Ask Jujimufu #8 - Juji's Ring Training

ask jujimufu injuries strength 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

Jujimufu ring training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jujimufu ring training

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

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  • Jon Call on

    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.

  • Philip Hartshorn on

    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.

  • Anssi Libäck on

    Now I really want to give the rings a try!

  • Josiah on

    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.

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