One of the major benefits of working on the gymnastic rings is the strength and coordination gained from moving your body around on a free swinging apparatus.
It can be difficult enough to pull and press your weight on a fixed bar, let alone on two rings that wiggle around!
Pull-ups, dips, and even just keeping yourself above the rings with your arms locked straight are moves that can humble even the fittest person that hasn’t tried them on the rings.
Along with the basic exercises that can be performed on a bar, the positioning of the rings allows for a wider variety of movements such as the muscle-up.
Transitioning your body around the rings from a variety of positions requires a significant amount of upper body strength and control.
Yes, you can gain a lot of strength with bodyweight exercises on the floor and, of course, from lifting weights, but the instability of the rings, along with the combination of movements, can be an entirely different demonstration of strength. Rings skill work integrates strength and coordination training in a way that’s much harder to achieve with other equipment, and it gives you a lot of bang for your buck with regards to training time.
The tuck to tuck shoulder stand is one such great skill and will teach you a lot about coordinating strength between your upper body and core.
With this exercise, you go from a straight arm core hold in a vertical body position, move through the horizontal plane, and finish in an inverted bent arm position. This movement, of course, requires significant strength, but also a keen ability to adjust that strength to various angles, and keep yourself steady and in the groove of the movement.
After getting familiar with basic exercises on the rings, it’s time to move on to the exercises that make the rings such a great tool for strength development.
The tuck to tuck shoulder stand is a great move to work on as your first step into combination skill work.
What is the Tuck to Tuck Shoulder Stand?
The tuck to tuck shoulder stand is a combination movement that links two skills together:
- The tuck hold
- The shoulder stand tuck hold
It is a fundamental movement that you’ll want to be proficient at before working on the L-sit to full shoulder stand and, finally, on to the L-sit to handstand. In this video you can see how the tuck to tuck shoulder stand leads really nicely into the L-sit to handstand on the rings:
The tuck to tuck shoulder stand starts in what is called the top position on the rings. In the top position, your body is in a nice upright posture, with the arms locked straight and the rings turned out.
You’ll start by pulling your knees in toward your chest for the tuck, then rotating around the rings, lifting your hips up into the shoulder stand.
Of course, if it was just as straightforward as that, everybody would get it on their first try! But this seemingly simple move requires good technique as well as strength.
If you just watch a video with little to no instruction, it’s going to take you quite a while to get this skill, if at all. The advice you get should be more than just “keep practicing”. Of course you need to practice, but it’d also be great to know just what in particular you should be practicing.
So here I will present all the details you need to add this move to your skills repertoire.
3 Steps to Nailing the Tuck to Tuck Shoulder Stand
If you’ve tried the tuck shoulder stand with little or no success, it’s likely you’re focusing on the wrong things. Take the time to focus on these three steps, and I have a feeling you’ll see a big difference in your practice.
Step One: Build Strength
You can’t learn the proper technique if you aren’t strong enough to move from position to position. Build up your fundamental strength and it’ll be a much less frustrating process.
Here are the exercises you’ll need to master before moving on to the full movement:
1. Top Position Hold
- Lock your arms out and push your shoulders down toward the ground the entire time
- Brace your stomach and squeeze your butt and legs tight.
- Work up to 20 second holds for 3 sets.
2. Top Position Tuck
- In the top position bend your knees and lift up towards your chest.
- Keep pushing hard through the rings for the entire movement
- Work up to 3 sets of 10 repetitions, holding the tuck position for 5 seconds on each rep.
3. Ring Push-Ups
- This is the standard ring push-up with your elbows tight at your sides.
- For each repetition, pause for 5 seconds at the bottom, 5 seconds at the midpoint, and then 5 seconds at the top of the push-up – for a total of 15 seconds per repetition.
- Work up to 3 sets of 5 repetitions.
Step Two: Use Proper Technique
Proper technique is important with any exercise, but especially when it comes to more complicated strength skills, it’s imperative to pay close attention to the details.
These are the details that will get you on the road for success:
1. Keep your elbows tight to your body
This elbow positioning places you in a better position for using your strength, and gives you more stability. This is very important in the early stages of learning and practicing this move because it will allow you to do more repetitions with increasing confidence. That’s the key to improving any skill.
The following video shows a great detail of elbow positioning to get you into the shoulder stand position as safely as possible.
As you improve in strength and technique, you can keep the elbows more to your sides than in the front of your body, and as you improve even further, the elbows can be flared out a bit to make the move more difficult.
2. Keep pushing strongly down through the rings
When you press down into the rings through the entire movement you’ll be working the shoulder girdle muscles from scapular depression to scapular elevation. Essentially, this means you’ll be developing strength throughout the full range of your shoulder mobility.
This is great for shoulder health and performance, and will help you for more advanced skills down the road.
3. Gaze at a point on the ground directly below the rings
This technique tip helps you in the beginning of the learning process as well, since your body awareness in this movement is just developing. A common error in this move is to bring your hips too far over your shoulders – your body should not be in a straight vertical angle – and, when this happens, you will end up doing a forward roll.
4. Pivot around your shoulders and the rings
Another common error is to drop your shoulders down too much toward the rings as you transition from the tuck hold to the bent arm position.
Instead you should keep pushing down through your hands, and think of pivoting your body around your shoulders. This does require more strength than just sinking down into the rings, but again, this sets you up well for more advanced maneuvers such as the L-sit to handstand.
Build the strength and correct technique now, and enjoy the benefits later on in your training.
5. Lift your butt and back together as one unit
Keep your hips and back strong and tight, and moving as one unit.
Moving your butt first in the transition places you in a weaker position. Instead, concentrate on keeping your stomach braced and tight, and visualize being lifted up by a rope attached to your low back.
This is a great cue for improved performance.
Step Three: Practice
Of course, the key to mastering any skill is to practice, practice, practice.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you practice the tuck to tuck shoulder stand:
1. Treat this move as a skill, not as an exercise
What’s the difference between a skill and an exercise?
I think of a skill as a movement that requires practice and time to refine your form and technique. An exercise, on the other hand, is a movement that you use to improve your strength and conditioning. It’s either simple, or a move that you’ve done enough that it’s simple for you. You can then work it hard, and train with less chance of injury.
Once you’ve got this move down pat you can think of it as an exercise. For now, it’s a skill you have to learn.
2. Do each repetition on its own
Along the same lines as treating it as a skill, thinking of doing each repetition on its own is a key part of good practice.
Working on doing a movement as best you can every time you do it leads to faster improvement. Of course, it won’t be perfect each time – if it was, you wouldn’t need to practice! – but if your focus is on good technique, you’ll get better, rather than deteriorating because you are just rushing through it.
3. Find your weak points
You’ll soon find that there will be points in the move that give you the most trouble. Whether it’s the initial movement out of the tuck hold, or that last bit before the shoulder stand, you’ll need more repetitions to improve, so block those out for more practice.
- Do the full movement as best as you can
- Practice the part of the move that is hardest for you for 3-5 repetitions
- Finish with the full move as best as you can
In motor learning theory, this is called Whole – Part – Whole practice, and is a wonderful way to practice.
You get the benefit of increased repetition in the areas you need most, and integrate that into the full practice of the movement. This has been proven to improve learning speed and retention.
4. Bail out safely
Here’s a tip that will save you from a lot of bumps and bruises: When you find yourself falling forward out of the shoulder stand.
Never let go of the rings!
Otherwise, you’re gonna have a bad time. If you are practicing with your rings higher above the ground, you’ll simply roll and keep a hold of the rings and end up hanging as in the start of a pull-up.
Let go and you’ll fall.
Likely hard, and on body parts that won’t like you afterwards. Don’t let go of the rings.
I can’t repeat that enough.
Get the Most Out Working on the Rings
Skill on the rings goes beyond basic pulling and pushing.
Combined movements that transition you from below to above the rings and from right side up to upside down, and vice versa are the ones that take full advantage of the rings’ capabilities. The challenge of learning and performing them builds great strength and body control and they’re just plain fun!
Follow my tips in this tutorial for the tuck to tuck shoulder stand and you’ll experience the first steps toward the incredible fitness benefits of working with the rings.