The pull-up is a fundamental pulling exercise that strengthens the back region with a higher emphasis on the latissimus dorsi muscle. The movement is most commonly performed on a horizontal pull-up bar or gymnastic rings.
Horizontal bars vs. Rings
Pull-ups on a bar are the most popular version of the exercise. The advantages of the horizontal bar is that you can quickly modify the width of your grip. You can switch from a narrow to wide grip and vice versa in seconds. Rings give you the opportunity to use different grip widths too, but they require a reattachment, which is not always convenient.
Yet the rings are the better option because they allow your joints to find a smooth, pain-free groove. It’s not uncommon for people to experience elbow tendinitis after doing bar pull-ups for too long. Ring pull-ups can help when you are recovering from that injury. The movement is much kinder to the elbow joint and allows your wrist, elbow, and shoulders to align in a pain-free position.
Quick tip: If you are experiencing elbow pain from regular horizontal bar pull-ups, and you don’t have access to rings, perform neutral grip pull-ups (palms facing each other).
Ring pull-ups – The best of both worlds
A proper ring pull-up begins from a dead hang and resembles a combination of a pull-up and a chin-up. You start with your palms facing away from your face and finish with the palms pointing towards you. This is possible only because the rings allow your joints to rotate during the movement.
Ring pull-ups give you a better lat contraction while reducing the stress on your elbows, wrists, and shoulders. This does not mean that bar pull-ups are bad, though. But as far as health goes, the rings are simply better.
Here’s a video by Rogue Fitness that teaches you how to perform ring pull-ups.