Like the other types of bodyweight tricep extensions, ring tricep extensions hit all three heads of the triceps while giving your core a good isometric workout in the process. As such, ring triceps extensions are a great exercise for triceps hypertrophy as well as for strengthening your abs.
This guide explains how to do ring tricep extensions with the proper form and then discusses some modifications that you can make to increase or decrease the difficulty of the exercise.
Related: Triceps innervation
Ring tricep extension exercise details
- Main Muscles: Triceps
- Exercise Type: Strength
- Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
- Difficulty Level: Intermediate
- Equipment Needed: Rings
How to do tricep extensions on rings
- Grab the rings with a pronated grip and tuck your elbows in slightly.
- Tighten your core and maintain a hollow body position in which your upper back is slightly rounded.
- Shuffle your feet back and keep them around hip-width apart. The further your feet are away from the rings, the harder the exercise will be.
- Lower your head toward the rings by bending your elbows.
- Keep going until you feel an intense stretch in your triceps (most likely when your biceps press up against the tops of your forearms).
- Optionally lower your head under the rings to further increase the triceps stretch.
- Press the palms of your hands into the rings and flex your triceps to push yourself back up.
- Flex your triceps forcefully at the top of the rep as your elbows reach full extension.
- Perform 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps.
How to modify ring tricep extensions
Tricep ring extensions are a tough exercise because the movement makes you lift a large percentage of your body weight with nothing other than your triceps. The modifications below will help you to keep progressing once regular ring extensions become too easy.
You’ll also learn how to make ring extensions easier if you’re just starting out with calisthenics.
Change the height of the rings
Lowering the height of the rings and thereby performing an extension with your body in a more vertical position makes the exercise tougher on your triceps because you’re using a larger percentage of your body weight as resistance.
Increasing the height of the rings, on the other hand, makes the movement easier because you’re using a lower percentage of your body weight for resistance.
In addition to changing the ring height, you can modify your foot position to increase the difficulty of the exercise.
Keeping your feet closer to the rings makes the movement easier, whereas moving your feet further away from the rings makes the exercise harder. Again, this is because you’re lifting more of your body weight when your feet are further behind your torso.
Increase your range of motion
The long head of the triceps is the biggest muscle in the triceps and is therefore crucial for maximizing your upper arm development.
Unlike the lateral and medial heads of the triceps, the long head crosses the shoulder joint. This means that in order to work the long head optimally, you need to combine elbow extension (the primary function of every tricep head) with shoulder flexion.
The lack of shoulder flexion and extension is the reason why plank tricep extensions alone aren’t enough for maximizing your triceps development.
In the ring tricep extension, you can place your shoulders into flexion by lowering your head under the rings. This simple-to-implement yet challenging-to-execute modification will dramatically increase the stretch that the long head of your triceps gets put under.
But if your triceps aren’t strong enough to handle the increased range of motion, then how are you meant to train the long head?
Simple. Increase the height of the rings until you can successfully lower your head under the rings with nothing other than the strength of your triceps.
In other words, it’s better to use a more extensive range of motion than it is to use a lower ring height (which is to say a higher percentage of your body weight).
Add external resistance
If you can already smash out sets of 15-20 reps with your rings on the lowest setting, then it might be time to add external resistance.
But before you put on that weighted vest, ask yourself the following question: Do you actually need to do weighted ring tricep extensions?
Ring triceps extensions place a lot of torque through the elbows as it is. Do you really want to be putting even more force through your joints, given that you’re already strong?
After all, you can train your triceps heavily with weighted compound movements like push-ups and bench presses.
While it’s fine to use external resistance if your elbows can handle it, most calisthenics athletes prefer to save the really heavy lifting for their compound exercises.
Accentuate your lockout
Many people avoid locking out their elbows during the ring triceps extension and wall tricep extensions because they believe that it takes tension off the target muscles.
While locking out your elbows may ease the tension on your triceps for a split second, elbow extension is the primary triceps function. So you’re actually missing out on muscle growth by avoiding the lockout portion of the rep.
Locking out your elbows and squeezing your triceps creates a powerful peak contraction and helps to standardize your range of motion. If you lock your elbows out on every rep, then you’ll know that your increasing strength is legitimate and due to the work of your triceps, not because you keep reducing the range of motion in order to gain “strength.”
Using a lower ring height only means that you’re getting stronger when you maintain the same full range of motion.
Conclusion: Should you do the ring triceps extension to strengthen your arms?
Rings are a highly underrated training tool that are often avoided because many lifters believe that rings don’t offer room for progression.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
You can challenge your triceps more during ring tricep extensions by moving your feet further back and/or lowering the ring height. Additionally, you can even wear a weighted vest if the positioning modifications aren’t challenging enough.
Just make sure to maintain a tight core, tucked elbows, and a hollow body position to get the most from your ring tricep extensions.
You also want to avoid letting your heels touch the floor. By all means, pivot on your toes, but don’t unload your triceps by shifting your weight backward onto your heels; lean into the rings instead to keep the tension on your triceps.