If you head to Amazon and search “CrossFit Grips”, you’ll be bombarded with a TON of brands that are usually just all the same ones with different branding on them. The problem about the sport of fitness growing is that everyone wants a piece of pie and it just over saturates the market. Another problem is that it confuses the shopper and leaves you with a sub-par item.
Vulcan Strength’s supplier for gymnastics grips is a company that specializes in gymnastics equipment, Bailie. Their grips are also made in the United States, so you can rest assured they’re not a cheap import rebrand and they’ve been used in serious gymnastics competitions (read: Olympics). Vulcan is a company I’ve worked with for a long time and if there’s anything I know about them, it’s that they don’t stock junk.
Right out of the box, you’re going to notice that the leather on these grips is extremely stiff while thickness is pretty much on par with any other gymnastics grips. The break in process is not for the faint of heart, the edges of the grips are pretty sharp initially and it takes a few workouts for that to go away. Instructions per Vulcan’s website say that you should roll the grips around before you use them, which I did and made the grips much more pliable.
Another difference between the Vulcan grips is that they taper in the middle of the grip, which is actually pretty nice as it sheds some of the bulkiness away of having grips on, though I think the top of the grip could be slightly narrower. I still would not use these grips for any kind of barbell movement because they’re just a bit stiff. Fortunately it’s really easy to just take them off and flip them over when you head to the barbell. The velcro strap isn’t too out of the ordinary and has enough to go over a set of wrist wraps.
Once you get past the strenuous break-in process, the Vulcan grips provide some of the best holding power to be found on any set of grips. Put a light dusting of chalk on your hands and these things keep you locked down to the bar, coated, bare steel or even wood gymnastics rings. I usually have issues with too much leather bunching up in the middle of my palm with grips for ring muscle ups, but since these taper, that isn’t an issue I’ve had with the Vulcan grips.
The best thing about the Vulcan grips is that they’re also one of the best deals when it comes to grips. You don’t have to sacrifice performance for price because a pair of grips will only set you back a cool $20 shipped; which is pretty much in line with the junk you’re going to find on Amazon. They’re a bitch and a half to break in, but the performance for the price is unbeatable and based on that alone, I recommend the Vulcan grips.
Muscle-ups are tough.
They’re the holy grail of CrossFit but once you get a taste, you can’t help but to want to do them more often. Lots of things are require when it comes to getting your muscle-ups. At my gym, I have a standard progression of must “have” things to train in order for the athlete to get their muscle up. There’s a ton of questions during this phase, a lot of “What if…” this and that, but something that isn’t really spoken of is what you’re actually doing the movement on. I know when I first got my muscle-up, it was on some really thin, slippery wood rings. When I finally got to try out nicer, beefier rings, my whole world changed; never again would I look at rings the same.
The Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) standard ring size is 1.1″ OD, while this may prove better for female athletes with smaller hands, holding these with a false grip as a male hurts like a mother. Typical “CrossFit” ring size is 1.25″ OD, this what you’re going to see used in the CrossFit games, as the equipment is supplied by Rogue Fitness; more comfortable for bigger hands, tougher for smaller hands. If you don’t think that amount of size would make a difference, grab a 15kg bar compared to a 20kg bar. Huge difference, and that’s only 3-3.5mm.
So, what is the standard for how to size your rings? Whatever you can do muscle-ups on, comfortably. Personally, I don’t have big hands, but I don’t have small hands either. That’s why FringeSport created their Bomba rings in a size that accessible to most people, 1.15″ OD. Falling right between FIG and CrossFit standards, the diameter of the Bomba rings is going to be perfect for most people; not to thin or thick. I’ve got all three sizes of rings loaded up at my gym, but the one I find myself going for the most are the Bomba rings.
Texture is another big thing when it comes to a quality set of rings. The rings I learned muscle-ups on were awful, shiny and slippery. Let’s not even get started on plastic rings that you’d never get a good grip on; you shouldn’t have to tape your rings up. If your grip is constantly slipping out of the rings, it not only makes your muscle-ups harder to do, it’s also a lot more dangerous. Before I even knew the difference, my coach at the time was telling me about how certain rings felt “softer”. Sounds like a crazy way to describe them, but it actually works when you get your hands on wood this smooth (lol). The artisans that make the Bomba rings use Baltic birch with a triple sanding process that makes the rings texturally perfect. Good ol’ American wood working. No rough edges or divots in the wood to tear up your hands, but “soft” enough to provide ample grip even without much chalk. I could do muscle-ups for days on the Bomba rings, if I could do muscle-ups for days that is.
Hanging your Bomba rings up comes with ease with the included straps. 15′ is plenty long to hang rings from just about anything, and feeding them through the cam buckle system is easy as could be. The straps are a beefy 1.5″ in width so you can count on them not failing on you any time soon. Not to mention the actual cam itself is hefty and is one solid piece of metal.
Will getting a quality set of rings help you get your muscle-ups? Possibly, it definitely couldn’t hurt your chances. Practice and consistency is really the only thing that will definitely get you them, so owning a pair of rings wouldn’t be such a bad idea either. Muscle-ups aren’t the only thing you can do on rings either. Pull-ups, dips, toes to ring, push-ups, rows, skin the cat and the list goes on! If you’re on the go, you can just pack up your rings and go to a park for a workout with such versatile pieces of equipment.
As Allen Iverson once said: “Practice”. That’s the only thing that’s going to really help you get muscle-ups, but you should be practicing on FringeSport’s Bomba rings.