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How To Use Rings For Better Tension in Climbing

Learning how to use the rings or TRX system at your gym can help you build tension while resisting injury

Arguably, board climbing remains the best way to increase core strength for climbing, but the high impact style exists more as a form of power training than strength training. How then can we increase our bodies’ strengths without putting our ligaments at risk for injury?

Recent years have seen the increasing use of calisthenic exercises adopted into the sport. Most every climbing gym has access to TRX bands or wooden rings, but how should we use this to increase our tension for climbing?


The tri set breaks down into three individual exercises.

  • I’s
    • First, press into a push up position on the rings. Press forward and perform a rollout by pushing your hands as far ahead your shoulders as possible. Contract your abdominals and bring your hands back to your shoulders. You will conclude your first repetition in the push up position. Complete 10 repetitions.
  • T’s
    • Begin in the push up position as before. Instead of extending your arms forward, allow your arms to come apart. Slowly lower your chest to the ground as your hands come away from one another. The exercise should make your body looks like a T. The ideal for this exercise has a slight bend in the elbows and maintains straight wrists.
    • It is common when fatigued for climbers to allow their wrists to open with knuckles reaching toward the back of the forearm. This puts a strain on the wrist. With this physical style of movement, it is important to only go as low as proper form allows. Through multiple sessions over time, your body will better learn the beta required for this exercise and will strengthen through lumbar, abdominals, traps, lats, pectorals, and biceps.
    • What is most beneficial about this portion of the tri-set is the sheer connectivity approach within a compression context. One repetition will have you return to the push up position. Complete 10 repetitions.
  • Alternates
    • Once more, begin in the push up position. Allow your right hand to go forward as with the I, but angle it 45 degrees to the right. Allow your left hand to go behind at 45 degrees from your body. Go as low as you can while maintaining good form and squeeze your way back to the push up position.
    • As with the T’s, approach this exercise through compression by having your palms squeeze together through the original eccentric movement and the subsequent concentric movement. After returning to the push up position, push your left hand ahead of your body and allow the right hand to come back. This motion should act as a reflection of the original. Complete five repetition on either side.

Completing each of these exercises constitutes one tri-set composed of total 30 movements. You will complete two more three sets for a total of 90 repetitions. The goal is to rest between 20 seconds and a minute between each of the exercises. The less you rest, the harder the exercise will be. To that effect, the lower you go, the harder it will be. The exercise can be made easier by raising the rings off the floor. Do not complete the exercise off of your knees. Instead, increase your body’s angle with the floor.

Ensure you wrists are locked for each of these exercises and that you have a slight bend in your elbows. Additionally, push as much weight through your feet as is possible. Do this without twisting your hips as you will lose some of the exercises benefits by effectively drop-kneeing through the eccentric movement.

The I’s reflect climbing movement in which you must reach for a hold high above your head, while maintaining tension through your feet. The T’s reflect compressive movement better than any other compressive exercise outside of climbing. The Aleternates reflect moving off a under-cling and snatching a hold above your head.


Where the above exercise simulates the compressive elements of climbing, it does not address the process of retaining tension once on the wall in an overhang. To better isolate the lumbar and shoulders, raise the rings off the ground. Hang from the rings. Complete the same I’s, T’s and Alternates by retracting the rings from one another. As your hands move above or away from your centre, your body will raise off the ground.

Starting position for I’s, T’s, and Alternates.

This will be significantly more difficult for most every climber. As such, make the exercise easier for yourself by increasing the angle from the ground.