As I have been saying for years, you won’t find many better weight room exercises for athletes than regular chin-ups.
When added together with other key movements – such as a squat, deadlift, upper body push and an Olympic lift or jump variation – you would have the foundation of your strength training program in place. No bells and whistles needed.
However, delving deeper into gymnastic rings training over the past few years, my fondness for ring chin-ups has really blossomed from a casual fling into a full-scale love affair.
While the straight bar chin-up remains a fine choice, in some cases the ring chin-up could prove to be an even better option.
Here are four reasons why you should do them…
I’m sure this comes as no surprise to anyone… chin-ups are an excellent way to build upper body strength and size.
Especially once you can load them up with some decent weights and go to town – just like our 18-year-old hockey players below…
With players getting bigger, stronger and faster, collisions in ice hockey are starting to resemble those scary crashes at NASCAR where cars are flying all over the place.
While surprisingly few hockey hits lead to serious damage, players frequently suffer shoulder and wrist injuries. That means we gotta find ways to work around them in the weight room.
Exercises where the arms move overhead, including regular chin-ups, can make matters worse when athletes have existing shoulder issues.
However, since the rings allow a more natural movement to take place – internal rotation of the shoulders in the hang position, external rotation at the top – many guys will find that chins on rings feel more comfortable than on a straight bar.
Joe DeFranco has noted that chin-up prowess correlates with 40-yard performance.
What an odd statement, right? Certainly arm and back strength are not the key contributors in running speed.
But when you think about it more thoroughly, that notion appears to have merit.
First, I’ve yet to meet a fat athlete who excels on chins. Having low bodyfat makes chin-ups easier since you’re carrying less “dead weight”, which certainly helps in sprinting as well.
Second, I’ve noticed that chin-up performance seems to correspond with performance on other key lifts. Among the junior hockey players I work with, those displaying great strength on weighted chin-ups are often also among the strongest on power cleans and squat variations.
People are always looking to make things easier.
No wonder we see so many gym-goers opt for the lat pulldown machine instead of chin-ups. Your average adult is too weak to perform a set of five solid chins… but anyone can sit on a bench and pull a weight stack down to their neck all day long.
I’m all for the opposite though… Challenging yourself is the only way to get better in the gym.
That’s where the rings come in… Any standard upper body exercise – push-up, dip, inverted row, chin-up or L-sit – can be made more challenging by using the rings due to a higher degree of instability that your muscles and nervous system need to overcome.
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Yunus Barisik, CSCS, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for an elite junior hockey organization based in Espoo, Finland. He has trained hundreds of hockey players at the junior, college and pro levels, including NHL Draft picks and World Champions. An accomplished author, Yunus has had articles published on top fitness and performance sites, including STACK and Muscle & Strength. He also wrote Next Level Hockey Training, a comprehensive resource for ice hockey players on building athletic strength, size and power, while staying injury-free.
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