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How to Do Ring Rows: A Practical Crossfit Guide

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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Ring rows are one of my favorite exercises because they target the muscles in the upper body without causing undue stress on the lower back. No special equipment is needed and they can be performed anywhere. If you donโ€™t have access to a gym, you can use a set of gymnastics rings, a suspension strap system, or just about anything else that allows you to hang from something.

This guide provides step-by-step instructions on how to perform ring rows correctly – even if you’re a beginner to crossfit. This exercise targets the muscles responsible for pulling the shoulder blades together and down toward the floor.

a woman doing an inverted row
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What Are Ring Rows In Crossfit?

“Ring rows” are a core exercise in crossfit. They involve the basic movement of pulling a ring across your body while standing upright. This exercise strengthens your back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, forearms, and wrists.

How Do Ring Rows Work?

You can perform ring rows to target your upper back, shoulders, and arms.

This type of movement is often used by athletes and coaches to help improve shoulder mobility, flexibility, and overall muscular endurance. In addition to being beneficial for those looking to strengthen the core, it is also a great tool for anyone wanting to gain muscle mass.

Why Should I Do Ring Rows?

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Ring Rows are Easy to Learn

Ring rows are relatively simple to learn. Almost anyone can do a ring row after a quick lesson, even if they have never done one before. But there is more to the ring row than meets the eye.

On top of that, you can perform the ring row anywhere – in the gym, at home or even outdoors. All you need is a set of gymnastics rings, but any suspension straps work just fine.

It’s simple to keep them interesting because there are many different variations of the ring row, including single arm rows, alternating arm rows, and single leg rows.

There Are Many Types of Ring Rows in Crossfit

We have to remember that we tend to do our ring rows in the same style every time. The reason ring rows look easier than pull-ups is because we tend to do them in the “easiest” form.

But there are a lot of similarities between pull-ups and ring rows when your feet are on the ground for both of them.

Keep scrolling to try a sample ring row workout and the challenging variations you can make to them so that things stay interesting.

Ring Rows Build Strength

Since your bodyweight is the resistance, it is a great workout for developing relative strength. And since you are pulling against nothing but air, there is no risk of injury.

You don’t even need a spotter because the movement itself provides enough support.

How to Do a Ring Row In Crossfit

Beginner’s Guide to Ring Rows

To perform a basic ring row exercise, you can follow these steps:

  1. As a beginner, your starting position can be standing.
  2. Set up a pair of rings at hip height.
  3. Take both rings in your hands.
  4. Then, as you’re walking out, you should make sure that your feet are forming a 45-degree angle with the ground.
  5. Make sure your arms are extended and locked out.
  6. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you keep your elbows at your sides.
  7. Slowly pull the rings together while squeezing your glutes, engaging your lats, and keeping your core tight.
  8. When the rings reach your chest, slowly lower yourself and lock your arms.
  9. Complete 10 repetitions, holding the contraction for 30 seconds per repetition.

Challenging Ring Row Variations

When performing a ring row, your body angle can have a significant impact on the difficulty of the exercise. As your body angle decreases, the ring row becomes a more advanced movement and the difficulty increases.

That means, a beginner can do them almost standing up, while an advanced athlete can do them almost horizontally.

If you would like to make the ring row more challenging, you can also elevate your feet to the same height as your hands and wear a weight vest as well. If you walk your feet back towards your hands, you can make the ring row slightly easier.

Another advanced movement is to walk your feet farther apart from your hands.

Pro Tip: Keeping your core and back muscles engaged is key.

Sample 30-Minute Crossfit Workout With Ring Rows

You can incorporate the ring row into most crossfit workouts since it is a very effective horizontal pulling exercise. Here’s an example of incorporating ring rows in full-body crossfit workouts.

  1. For 10 minutes, do 12-9-6 reps of:
    • Burpee Box Jump Overs (24/20 in)
    • Muscle-Ups
  2. For the next 10 minutes, do 24-18-12 reps of:
    • Burpees
    • Chest-to-Bar Pull-Ups
  3. For the last 10 minutes, do 42-36-24 reps of:
    • Push-ups
    • Ring Rows

Techniques to Improve Your Ring Rows in Crossfit

  • A tight, straight core is vital when exercising ring rows, since it helps you build strength. When you round your core, you will assist this movement with your hips instead of pulling.
  • Try to keep active shoulders. Just like push-ups and pull-ups, don’t round them. That can hurt you and lower the effectiveness of ring rows. In ring rows, you contract the scapulae, pulling the shoulder blades together and pulling your shoulders back.
  • Keeping your toes pointed up will make this movement easier.
  • Keep your elbows close to your ribcage and pull with your arms until your chest passes through the rings, keeping your body tight.
  • Slowly lower yourself so that the negative movement can help build your strength.

What Next?

In short, if you want stronger shoulders, ring rows are a basic movement that can go a long way. They’ll help you build muscle, improve your posture, and increase your endurance. Check out our other training and nutrition articles to learn accessory movements and take your crossfit routine even further!


Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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