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Push-Ups vs Ring Push-Ups: Which Exercise Is Best?

When trying to make your push-ups more challenging, there are many different variations you could add to your workouts.

While many of these variations can be done in a normal gym environment with little to no equipment needed, there are some variations that require more specific equipment.

One such push-up variation is ring push-ups. These use the rings used in gymnastics as part of the exercise which can increase the difficulty level of the movement quite dramatically.

In this article, we compare regular push-ups with ring push-ups to try and help you decide which is the better exercise for you.

We discuss points such as the difference between the two, the muscles targeted in each one, as well as the safety and difficulty levels each variation has.

Man performing ring push-ups in a gym

What’s The Difference Between Push-Ups And Ring Push-Ups?

The biggest and most obvious difference between regular push-ups and ring push-ups is that regular push-ups are performed on the floor while ring push-ups use gymnastics rings to increase the difficulty of the exercise.

Having your hands on rings when doing push-ups makes your upper body much more unstable.

This means your working muscles will have to work a lot harder throughout the movement to not only perform the exercise in full, but also to keep you in a stable enough position to do so effectively.

Although the movement in ring push-ups is still almost identical to regular push-ups, the addition of the rings makes these two exercises look quite different from each other.

Are Ring Push-Ups Better For Chest?

When you’re doing ring push-ups, the range of movement is slightly larger than it is during regular push-ups.

The increased range comes from the rings being elevated off the floor meaning your can actually lower your chest past the point at which you would stop during regular push-ups.

Working your chest through a larger range of motion can actually have quite big impacts on the development of this muscle group.

The instability of the rings also adds an element of difficulty to the working muscles.

While your core will be the muscle group that has the biggest increase in workload due to the movement of the rings, all the working muscles (including your chest) will be placed under more stress throughout ring push-ups.

The more stress your muscles are placed under, the greater development you will experience.

Are Ring Push-Ups Better For Triceps?

Both regular push-ups and ring push-ups bring your triceps into play during the movement.

Although the rings being unstable certainly makes ring push-ups more challenging than regular push-ups, your triceps probably won’t be working too much harder than they would be during regular push-ups.

Both of these push-up variations put almost equal amounts of stress on your triceps.

Are Ring Push-Ups Better For Shoulders?

Yes, ring push-ups will likely be better for your shoulders than regular push-ups.

That isn’t to say that regular push-ups aren’t good for your shoulders as they definitely are, it’s just that ring push-ups do a better job of activating some of the smaller stabilizing muscles in and around your shoulders which can help increase strength and overall shoulder health.

These stabilizing muscles can also help reduce the risk of picking up a shoulder injury in the future too.

As your shoulders can be quite vulnerable and susceptible to certain injuries during training, anything you can do to safely strengthen them should be seen as a good thing.

When it comes to shoulder development, ring push-ups will challenge your shoulders a bit more than regular push-ups due to the increased range of motion, instability of the rings, and the added stress placed on the working muscles throughout the movement. 

Are Ring Push-Ups Harder?

Yes, ring push-ups are quite a lot harder than regular push-ups. 

The main reason they’re harder is because of the rings being unstable and freely movable, resulting in a much less balanced surface to perform your push-ups on.

As your core muscles have to activate a lot more to help keep you in a stable and balanced position, your working muscles are placed under greater stress than they are during regular push-ups. 

Your working muscles being placed under greater stress, the instability and movement of the rings, the extra activation of your core and other working muscles, and moving your body weight through an increased range of motion all help to make ring push-ups a very challenging exercise.

Are Ring Push-Ups Safer?

A road with the words Safety First painted on in yellow paint next to double yellow lines

As a general rule, push-ups and most push-up variations are all relatively safe exercises to perform regularly.

However, there are certain aspects of ring push-ups to keep in mind that can make them slightly less safe than regular push-ups.

The first thing to think about is that doing any exercise using an unstable base adds an element of risk to the movement.

Although the rings will be somewhat limited in how they move, there’s still some unpredictability to keep in mind that can move your shoulders into more vulnerable positions than you might like.

You should also keep in mind that your upper body will be higher off the ground than it would be during regular push-ups.

While this doesn’t necessarily impact the safety of the exercise, it’s worth thinking about the potential risks associated with falling or reaching failure during a set of ring push-ups. 

Push-Ups vs Ring Push-Ups: Which Is Best? 

Deciding whether regular push-ups or ring push-ups are best for you will come down to several considerations. 

First, you’ll need to think about which one best suits your fitness goals.

For example, if you want your push-ups to be more challenging and help strengthen your shoulders a bit more while still developing your chest, ring push-ups could be the best exercise for you.

However, regular push-ups could be better suited to you and your fitness goals if you’re looking for a slightly easier exercise that still helps build your chest, shoulders, arms, and core.

Another big consideration is the equipment you have available.

To do ring push-ups, you’ll need access to gymnastic-style rings. If your gym doesn’t have these, you may not be able to do ring push-ups.

Ultimately, either one of these push-up variations could be best for you depending on your fitness goals, your personal preferences, and the environment in which you train.


How To Do A Ring Push-Up