Ring Pull-ups Vs. Straight Bar Pull-ups

The pull-up is a fundamental exercise that strengthens your entire back region with more emphasis on the latissimus dorsi muscle. The exercise can be performed many different ways and has only one requirement as far as equipment goes – you need something to hang from.

It’s most commonly performed on a horizontal pull-up bar or gymnastic rings In this article, we will examine the pros and cons of gymnastic rings and bars as far as pull-ups go.

Horizontal bar vs. Rings


Doing pull-ups on the horizontal bar is the most commonly performed version of the exercise. You can find one in many local parks, especially after the recent rise of the so-called street workouts.

The advantages of the horizontal bar is that it allows you to quickly modify the width of your grip. You can switch from narrower to wider and vice versa in seconds in order to target the back muscles differently. Rings allow to use different grip widths as well, but they require reattachment and it’s not always convenient to do so.

In general, rings are the better option because they allow your joints to sort of find the right groove rather than forcing your body to adjust to the bar. It’s not uncommon for people to experience elbow tendinitis after doing horizontal bar pull-ups for too long. Ring pull-ups can come in handy when 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, try to find a way to perform neutral grip pull-ups (palms facing each other).

Ring pulls-ups – the best of both worlds
When ring pull-ups are properly performed the athlete starts from a dead hang and essentially does a combination of a pull-up and a chin-up. You start with your palms facing away from your face and you finish the movement with the palms facing your face. This is possible only because the rings allow your joints to rotate during the movement.

You will find out that rings pull-ups will give you a better lat contraction while also sparing a lot of stress on your elbows, wrists and shoulders. This does not mean that the horizontal bar pull-ups are bad, it’s just that the ring pull-up’s the better version of the exercise as far as health goes.

Of course, it would be silly to deny the effectiveness of the straight bar version as well as the unlimited amounts of cool variations it allows you to do. Some of the modern pull-up tricks just can’t be done on rings.

Quick tip: You can continue to practice your street fitness/free running type of pull-up elements while using the ring pull-ups to simply add a little more volume to your workouts.

Here’s a video by Rogue Fitness that teaches you how to perform ring pull-ups.

5 comments

  1. Mohanad

    Great post !

    A question : If someone wants to take it to the next level ? and starts adding load to the movement ! is the ring pull a safe option here ?

      1. Mohanad

        Great !
        Do you think you would miss out some advantages the bar has !?
        Because I’m really surprised why the rings are underrated !! (As a strength tool)

  2. Mohanad

    Great !
    Do you think you would miss out some advantages the bar has !?
    Because I’m really surprised why the rings are underrated !! (As a strength tool)

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