so curious if you need to go to gymnastics training centers to try out.

    It’d be helpful to compare doing common exercises (push ups, rows, dips) on the Gymnastics Rings vs off to give insight on the difference using rings.

    Great article and I’m happy to keep the dialogue going as you continue to write.

    Best,

    Also Mike

    Reply
    • Hello there Mike! Those are really great questions! In terms of how often to use the rings realistically, I would treat it like weight training. I would do it every 2 to 3 days and allow the body some time to recover. But technically, you can eventually do it everyday once your body becomes accustomed to it. To casually try out rings, the best place that will for sure have it would be a gymnastics training center. Some regular gyms may have it and if not, you can try requesting your local gym to see if they would be willing to invest in some for its members. 

      I have done the common exercises you suggested both off and on the gymnastics rings. The rings were definitely harder. I could typically do 15 to 20 regular dips on standard bars but on the rings…maybe 5 to 10. The beauty of rings is that you can make simple exercises harder. Like with pushups, you can start by doing wide ones and as you are pushing up, turn it into chest flys. I would become extra sore for the next 2 days and notice a significant increase in strength when the soreness goes away. It’s similar to the effect when you lift an extra 10 lbs at the gym (i.e. bench press).

      After doing rings for 2 months, I was able to use my dad’s walker and do 3 pushups (with bent legs in the air). When I stopped using the rings for a month (due to weather conditions and no place to hook them at home), I lost the ability to even hold my body up (w/ bent legs in the air) steadily with just my arms.

      Reply
  17. Thank you so much for this article. This is a great way to build more muscle and a good idea. I watched the video and gain many insights on how to use the gymnastic rings. My only challenge is finding a good spot at home to set up the rings. So far, I have only been doing push-ups and increasing the intensity. 

    Reply
    • Hello there, Richard! You are welcome, push-ups are great exercises to do and that is good that you are increasing the intensity. I also find it a difficult to find a good spot at home to set up the rings. What I do is I go to my local park to set it up on the monkey bars. Another spot which I haven’t tried would be the horizontal bar of basketball hoops (that is if they are not being used for basketball at the moment).

      Reply
  18. This is really interesting, I have always been very good at “one-directional” exercises and cardio but I have never been one for balance and bodyweight.

    I tried out a set of these rings and as a complete beginner, I tried tricep dips and was surprised at how much I had to engage my core just to hold them steady by my side

    Reply
    • Hello there, Alex! Balance and bodyweight exercises aren’t the typical go to exercises for most people even for myself. It wasn’t until later that I got curious with the different types of exercises that are out there that I started to explore a bit more. And yes, that core really gets worked out just by holding yourself there.

      Reply

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