How To Do Ring Dips (Tutorial & Progression Scheme)

If you want to learn about ring dips, including how to get started, you are in the right place.

The ring dip is a great exercise for developing your chest, triceps, and shoulder muscles, gaining heaps of strength in the process. Thanks to the instability of the rings, you will strengthen the stabilizing muscles of your shoulders, making you less prone to shoulder injury.

If that sounds like something you would want to attain, keep reading.

In this article, we are going in depth, leaving no stone unturned.

Let’s get started.

Benefits of ring dips

There are lots of benefits to doing ring dips, and even more to gymnastics rings training in general. In this section, we are going to brush over the most notable benefits.

These are:

  • Improved muscle hypertrophy and strength
  • Place less stress on your joints
  • Improved shoulder stability for injury prevention

Improved muscle hypertrophy and strength

While doing ring dips, your body is forced to contract different muscle fibers that wouldn’t have been contracted with parallel bar dips. Under this new stimulus, your muscles are forced to adapt through muscle hypertrophy (increase in muscle mass) and strength.

After your first session of ring dips you will feel sore in places you have never felt sore before.

This is due to the element of instability associated with gymnastics rings. Different from parallel bar dips, you now have to stabilize your body in space instead of only focusing on the dipping motion.

Place less stress on your joints

Gymnastics rings are free to move in space, unlike other equipment. For this reason, when you are doing dips, the rings will move to accommodate the natural movement path of your wrists, elbows, and shoulders. This leads to considerably less stress on these joints.

With parallel bars, your arms are locked in place. The movement path of your joints is predetermined by the position of these bars.

The major benefit of ring dips is that the equipment adjusts to you, not the other way around.

This is a benefit because it will diminish the likelihood of injury. It will feel as if the equipment was specifically tailored to you.

Improved shoulder stability

Shoulder instability can lead to pain and even injury like shoulder dislocation.

Conveniently, to stabilize the rings when you are doing dips, you are using precisely the muscles that play a major role in shoulder stability. Therefore, when you are doing ring dips, you are strengthening the muscles responsible for stabilizing your shoulder.

Injury prevention is not the only benefit of a stable shoulder.

Stable shoulders means more mobile elbows and hands, as well as a better base of support for other exercises ranging from handstands, to bench press and overhead press.

These are just a few notable benefits. If you want to learn more benefits, as well as a more in-depth explanation of the ones above, check the ring dips benefits article.

Muscles worked with ring dips

Dips are dips, regardless of the equipment they are performed on. So you would be led to think that ring dips work the same muscles as parallel bar dips.

Well, that is both right and wrong.

They do primarily engage the same muscles. However, there are differences in secondary muscles.

Primary muscles:

  • Pectoral muscles - chest
  • Anterior deltoid - front of the shoulder
  • Triceps - back of the arm

Secondary muscles:

  • Core muscles
  • Infraspinatus (external rotation)
  • Teres minor (assisting the infraspinatus)
  • Posterior deltoid - back of the shoulder (assisting the infraspinatus)
  • Biceps (holding your entire weight through its tendon at the elbow crease)

When you are turning the rings out, you are performing external rotation. Furthermore, you are supinating your forearm, placing your entire weight on your biceps tendon. Your muscles have to engage in both of these instances, and that’s how they get a workout.

How to position of the rings

Now that we are done with the theory, it’s time to talk about practical things.

We will get started with the position of the rings when you are doing dips, and how that position influences the difficulty of the exercise.

  • Distance between rings
  • Length of the strap

Distance between rings

The rings should be placed a bit wider than shoulder width apart.

When you are in the top position of a ring dip, your forearms should not be in contact with the straps. If your forearms touch the strap, you will be using the friction to stabilize the rings, instead of your muscles.

Your forearms should not touch your body either for the same reasons.

For a correct top position, your triceps will be in contact with your lats but no other part of your arms will be in contact with any part of your body, or the straps.

Length of the strap

The length of your strap determines how difficult the exercise will be.

A shorter distance between the anchoring point and the ring will make the exercise easier, because the rings will not be as unstable.

The further away the anchor point and the rings are from each other, the more difficult ring dips will be.

For this reason, we recommend you to keep track of your strap length so you can keep track of your progress. The easiest way is to purchase a pair of gymnastics rings with numbers on the straps. However, if that is not an option, you can monitor training intensity by standing next to the ring and using a landmark on your body to monitor.


Exercise: Ring dips

Sets x reps: 3 x 8

Intensity: top of the ring @ elbow

Pre-requisites for ring dips

Before you can get started with ring dips, there are two prerequisites. They are not set in stone but they will certainly make your life easier.

  • At least 10 parallel bar dips
  • Comfortable RTO support hold

If you are unable to do dips on a stable surface, you will have an even harder time with rings. 

Consequently, if you can’t hold the support hold position comfortably, you won’t be able to complete the full range of motion of the dip.

Parallel bar dips

Parallel bar dips are one of the staples of bodyweight fitness.

If you are unable to do a parallel bar dip yet, you can use the following two exercises to build up your strength to do it.

  • Band assisted dips
  • Eccentric dips

For a more in-depth, step-by-step approach to bodyweight dips, we recommend you to check our article on it.

Band assisted dips

The easiest way to progress with bodyweight dips is with the band assisted progression.

Pick a band that will make the exercise manageable, while keeping it challenging. You should aim for a band that allows you to do 3 sets of 5 repetitions. With time, you will work to 3 sets of 10 repetitions. Once you get to that level, use a lighter band and start over.

With each repetition of the band assisted dip, you will pause at the bottom.

The band provides the most assistance in the bottom position. You will offset this by taking a brief pause before pushing back up.

Eccentric dips

While band assisted dips are the easiest way to progress with bodyweight dips, the eccentric dip is the most effective way of doing it.

Eccentric exercises are high intensity, so you should be very mindful with your rest days.

Start with 5 sets of 3 eccentric dips, each one taking 3 seconds. Once you get to 5 sets of 5 repetitions, start over and increase the eccentric time to 5 seconds. Once you reach 5 sets of 5 eccentrics, 5 seconds each, start over with 5 sets of 3 eccentrics, 8 seconds each.

You will notice that as you are doing the eccentrics, your body will start shaking.

Try as much as possible to keep your form correct and control the movement. Only doing so will your body be able to adapt through increased strength and muscle mass.

Read more about getting started and progressing with bodyweight dips by clicking here.

Support hold

Our goal for ring dips is to reach the rings turned out (RTO) support hold. This is where you are hoisted on the rings, elbows locked, shoulders shrugged down, and wrists turned to 45 degrees or more.

To get to that position, you will work through the following progressions:

  • Parallel bar support hold
  • Rings support hold
  • RTO support hold

Your goal is to hold each position for at least 30s in one go - ideally 60s - before starting to work on the next progression.

Parallel bar support hold

The parallel bar support hold is a good starting point because the bars remove the element of instability. With the bars fixed on the ground, you only need to worry about form and building your strength.


  • Elbows locked
  • Shoulder blades shrugged down
  • Legs together
  • Chest forward

Once you reach at least 30 seconds hold time, you can move to the next progression. However, to make sure you won’t struggle, we recommend you to build up to 60 seconds.

Rings support hold

This progression is a good middle point between the parallel bar support hold and the RTO support hold. With this one, you will add the instability as a new stimulus, but your wrists will be in a neutral position.


  • Elbows locked
  • Shoulders shrugged down
  • Legs together
  • Rings glued to your hips
  • Chest forward

One set of 30 seconds is the minimum threshold to start training the RTO progression. Ideally, you will want to push that to 2 sets of 60 seconds.

RTO support hold

The rings turned out (RTO) support hold is the foundation of ring dips and training in general. Unless you have a strong foundation, you will struggle with gymnastics rings.

For a more in-depth look, we recommend you to have a look at our article regarding the support hold.


  • Elbows locked
  • Shoulders shrugged down
  • Legs together
  • Wrists turned to 45 degrees or more
  • Forearm is not touching the straps
  • Forearm is not touching your torso
  • Chest forward

Once you can hold this position for 30 seconds, you are ready to start training to get your first ring dip.

Ring dips form

If you have the prerequisites down, then you are ready to start working on the ring dip. The first step is to nail down the form. Regardless of whether you will be doing a complete dip or an easier regression, the form cues stay the same.

  • Hoist yourself up onto the rings.
  • Depress your scapula, lock your elbows, turn your wrists to 45 degrees, and keep your torso upright. This is the RTO support hold and the top position of the ring dip.
  • Begin lowering by dropping the chest and bending the elbows. Keep the elbows close to your body throughout the entire range of motion.
  • Lower until there is at least a 90-degree angle at the elbow, or even lower if your shoulder mobility allows. This is the bottom position of the ring dip.
  • Push back up to the top position. To get a full repetition in, make sure to lock your elbows at the top and turn the rings out.

Progressions for ring dips

To start your ring dips journey, choose one of the exercises below.

We recommend you to choose an exercise which is manageable, yet will still challenge you. To be more precise, choose an exercise where you can do at least five repetitions with good form.

  • Feet assisted ring dips
  • Band assisted ring dips
  • Eccentric ring dips
  • Ring dips

Feet assisted ring dips

In this first progression, the difficulty of the exercise is self-regulated.

To make the exercise more difficult, place the weight of your body in your arms and assist with your legs only minimally. If you want to make the exercise easier, you can choose to bear more of the weight with your legs.

  • Grab the rings and shift your weight onto them.
  • Begin descending slowly, placing more of the load in your arms or your legs, depending on your level.
  • Once at 90 degrees or lower if your mobility allows, stop for a second.
  • Push back up to the top position.

Band assisted ring dips

For this progression you will need a couple resistance bands.

Find a resistance band that allows you to do at most five repetitions. The thicker the band, the more assistance it will provide, and vice-versa. Finding a suitable band is easy: try multiple thicknesses until you find one that allows you to do around five ring dips.

  • Attach the band to the rings and step onto it.
  • Lower down with control, then stop for a second.
  • Push back up, making sure to lock out the elbows and turn the rings out in the top position.

As the band stretches, it will offer more assistance.

Therefore, it is recommended to stop for a second in the bottom position, to offset this issue and prevent the band from recoiling you back through the movement.

Eccentric ring dips

The eccentric - or negative - ring dip is one of the best exercises to develop your dipping strength. With this method, you will be building strength in reverse, starting from the top position and slowly descending through the entire range of motion.

  • Jump on the rings and assume the RTO support hold.
  • Start descending, doing so over a period of 3 seconds.
  • When you reach the bottom position, hold for 1 second, then let your feet touch the ground.

Eccentric training is very efficient as far as building strength is concerned.

However, it is also very taxing on your body, because you are working with progressions you are not strong enough to handle. We recommend you to keep eccentric training to a maximum of 3x per week.

How to make ring dips harder

There are two simple, yet effective ways to make dips harder, when performed on gymnastics rings. These two way are:

  • Increasing the instability
  • Adding weight

Increasing the instability

Previously, we have mentioned how the difficulty of the exercise is determined by the distance between the rings and the anchor point.

Simply put, the longer the strap, the more unstable the rings.

With a longer strap, the rings have more wiggle room to… well… wiggle. There is more space for them to move around and create instability; whereas, if the distance between the rings and the anchor point is smaller, they don’t have much room to move around and become more stable.

For this method, a pair of rings with numbers on the straps is ideal.

However, if yours don’t have markings, you can sit next to the rings and use a landmark on your body as a reference point, to keep your training measurable.

Adding weight

Adding weight to an exercise is the most objective way to keep your training measurable.

Therefore, one of the most ideal ways to progress with your ring dips is to add weight.

Due to the high amount of stabilization strength required, we strongly recommend you to start with low weight and progress slowly. Something small like 11lbs (5kgs) should be more than enough, especially if this is your first time adding weight to ring dips.

Different variations

As you become better at ring dips, you may start to find them too easy. Or, perhaps you would like to increase the focus on a certain muscle group. Regardless, these are two variations that you can include in your training for a complete development:

  • Bulgarian dips
  • Archer dips

Bulgarian dips

In this variation, you will be placing more emphasis on the chest muscles.

Due to the mechanics of this exercise, we recommend you to be especially careful when performing it. Contrary to a regular ring dip, during a Bulgarian dip your arms are in an internal rotation position, which is more prone to injury.

To avoid any negative effects, keep your elbows within the scapula plane.

This translates as your elbows being placed behind your shoulders as you go down during the exercise. Lower to 90 degrees, then come up by squeezing your elbows together.

Bulgarian dips

In terms of muscles worked, archer dips work the same muscles as regular ring dips.

However, due to the exercise being performed unilaterally - with one arm at a time -, the intensity is going to be way higher.

This exercise is also a good starting point if you want to work towards the iron cross.

If you want to make the exercise easier, perform the repetitions alternating between the arms. So you will be doing one repetition with the left arm, followed by one repetition with the right arm, until you complete the desired amount.

To increase the difficulty, finish all the repetitions with one arm, then finish them with the other.

Common ring dips mistakes

Doing dips on the rings can be a struggle for beginners. For this reason, lots of people cheat their way through dozens of repetitions, without even being aware of it.

These are the most common mistakes:

Not keeping an upright position

This issue is due to lack of scapula depression strength.

When you can’t hold your shoulder blades shrugged down, your body compensates and manages to “get comfortable” in the top position by hunching forward.

The easiest way to fix this issue is to take a step back and work on your support hold along with some of the easier variations presented in the “progressions for ring dips” section.

Poor range of motion

This mistake can stem from two different issues:

  • Lack of strength
  • Lack of mobility

If you are lacking strength, you will have a hard time controlling the descent portion of the movement, and an even harder time pushing back up. A sign of lack of strength is a short range of motion, usually stopping before the 90-degree point.

To fix this issue, we recommend you to step to an easier regression.

A lack of mobility can be seen in the bottom portion of the exercise. If you lack mobility, you will find it difficult to go lower than 90-degrees.

To fix this issue, keep doing the exercise and gradually try to go lower. As an accessory exercise, you can set your rings so that you are in the lowest position of the ring dip with your feet on the floor.

Poor range of motion

For proper ring dips, you have to learn the RTO support hold.

As you may come to realize, the RTO position comes back many times throughout your ring training journey. It is essential for dips, as well as L-sit, push-up progressions, handstands on rings, and so on.

If you find that you have issues getting the lockout with the rings turned out, we recommend you to go back and specifically work on this area. Otherwise it's going to hold you back from doing dips.


Hopefully this article convinced you to start training for ring dips.

Even though difficult at first, they offer great benefits, among which the most prevalent is a noticeable increase in muscle mass and strength.

Depending on your level it may take you a few months to build up to your first dip.

However, in our experience, it is more than worth it.

Over to you.