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Ring Training: The Road to Restoration

Advanced Ring Push-Ups from Rings Of Power by Mike Gillette

This past week saw the release of Rings of Power. Personally speaking, it was a big deal. As a longtime fan of Dragon Door’s contributions to the world of physical culture, it means a lot to be an "official" part of their author roster. It is also very gratifying, as a longtime advocate of ring-training, to be able to present this restorative, strength-building information to the world.

It’s been a long journey to get to this place. And much of that journey led directly to the creation of this book. My journey started many years ago, in the early 1980s. When I first stepped into the world of physical training, it was a practical pursuit. I wasn’t motivated by a sports star nor was I trying to emulate a Hollywood action-hero. I was just a guy who had enlisted in the Army and was taking a few months to prepare for whatever might lay ahead. Since I didn’t know specifically what I would be called upon to do, I tried to make myself ready for "anything". This was a tall order which was further complicated by the fact that I didn’t really know what I was doing.

I made various training assumptions during those early days. And some of those assumptions I ended up carrying around with me for years. But chief among them was the assumption that "more is always better". For many years I believed this to be true. And this belief led me to follow that assumption with reckless abandon.

Predictably, this approach did not end well. Oh, it went well for a while. That approach probably reached the peak of its usefulness back in 1989 while I was attending the police academy. In those days my training volume could best be described as "enthusiastic". On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays our academy class withstood a punishing combination of physical training mixed with defensive tactics training that lasted three and half hours. We ran (and ran). We did countless calisthenics. We ran some more. We sparred. We "arrested" each other. And then, when we were all finished, I would stay after class. To work out. My concern was that since we didn’t really use weights during the structured academy sessions I might somehow begin my law enforcement career as a weakling. So my solution was to add an additional 40 minutes of weight training to the mix. It all made sense at the time. Because I still believed that "more is always better".

I carried that level of intensity into my day to day police life. There were years of countless repetitions of bodyweight exercises. These were layered with endless exercises with weight machines. Performed with every machine you can think of. By my late twenties my joints were angry. I was finding out that certain exercises had to be dropped from my regimen. And this was while I was still only in my twenties.

I was methodologically ignorant in those days and didn’t perceive these joint problems as a "sign" of anything. They were merely an odd inconvenience. Then, in my early thirties I picked up a home gym set-up that would grind down my gears even further. It consisted of an integrated, multi-position bench that was connected to a pair of steel posts which had a barbell attached to them. The bar was designed to travel up and down these two uprights. The design feature that had sold me on this particular piece of equipment was the fact that while this integrated bar could travel up or down the fixed posts, with just a flick of the wrist, it could instantly be locked in place at any point along those posts. This meant that I could lift as heavy as I wanted to, all by myself, in complete safety. I would never have to worry about getting "pinned" under a heavy barbell again. For a guy who prefers to train alone, this seemed like the perfect set-up.

Only it wasn’t. The equipment that I had purchased was something better known as a ‘Smith Machine’. And in terms of pressing and pulling movements, the Smith Machine is an inexhaustible joint-grinder. Elbows, shoulders and wrists are equally susceptible to its voracious appetite. Yet ironically, the reason I had purchased it in the first place was to make my training safer.

More years went by. And I was still living by the "more is always better mantra". But now I was in my early forties. And I was hurting. Badly. I had reached the point that I had always feared. The point where most men simply stop training. Because it hurts too much to continue. I knew that I needed a change. But I had no idea how I should proceed.

It was now 2005. And I had been seeing them advertised on the internet for a while. They looked like gymnastics rings but they were made of plastic and suspended from straps of flat nylon webbing. They were far cheaper than "real" gymnastics rings and were designed to be used almost anywhere. I liked that idea. And I liked the idea of ring training itself. It made sense to me due to the movement potential that the rings seemed to offer. I reasoned that if all I got from the rings was the ability to do pain-free pull-ups again, then the investment would be more than worth it.

It was around 9:00 PM on a Wednesday in October of 2005, (yes, I actually remember it that clearly) that I walked into my local Gold’s Gym in Las Vegas with a brand new set of plastic rings in my gym bag. I walked over to a power rack and hung them from the top rail. And then I began. I did pull-up and dips. Alternating them, a few at a time. The pull-ups went well pretty well, the dips were ugly. Plenty of gym rats were watching as I performed rep after ungainly rep, but I didn’t care. I could feel that something was different. My muscles were on fire but my wrists and elbows were not. It was a revelation. And it was dramatically apparent in that very first ring workout.

My road towards restoration had begun.

Mike Gillette Author of Rings Of PowerMike Gillette, Former SWAT Commander, Executive Bodyguard, and author of Rings of Power, is a relentless student of the human factors which allow people to succeed despite overwhelming odds. His research and experiences have taken him through many different worlds and disciplines. They have ultimately produced a body of knowledge which has been put to use by clients ranging from high-risk professionals operating in extraordinary circumstances, to ordinary people who want to make extraordinary changes in their lives...