The Ring Swing
You can’t reach technical proficiency and efficiency in the ring muscle-up without first doing so with your ring swing. The way in which we develop the ring swing is by starting small and working your way up. Without sounding like a broken record, there is little value in moving on from a progression until you have it perfect. Just because you can “do” a ring swing doesn’t mean you are doing it correctly. If you persist on progressing early you will only make the problem worse until such a point, which will be different to each individual, your progress stalls and you have to go all the way back to where you started to fix your technique. If the process was quick and easy then everyone would be awesome at ring muscle-ups. Think about it.
Below are my “rules” and technique that I recommend for ring swings*
*NOTE: The purpose of this article is to develop ring swings for kipping ring muscle-ups in order to excel at Crossfit. Some of these are different to the technical standards for traditional Artistic Gymnastics. Remember the importance of ensuring your training is aligned to your goals. Most of the fundamental principles of Artistic Gymnastics apply to Crossfit Gymnastics but they of course need to be tailored in order to be sport specific.
Begin from passive hang (shoulder relaxed) and start with the smallest swings possible. Gradually make the swings larger and larger until you reach a full ring swing. If you are following the Jacked Gymnastics Scaled Programming then don’t worry about this too much as our progression and mastery system tells you what to do here. We will not be working towards the height of a full Artistic Gymnastics ring swing. The goal in Gymnastics is to build up to a long swing / giant (swinging from handstand to handstand). In Crossfit, we just need to do muscle-ups and therefore the swing doesn’t need to be as high. The bigger the swing, the longer it takes and to some extent the more it will jack up your heart rate. For obvious reasons, being slow and jacking up your heart rate isn’t a good idea for Crossfit.
The moment your swings become jerky, stop, reset and start again. The ring swing should be smooth and you should be in control of the rings. Please don’t underestimate the importance of this point.
Hollow / Arch Positioning
In the front of the swing the body should be in a hollow (dish) position. For the back swing the body should be in an arched position. These positions are created mostly through the shoulders. The most common problem I see here is athletes overextending the arch at their lower back and piking too much in the hollow. The positions are slight and like I say, primarily from the shoulders.
Keep your eye-line looking straight forward. As you reach full height ring swings, your chin will most likely be touching your chest and you will be able to see your feet at the front of the swing. From experience, I have found that keeping your chin up helps athletes to develop more upward momentum in their swing (which is important when we get to muscle-ups). Whereas looking down tends to do the opposite. It also tends to build confidence focusing on one spot, as opposed to the spot constantly changing. If anything, this is more of a mental thing for athletes but nether-the-less, it seems to help.
Generate momentum by kicking upward as you pass through vertical. Don’t kick too early, or you will be kicking down. Remember, for a ring muscle-up, you need to create upward momentum. If you kick too early, you will be generating downward momentum.
Vertical Line Through the Middle
As you pass through vertical hang, your body should be in a complete straight line from head to toe. The hips and shoulders should be open. Don’t worry about this too much because if you get the above right, it will happen relatively naturally but if you take a video and pause when you pass through vertical, your body should be in a complete straight line.
The current “thing” in Crossfit Gymnastics is everyone telling you to “stay tight”. The statement is true but I think more often that not it’s simply thrown out wildly without really understanding what it means. From a visual perspective, you shouldn’t be loose and floppy. Simplistically, try to keep your legs straight and squeezed together. Squeeze your glutes and engage your abs. By doing so, you are keeping your midline and lower body engaged. If they’re not engaged, you can be pretty certain that they’re not contributing to their full potential or worse, contributing negatively.
The rings should move forward and backward as you swing. They will move backward at the front of the swing (hollow position) and forward at the back of the swing (arch position). Remember, momentum in the swing is about the shoulders too. There should always be tension through the rings, there should never be any slack in the straps. There are a few reasons behind the latter but I don’t think it’s worth going into the detail at this stage.
Moving the Rings Around your Body
The rings move. This means they have increased instability over the bar. However, the benefit is that you can (and should) move them to the most optimal positions. The rings move around the body, the body does not move around the rings.
It’s okay for your arms to bend a little (relax) at the peak of the front swing (again, Crossfit specific) but it’s important that you’re not pulling on the rings. For ease and simplicity, it’s best to just focus on keeping your arms straight throughout.
NOTE: When transferring to the ring muscle-up, the swing can be shortened to some extent but it’s still important to get the full swing right first.
Common Topics of Discussion.
Inlocation of the shoulders in the back swing.
Some people might advise you to start inlocating your shoulders at the top of the back swing. In other words, roll your shoulders inwards. In all honesty, I strongly advise that you don’t. Firstly, unless you have a base of good enough shoulder stability and mobility , and your ring swing is technical proficient , you are putting your shoulders in danger of picking up an injury. Secondly, this is something used for a traditional Artistic Gymnastics ring swing because as mentioned above, the progression is working towards a long swing (not a kipping muscle-up!). This means you effectively need to reach an inverted cross position before your momentum (plus pressing) carries you all the way to a handstand. I appreciate this will be almost impossible to visualise if you do not know what an inverted cross or long swing looks like but please don’t stress about it. Just understand that it’s really not necessary for Crossfit.
Internally rotating the rings in the front swing.
Again, this is unnecessary. This is to build towards a long swing. In Crossfit, this is the point in which we pull and transition over the rings to catch in the dip and ultimately complete a muscle-up. When initiating the pull and beginning the transition you do not want the ring to be internally rotated. Therefore, it simply does not make sense.