The purpose of this article is to provide a reflection and review of the results I achieved after using calisthenics YouTuber Daniel Vadnal’s (FitnessFAQs) training program, “Body by Rings” for 18 weeks.
Read on to find out why you should or shouldn’t purchase the program for yourself.
My Fitness Background and Training Stats
I write this review as a 20-year-old male, standing 5’8 and weighing between 165-170 lbs.
I began my training journey as a 13-year-old, following basic at-home YouTube fitness tutorials.
I slowly found a niche for myself and my training style a few years in, combining calisthenics and lifting weights to craft my physique and gain strength. I essentially continued this approach for the next 4-5 years and saw some great results. I achieved a full range of motion one arm pull up (on each arm), a 7-second full front lever, 225 lb bench press, and other feats of athleticism and bodyweight strength.
During the majority of my time spent training, I mistakenly did not follow a proper, structured workout plan.
I was a victim of the program hopping virus and would either hop programs within one month, attempt to blend programs, and worst of all: I would just train randomly, with no rhyme or reason. This led to stalled progress, slow progress, not being as advanced as I should have been considering the years sunk into fitness, as well as a plethora of injuries, aches and pains.
In 2018 I met a semi-distant relative of mine who turned out to be a professional natural competitive bodybuilder. He was beginning a contest prep during the fall of ’18 and asked me to document his training footage and physique updates with my camera in return for him handling my training and nutrition.
This was the beginning of a two-year hiatus from calisthenics and me gaining ~15 lbs of body weight.
2020: Back To the Gymnastic Rings
Fast forward to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year, and I found myself with no gym access, no weights at home, and desperation to train.
I figured it was time to break out the wooden rings that I had purchased almost 4 years before and continue my training with calisthenics once again.
To ensure that I was making progress, I decided to try out Body by Rings by Daniel Vadnal of FitnessFAQs.
Daniel is one of the most credible and trusted sources of information on the internet when it comes to bodyweight training. Since I was heavily in the mindset of bodybuilding before the pandemic broke, I figured Body by Rings would be the perfect reintroduction to calisthenics and a good way to keep (or gain) my muscle I built from my bodybuilding training.
Introduction To The Body By Rings Program
The premise of the Body By Rings program is to gain muscle throughout 18 weeks by using nothing but gymnastic rings for equipment (and having somewhere to hang them).
The prerequisites necessary to the program provide a very small barrier to entry, which are as follows:
This barrier to entry makes the program appealing to those of all training backgrounds, but in my opinion, the prerequisites could afford to be higher.
With a prior background in calisthenics and a few years of bodybuilding, I found the program was very challenging at first. Dips on parallel bars compared to gymnastic rings are a completely different animal, and the straight arm element of having the rings turned out (abbreviated as RTO) is not exactly easy to develop on parallel bars.
The good thing is that the program offers rep and set ranges (e.g. 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps) on most exercises, as opposed to “straight sets” (3 sets of 10 reps) which allow room for improvement over time, without the need to rush an exercise or progression.
Taking a step back and quickly touching on the production value and layout of the program: it is top tier, akin to the value of Daniel’s programs. Everything is laid out in a functional, organised, aesthetic fashion, with PDF and Excel sheet options for printing out or tracking your progress as you complete the program.
An E-book is included as well as a plethora of training tutorial and explanation videos, which are imperative to the progress of beginners or those new to bodyweight training. Gymnastic rings can be a very tricky tool to utilize, so having expert explanations makes the user feel much safer, sturdier, and ready to progress.
My Results After 18 Weeks of Body By Rings
I could not have been happier with the results that I saw over the months that I did Body By Rings.
I enjoyed the program so much that when my gym reopened after the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, I continued to bring my rings to the gym TRX training room, hang them from the tower and do the Body By Rings programming there.
A gym friend mentioned to me “I don’t know what you’ve been doing since the gym has been closed, but whatever it is, it’s definitely working for you”, and another who had not seen me in 3 months told me “It looks like you did a bunch of curls and push-ups before you came in here, your arms look much bigger”. (I promise, those were his exact words!).
Body By Rings: Program Review and Specifics
So, what was it that exactly got me these otherworldly gains?
The contents of Body By Rings. Three, five weeklong training phases with a de-load at the end of each phase (18 weeks total, as advertised) utilizing carefully selected exercises on the rings.
Each training week features two “push” sessions and two “pull” sessions.
Legs are not included, but I was barbell squatting and doing some form of Nordic hinge or curl for the lower body while I worked through the 18-week Body By Rings program.
Each session lasted me an average of 1.5 hours, sometimes hitting a high end of 2 hours when I trained outside in the heat.
Each session featured compound and isometric exercises, that target the full scope of upper body muscles. Chest, back, shoulders, triceps, biceps, traps, and core all get a thorough workout using Body By Rings. The instability of the rings smokes these muscles to a degree that standard weightlifting exercises cannot.
Body By Rings is not intended to be a program to teach you advanced calisthenics skills but to gain as much muscle as possible with bodyweight. That being said, you are prescribed some prerequisite movements to the one arm pull-up, such as the mantle chin-up (shown below) and archer pull-ups, which can prove to be a little too difficult for a complete beginner to this style of training.
One movement that gave me noticeable gains was the ring “pelican curl” which involves leaning forward with your arms outstretched behind you and curling yourself back to your hands. This places great tension on the biceps and made mine sore after every session.
Another movement including in Body By Rings, Ring tricep extensions, have been a thorn in my side and have given me some issues. I have tried to use every form cue possible with them, I’ve researched the difference between elbows in and elbows slightly flared, and I’ve studied the function of the tricep and the elbow, but I cannot do this exercise without some form of pain or a weird clicking or snapping in my elbow. I advise anybody who experiences even the slightest issue with their elbows during this exercise to stop training, re-evaluate your form, and try again a different day. If after a certain amount of attempts you can’t seem to fix the issue, substitute the exercise entirely.
Beyond that, I thoroughly enjoyed every exercise prescribed in the program and was left sore for multiple days after specific workouts.
One last thing I’d like to mention is that the program is easily scalable and repeatable, technically forever (although it’s recommended by anybody in the strength training community to eventually change up your program) via varying “intensities”, which are calisthenics’ version of adding weight to the bar. If normal ring chin-ups get too easy for you, over time you can progress to L-sit ring chin-ups or even weighted ring chin-ups with a weighted vest or weight belt.
Overall, Body By Rings is one of the best programs you can do to build muscle by bodyweight exercises. It’s effective in allowing the user to progress over time using a combination of compound and isolation exercises to target the full scope of upper body muscles.
It is a program that I will be returning to in the future many times when gym access isn’t available to me or my body needs a new stimulus to grow.
Barbell Strength Training x Calisthenics