What are Ring Rows? - Muscles Worked, Variations, & Alternatives

What are Ring Rows? - Muscles Worked, Variations, & Alternatives

Walk into a functional fitness gym anywhere in the world, and you’re bound to see someone doing ring rows.

This highly effective pulling exercise only requires your body and a pair of rings.

To help you expand your exercise repertoire, let’s break down the ring row, how to perform it, variations, and alternatives.


Table of Contents:


What Are Ring Rows?

 

The ring row is a bodyweight pull exercise that targets the muscles in the upper back, shoulders, and arms. Since your bodyweight is the load, it is a great way to develop relative strength. The rings challenge your stability and allow you to adjust the angle of the pull.

The only equipment you need for this exercise is a pair of gymnastic rings, but any suspension strap system works.

How to Do a Ring Row

To perform a ring row:

  1. Hang a pair of rings at hip height.
  2. Grab the rings with both hands.
  3. Walk your feet out until you form a 45-degree angle with the ground.
  4. Extend and lock out your arms.
  5. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull your hands to your armpits, keeping your elbows at your side.
  6. While you pull, squeeze your glutes, engage your lats, keep your core tight, and maintain a straight body posture.
  7. Once the rings are touching your chest, slowly lower yourself back down until your arms are locked out.

The difficulty of the exercise is controlled by how horizontal your body is. To make it more difficult, walk your feet further away from your hands. You can also elevate your feet to the same height of your hands and add a weight vest to increase the resistance.

To make the ring row easier, walk your feet back towards your hands to reduce how horizontal your body is. 

What Muscles Does a Ring Row Work?

The ring row is a compound exercise that works muscles in the upper back, shoulders, and arms–specifically, the lats, rhomboids, biceps, posterior deltoids, and traps.

(Do you struggle to choose the right exercise? Choosing the right exercise for your training session is tough. And if you’re a fitness coach, choosing the right exercise for your client’s capabilities can be even more challenging. Download our free guide to exercise selection and start improving your exercise selection skills today.)

Sample Workout

Ring rows are a great horizontal pulling exercise that you can add to any training session. Here is an example of how to include them in a full body training session.

(Curious about those numbers after the exercise? @3030 is how we write an exercises' tempo. You can learn more about tempo in this blog.)

Ring Row Variations

Single Arm 

Start the Single Arm Ring Row by gripping one ring with one hand. Lean back until your arm is fully locked out and you form a 45-degree angle with the ground. Keep your body straight and pull your chest up towards the ring until the ring is at chest level, then slowly lower back down to the starting position.

Top of Ring Hold 

Start the Top of Ring Row Hold holding on to two rings, one in each hand. Keep your feet on the ground and lean back until your arms are extended, then row yourself up until both rings are touching your chest. Then hold your body in this position, keeping a straight posture, for the duration of the exercise.

Bottom of Ring Hold 

Start the Bottom of Ring Row Hold holding on to two rings, one in each hand. Keep your feet on the ground and lean back until your arms are extended. Hold your body with a straight posture for the duration of the exercise.

Ring Row Alternatives

Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

Start the Bent Over Dumbbell Row hinged at the hips with a dumbbell in each hand. Then, keep a straight back and row the dumbbells up until your hands are at your armpits. Then, lower them back down until your arms are locked out and repeat.

Dumbbell Prone Row 

Start the Dumbbell Prone Row lying face down on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Then, row the dumbbells up, keeping your elbows at your side until your elbows are behind your back. Then, lower them back down and repeat.

Towel Row

Start the towel row with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a household towel that is wrapped around an upright post. Lean back at a slight angle with both arms extended out. Then, pull yourself toward the post until your hands reach your ribs. Then, slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.

WHAT EXERCISES SHOULD I PROGRAM FOR MY CLIENTS?

This is one of the most common questions we receive.

To help you answer this question for yourself, we’re teaching our movement pattern-based approach to exercise selection in this free course.

Through 9 videos and the PDF guide, you will learn the fundamental movement patterns and principles of progressing exercise selection.

Start your course now to understand the purpose of your exercise selection.

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