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Exercises Movements, technique & proper execution

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Old 06-14-2006, 08:00 AM   #1
Garrett Smith
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So, I just started using my rings at home.

As is supremely easy to notice, they are "unstable surfaces" for the upper extremities to grip. This makes it much harder to express high levels of strength without the accompanying stability--as in the approximate 3:1 ratio of ring dips to fixed bar dips.

So I get to thinking, aren't nearly all the same things true for upper body exercises performed on rings as they are for lower extremity exercises performed on, for example, an Indo Board? If you don't believe me, go try replicating your Tabata Squat score, with full-range squats, on an Indo Board and I think you'll get it.

The "general" feeling I get from around this board is that rings are great and lower body instability devices (of any sort) are suspect or worthless. I didn't agree with that when I first heard it and I still don't, especially after my new ring experience.

I'm trying to start a discussion, please feel free to join in...
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Old 06-14-2006, 08:33 AM   #2
Brian McCarrie
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What about a wobble board instead of an indo board. A wobble board offers 360° of instability just like rings. Better yet, two wobble boards. One for each foot.

I bet they would offer greater ankle flexibility as well as strength.
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Old 06-14-2006, 08:47 AM   #3
Matt Gagliardi
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Garrett, do a search for "slackline" or "slacklining". It's also in one of the CF Journals.

Short, lower body instability devices are not viewed as worthless.
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Old 06-14-2006, 10:25 AM   #4
Ross Hunt
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The slackline and other unstable surfaces seem to me be different in kind than rings.

The rings demand a greater-than normal contraction of the muscles that would normally be working in a given position to maintain that position. Example: When you're holding a support on dip bars, your delts, lats, triceps, and pecs (among other muscles), are working hard. When you're holding a support on rings, the same muscles are working harder, because the rings tend to move out to the sides; you are holding yourself in.

Doing squats on a balance board, on the other hand, does not simply require you to 'squat harder'; it makes you use the muscles of your legs in a different way to stay on the board. Specifically, you end up tensing the muscles antagonist to the movement in a way that you normally don't when you're squatting.

The critics of balance-board training maintain that doing squats on balance boards messes with the way agonist and antagonist muscles fire, interfering with strength gains. The whole Davies-Cressey debate on T-nation (which some might regard as somewhat distasteful) treats this subject rather thoroughly, with references to the relevant studies:

One relevant excerpt:

Moreover, antagonist co-contraction is greatly elevated under unstable surfaces. One of the problems you'll encounter with the vast majority of athletes is that they're unable to relax the antagonists sufficiently to allow for optimal force production from the prime movers. Put them on an unstable surface, and this problem is confounded in the short-term, and *potentially* from a longer-term motor learning standpoint.

It doesn't seem like the same argument could be advanced against rings: Doing dips on rings doesn't feel like doing squats on a balance board; it just feels like doing REALLY HARD DIPS. :biggrin: But I could be wrong... I'd be interested to hear more about this from people who are more familiar with the rings.

(Message edited by Orestes122484 on June 14, 2006)
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Old 06-14-2006, 11:05 AM   #5
Brian McCarrie
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I'm no expert and I certainly am not one to use terms like "antagonist co-contraction". But one line from the article excerpt has me thinking.

"One of the problems you'll encounter with the vast majority of athletes is that they're unable to relax the antagonists sufficiently to allow for optimal force production from the prime movers."

Wouldn't this be just like doing a really hard squat? The rings don't allow for optimal force either because your tensing your muscles to keep them stable. If they allowed for "optimal force" then you would be able to as many dips on the rings as you could on a static device.

Just some thoughts.
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Old 06-14-2006, 11:47 AM   #6
Roger Harrell
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Agreed. Doing weighted dips on parrallel bars is equivalent to heavy squatting. Dips on rings equivalent to squats on something unstable. They are different training tools. Use them both. Gymnasts are training on unstable stuff all the time, top gymnasts do not have trouble relaxing antagonist muscles when necessary. Vitaly Scherbo (1992 olympic champion) was a master at this. He knew well how to relax what he didn't need.
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Old 06-14-2006, 12:09 PM   #7
bill fox
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I think it's less a technical thing and more a practical thing, or to use the F word, a fuctional thing.

Unless you are a surfer/skate boarder/snowboarder, the vast majority of sports involve you on a stable surface with an object/person trying to knock you around or you trying to move an object/person. Thus there's little to be gained by getting good at standing on an unstable object.
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Old 06-14-2006, 01:24 PM   #8
Robert Wolf
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The rings and slackline are not unstable, they are however "frictionless" surfaces that greatly amplify any noise present in the nervous system. This is very different training than that found on a wobbleboard or similar, legitimately unstable device.
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Old 06-14-2006, 01:32 PM   #9
Richard Paul Ham-Williams
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Robert -

Please continue with any more information/thoughts/links you have on this line of thinking.

I am not a great fan of unstable leg work, however I am yet to to really have a thorough understanding of why this is, if you have anything that could help me further my knowledge then that would be great - cheers

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Old 06-14-2006, 01:52 PM   #10
Garrett Smith
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I believe your post from T-Nation showed exactly why ring dips are harder, due to, IMO, greater antagonist co-contraction to maintain stability.

Rob, I don't understand how it can be said that the rings and slackline are any more "stable" (or "not unstable" than a wobble board with a single pivot point on the ground. They are all, for my intents and purposes, fixed at one or more points. I don't know where friction would come into play on a wobble board either. What if an Indo board is laid across a slackline? Aren't they all just balancing acts, done in different positions?

As Roger mentioned and I believe, one major thing that sets great athletes apart from average ones is the ability to go from contracted to relaxed quickly, as well as being relaxed in as many muscles as possible (and is practical and safe) for as long a time "under pressure" (game-time) as possible. Do any of these training modalities improve that ability?

I'm going to throw the F-word in here, how are rings more functional than a solid/stable platform to do dips on? Surely they aren't assumed to be more functional simply because they are harder. I understand the "instability" in climbing a rope and slacklining. The ring setup seems even more unlikely in real life. Don't get me wrong here, I love the exercises on the rings!

Here's something I just thought of.

Lower extremities (mainly hips): Built mainly to express strength and stability under heavy loads. More stable, less mobile than the shoulders due to anatomy.

Upper extremities (mainly shoulders): Built mainly to be extremely mobile. Less stable, more mobile than the hips due to anatomy.

Could this be a starting point in the difference in perspective between the upper and lower body instability training approaches?
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