Ask Jujimufu #8 – Juji’s Ring Training

September 25, 2014 Training

Question from Ian Cooke about my ring routine:

Hi Juji!

Just wanted to say thanks for getting me into tricking and training! Found your old site about 10 years ago and been following you off and on since then.

My question for you: I seem to remember in one of your relatively recent videos you had an iron cross. I don’t know if I’ve seen anyone else without extensive gymnastics training getting this skill, I was wondering if you could do a post on what method you used/what inspired you to get this move. Also, just some general info about how you use rings to train your upper body in general and what you think about static positions like levers/planches/cross vs stuff like dips and muscle ups.

Thanks in advance!!

My answer,

Okay, first off, I started training with rings in the Summer of 2010. I bought my pair from ringtraining.com/shop.

Jujimufu ring training

Me and my new rings during the summer of 2010.

I played with them for three months and then quit. In Spring 2012 I suffered a grade II sprain while tricking.

Jujimufu ankle injury, sprained ankle tricking, tricking injury

Tricked too long on plyo, didn’t listen to my fatigue, POP!

I began training the rings again immediately after this ankle injury. I kept up with them and within 6 months I had the iron cross you saw in the Jujimufu Still video here. A few months before that I did a short ring training video here also with an iron cross. So what inspired me to get the iron cross and train rings? That ankle injury! So how and where did I train the rings?

How and where did I train the rings?

One of the gyms I used to trick at had some rings, so instead of tricking on Saturdays when that gym had “open gym” scheduled, I just played on the rings instead (because I couldn’t trick, my ankle was injured).

Jujimufu ring training

Back lever during open gym.

Here is a hidden training video during that time showing some of the stuff I was playing with during those open gym sessions. I think it’s important to play on the rings like I did in that video, just trying stuff. It’s like “tricking” on the rings. You just try stuff for an hour and have fun. But I only did that once a week, I’m not sure how effective that type of training would be if you exclusively trained the rings that way. Other than that one day a week, I also routinely trained my rings 2-3 other days during the week on my work lunch break. This was before I negotiated a longer lunch hour period, so I had to be quick. I had roughly an hour to get out of the office, train, and get back to the office. So I drove to a park about 5 minutes down the road from my work place and rigged up the rings on a swing set.

Jujimufu ring training

I just move the swings aside and wrap them around the swing set support, and use my red milk crate (pictured) to stand on to rig the rings up on the top of the swing set. Then I wrap the excess ring strapping around the swing set support.

After an 8 minute light warmup, I would start attacking muscle ups. I would do about 6-10 sets of 2-5 muscle ups. I’d rest 2-4 minutes between sets. My primary focus was cleanliness and speed. I wanted fast, clean muscle ups. I’d terminate the set if I started to struggle. In between these sets of muscle ups I’d try some fancy static hold of some sort. After my muscle ups, I’d pick one more movement and do a few sets of those, such as ring chest flyes or ring rows. I like unilateral ring rows a lot.

Jujimufu ring training

Unilateral ring rows instructions: dig your heels in the ground, keep them straight and your glutes flexed. Pull yourself up with one arm and outstretch the other one. Pull your body up toward the ring you are pulling on.

How I got my iron cross

I wouldn’t say I “trained” the iron cross so much as I just “tried” it sometimes; it was pretty much a brute force approach. Not very elegant. I supplemented my attempts by watching a few YouTube videos with technical tips for the iron cross. After a couple months of trying them every now and then, I got them, and I filmed them.

Jujimufu Iron Cross

My Iron Cross

And that’s it. So if I had to summarize in 1 sentence how I got my iron cross: “I just did shit loads of muscle ups several days a week focusing on quality and quantity, played with static holds sometimes, and tried to brute force the iron cross until I could do it.” What was my body weight during this time? Around 205 lbs (93 kilo).

Jujimufu lean physique

Here I am at 205 lbs with a ring pump.

Types of ring exercises

Now, you also asked about “levers/planches/cross vs stuff like dips and muscle ups”. Try them all! Find your favorites and use those! They all have different uses. Planches look cool I like trying those. Back levers are easy and look impressive, so I do them. Front levers are too hard for me with my larger, longer legs, but I like to try them with one leg tucked in or legs spread out. I enjoy all these. If you train rings you should play with all of these.  I think these static holds are the best ring exercises for strength without bulk. I like the dynamic movements like muscle ups, dips, rows, and fly variations more for getting a pump or getting a metabolic response from the training. I believe if building muscle is your goal, you should focus more on these dynamic movements rather than the static holds.

Jujimufu ring training

Bottom of the ring fly

Jujimufu ring training

Top of the ring fly

Okay, so now I’d like to share my favorite ring routine with everyone. My routine is based on the muscle up, so if you want to try it out for yourself  you need to be able to do muscle ups consistently.

Jujimufu’s “go-to” ring routine:

  • 8 minute light warmup including:
    • Dynamic stretches for upper body.
    • A couple sets of ring supports.
    • A few sets of ring pullups and/or dips not to fatigue or failure.
    • A couple sets of single muscle ups.
  • Approximately 30 muscle ups total split into sets of 2-5 reps with approximately 3 minutes of timed rest between sets.
    • Focus on speed and quality of the muscle up. Terminate the set before fatigue, failure, or struggle.
    • Film yourself occasionally to see if your muscle ups are looking good.
    • Sometimes between sets try an advanced static hold. Like the iron cross, a lever, or a planche.
    • On the final set of muscle ups, use an ammonia inhalant and try to do as many as you can. My best is 8.
  • Next, choose just one auxiliary exercise and do 3 sets of it. Examples:
    • 3 sets of chest flyes to failure.
    • 3 sets of ring rows to failure.
    • 3 sets of ring dips to failure.
    • 3 sets of support for time near failure. (20-60 seconds per set for example).

Another fun way to do the muscle up portion of this routine, is to try to do as many muscle ups as you can in 20 minutes. Strategize your rest periods and try to break your number each time.

Some benefits of ring training

Rings train your grip like crazy! The carryover to deadlifting is pretty pronounced because of this. I made a video at the end of 2012 called Lucky Pants Deadlifting 2, this was after all of the ring training earlier in the year. That session was my 2nd time deadlifting after 2 months off from lifting weights. How did I manage to break a PR on deadlift without having done it or any sort of leg work? Tricking and rings. I really felt like the rings had huge carryover for the deadlift, my grip and back were on a whole new level. How about ring training for tricking? It’s good. Personally, I think it’s better than weight training for tricking carryover.

I love the rings

I love the rings. I don’t really have a plan for my future ring training pursuits, but I think they will be a staple for me. In one way or another I’ll always come back to them. I recommend them for anybody trying to save money on gym memberships: rings are frugal, you buy them once and then that’s it. And when you hang them up outside somewhere during the summer, you can get a tan too!

Jujimufu ring training

Ring training underneath the hot sun. Ahh, life is good.

27 comments

  1. Anssi Libäck says:

    Now I really want to give the rings a try!

  2. Josiah says:

    I have to add rings to my training. This look’s like it will yield extreme functional strength, increase my bench press and overhead press and add a lot of muscle.

  3. Abdul Ghani says:

    Rings are really cool; ring training is pretty much what helped me increase my upper body strength from nil to what it is now (still not really that impressive, but better!)

    Some other dynamic movements for the rings include felges, and doing combos with MUs. By doing combos, you can truly begin “tricking” with the rings — here’s my attempt at “ring tricking” from a while back: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJPr2eWDycA&list=UUo9jFivhBkNcWFTXfN4YwVQ

  4. Matt says:

    Yes! I was always hoping to see your ring routine after you released your ring training vid. Didn’t you say you trained rings 3 days per week with 1 deadlifting day per week or something for legs? Would you say ring training could have comparable results to weights for upper body for the average strength/fitness enthusiast? I wouldn’t imagine it being great if you’re specifically looking to be a bodybuilder or powerlifter. But I want to have fun and gain strength doing it, and rings look like a way to do just that. If someone were to apply ring training as their sole upper body strength training, what frequency would you recommend? Would you follow standard weight training recommendations, or could their be higher frequency?

    • Jon Call says:

      Hi Matt, I think ring training could have comparable results to weights for upper body for the average strength/fitness enthusiast absolutely… if they train things like levers, muscle ups, etc. If all you’re doing on the rings is stuff you’d see people do on TRX ropes (flys, pushups, dips etc) then no, they’ll suck. The only way to forge a body out of rings is to do some of the harder stuff and not simply rep the easy stuff. For example: barstarz, those crazy guys who just workout on pullup bars in playgrounds: they aren’t just doing pullups you know, they’re doing really difficult “tricks” on the bars…

      For me, the muscle up has been the king of ring exercises. It’s the best balance between the easier and harder exercises. Some people have even said that the muscle up is like the upper body equivalent of deadlifting. It’s a big deal. And you can get a lot from the modest muscle up, that’s why I focus so heavily on them: they gave me fucking great results.

      For building a more bodybuilder aesthetic, or muscle in general however, I don’t think rings compares well to lifting weights. In that case do both or just lift weights.

      If someone were to do solely rings for upper body training I’d recommend 3 days per week, maybe 45 mins – 1 hour per session.

  5. Love rings, great article – I got mine about 3 years ago and they have been treating me well, agree completely about the grip strength and the sheer core power it takes to achieve a front lever, back lever, planche, etc is truly staggering, and carries over well not only to non ring body weight feats like the dragon flag, flag pole, handstand, but also into lifting safer and with more foundation.

    • Jon Call says:

      Philip where do you train your rings? Parks like me or in your apartment? I’d imagine parks are harder to come by for that sort of thing in your area in New York.

  6. Jodadiah says:

    I was waiting for this article!! My curiosity of your ring training grew ever since I saw your Jujimufu, Still and Rings the End of August videos. I purchased my set of rings from ringtraining.com around a year ago. I decided to go with the SpiralStrength wooden set. Before that I trained on a set in our gymnasium. While I’ve been training and coaching others there I began to realize how effective the rings are in teaching others about the hollow body position and how important it is. I truly love the rings, along with parallel bars and how they help establish a much needed core strength and positional awareness for tricking and tumbling.

    I’m using my rings at a local soccer park. On the soccer goal! Until I finish building my “swingset” in the backyard.

    • Jon Call says:

      WHen I grow up I’m going to build an apparatus for holding my rings up too haha. So I don’t have to scavenge for soccer goals and swingsets lol. Hopefully I’m not too old by then to do anything interesting on the rings lol.

  7. Nico says:

    Hi juji great article!
    I wrote some time ago about the rings and now I cant live without them 😀
    I love it I develop nice muscle ups real quick and it helped in so many ways my core got stronger (which is kinda weakpoint of my)

    I also have to add that Iron cross with rings that hang that low to a solid meduim is much easier but also a great exercise to learn them 😀

    but anyway thanks a lot 🙂

    • Jon Call says:

      Yep, Iron cross is easier with rings that hang lower it’s true. A lot of people don’t know that though, so I can get away with impressing people “not in the know” on that fact hahaha!

      And yes, rings are killer wicked awesome for ab/core strength! Big time… Probably one of the best developers there is for that, if not the best of all.

  8. Jodadiah says:

    I’ll probably be much older before I can afford the piping and couplers! Unless I MIG weld the piping. I’m sick and tired of getting ant bites on my feet from the parks around here! The soccer goals I use are in fire ant territory.

  9. Jodadiah says:

    Noted! Next on the shopping list!!

  10. Ringssss! I wish I could increase my recovery by 100x so I could train them for hours and hours every day. Great article. Long live the rings!

  11. Valvolt Nova says:

    Juji,
    why do you advise only one auxiliary exercise to failure and not more than one?

  12. Austin Scales says:

    I built my own set of rings by molding PVC pipe around a paint can and running some rope through it. Super cheap and one of the best investments I’ve ever made!

  13. Jodadiah says:

    Jon. When you were ring training heavily back in 2012, did you ever work on Azarian to support or Azarian to iron cross? I’m hunting for tips.

    • Jon Call says:

      Hi Jodadiah, no I did not work Azarian actually. Looking back, I’m not sure why I didn’t? I guess it wasn’t on my radar. I guess that means I have no tips haha. 🙂

  14. Jodadiah says:

    Well darn! Haha. From watching videos, and a few gymnast, it seems a Maltese is a good prerequisite. I see many “ringers” stopping in the Maltese horizontal plane before transitioning to the support or iron cross.

    From watching your ring videos, I bet the only part of the Azarian that would be somewhat difficult for you would be the beginning where you pass through the front lever basically while going through the vertical hang to whichever finish position. And the only reason I say that is because you were having issues with it due to your leg composition.

    I call for a new ring video!!! 😀

    – Jody C.

  15. jamie says:

    I can perform front levers and back levers for very respectable lengths of time and at the moment can perform 5 sets of 5 slow unsupported iron cross pullouts, but cant hold a full iron cross static for more than two seconds. if you have a palms down back lever with good form then going from support to iron cross just requires a bit of persistent strength training, but make sure your biceps can take the load. I have actually spent a long time training calisthenics, but mainly for building muscle and staying lean. Never been any good at tricking

  16. Jon Call says:

    A long time training bodyweight movements. Building muscle. Staying lean. Practicing ring skills. sounds like the perfect setup for getting good at tricking if you decide to make it a priority. 😉

  17. Steve says:

    Juji,

    Back in the beginning of your ring training did you try to develop a strong false grip or did you just dive straight into trying muscle-ups and you developed a good false grip as a by-product?

    • Jon Call says:

      I needed the false grip specifically to muscle up. So the the latter.

      • Steve says:

        Did you train your grip through deadhangs? I’ve seen a good video of coach Pauli explaining a few progressive exercises to establish a false grip.
        Kind of reassuring that even utter beasts such as yourself still have to put in the prerequisite training. I was initially thinking you just decided one day “Think I’ll have a go at some muscle-ups” [BAM, BAM, BAM] “Hmmm think I’ll try the iron cross next…”

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