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Episode from the podcastPaleoJays Smoothie Cafe

Be a Lord of the Rings

Released Thursday, 25th February 2021
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In these strange times, when so much seems to be falling apart and in endless flux, it is time to focus on the self.  Even when there is little you can accomplish in the realm of politics, including the collapse of the cities and schools, law and order and endless reckless spending- you can work on your own health, wellness, and fitness!

Enter the rings.  Gymnastic rings that is!  Up until a few years ago, the notion of using rings seemed far-fetched:  in my youth, such tools were never available.  No one back then even knew how to use them, but when you saw things like the Olympics, these amazing god-like athletes could be seen (most from European countries) doing incredible feats of crazy strength and control.
They were fun to watch, but like tight rope walking and trapeze acts, nothing that one aspired to.  But, the incredibly lean, defined physiques of those gymnasts were sure to catch you eye - how to look and perform like that?!  It seemed impossible, what they did, and yet there they were, doing it.

I’m here to tell you though- gymnastic rings are the best kept fitness secret in the world!  You can get your own set, these days, quite inexpensively, and hang it in your basement, garage, or from a basketball hoop or playground structure easily.  A sturdy tree branch in the summer months is also perfect, and can be set up and taken down in a couple of minutes or so.

Lots of gyms now are closed, or at least restricted (with masks and social distancing- needlessly I am convinced), but still, it is the case.  And it is also the case that you can replace a whole gym with a set of rings!  And actually, it turns out- most exercises are better and more result producing than the standard, rigid bar of machine versions.
Take the pushup, for instance: done on the rings, the pushup is far harder than standard pushups, and far more versatile and safer on the joints, while also building strength in the ligaments and tendons along with the muscles involved.  In addition, the balance required also helps with balance and strengthening the vital core stabilizers of the body, including the abs and the smaller muscles of the trunk and shoulders.

For instance, I am convinced that the ring pushups are far superior to the barbell bench press, in every conceivable way.  Your arms on both sides go through a complete range of motion, in a very controlled fashion- unlike a bb bench press, that is an unnaturally shortened motion, where the shoulders do not completely retract, and the barbell encourages a ballistic upward thrust to achieve an illusion of strength.  
The rings pushup forces you to use a slow, controlled rep speed, and a complete retraction and controlled return using your own body weight and a safe plane of motion with no momentum to ‘impress yourself and others’ as to a heavier weight that you are not really using to maximum advantage.
And, in fact, the further beauty of the rings is that you can make the pushup not only harder, but easier as well.  Let’s say your rings are mounted up high, as they should be- you can walk forward away from the mounting point, and then the pushup is much easier- you can be standing almost upright, at a slight decline on the rings rather than parallel to the ground.  This will make the pushup as easy as you want to make it!  You can easily make it as easy as doing pushups standing against a wall, or slightly more difficult, simply by walking back to be more directly underneath where the strap is hung.

In fact, this is what I do each ring workout:  I start out almost standing erect, and do a set of pushups that is easy, followed right away by a set of flies on the rings.  
Then, I walk backwards a step or two, and repeat- a set of pushups
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