Can Gymnastic Rings Be Used for Physical Therapy?

For many years I have admired the strength, power, co-ordination and graceful movement abilities of elite level gymnasts. This was highlighted again during the London 2012 Olympics. The gymnastics rings are one apparatus that I thought I would never be able to complete properly.  However when I heard that Chad Waterbury, a very well respected neurophysiologist and strength and conditioning coach was invited to Vancouver by Envision Fitness to teach the rings and body weight training  I knew I had to attend. My goal was to explore the rings and figure out how to apply them to active rehabilitation and medical fitness training.

Even though I was slightly intimidated by the rings I also know that having more ideas for body weight training will make it easier for clients to reach their rehabilitation goals faster because the body is a tool that is easy to travel with and goes with us everywhere.

The first day of this course really opened my eyes to my own physical abilities as well as the enormous variability and adaptability the gymnastics rings have for movement rehabilitation and exercise therapy.
Since I have never been exposed to the gymnastic rings as training device I wasn’t sure if I would be able to complete many of the movements or if they could be used in a rehabilitation setting. When I first entered the room I was very happy to discover that the rings come with adjustable straps that are about eighteen feet long.
This means that they can be adjusted to accommodate anyone’s height or movement needs. The exercises require core strength, spinal stability and co-ordination between the upper and lower body.  Clients can also use elastics to support their body weight as they gain more suspension or start on the ground. I used elastics during my first attempt at the Iron Cross.
We covered a lot of exercises, progressions and modification during the first day of this two day course. I discovered through determination and coaching that I was able to do many movements including some inversion work.  There are also some very interesting weaknesses that I learned about my body. My greatest challenges are any upper-body pressing movement with body weight. This isn’t a surprise since cross-country skiing and biathlon use primarly leg and upper-body pulling movements.

Why Gynmastic Rings?

The gymnastics rings are a fun and challenging device to develop greater co-ordination and athleticism; gain greater core strength and spine stiffness; develop stronger more powerful latissimus dorsi which are wired to the glutes; the rings move freely to reduce joint stress. Some of the conditions I see these being applicable for are multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s. We are planning to add the gymnastic rings  to our exercise rehabilitation and strength training toolbox.

Alfred Ball

CEO | Practicing Kinesiologist | Certified Fascial Stretch Therapist. He founded Lifemoves in 2007. He has been a Practicing Kinesiologist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach with the NSCA for over 15 years. When he isn't helping people regain their strength and confidence to move with ease he is hanging out with his wife and young son, writing, or training for his next endurance running race. His big audacious goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

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