Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Ring Training Aids Comparison

Before I first tried to hold a simple support position on the rings last October, I didn't fully appreciate the immense level of strength that Olympic gymnasts possess through training with this relatively simple apparatus. Of all the training tools that i have used, they are the most efficient tool for strengthening athletes of all levels using only bodyweight resistance. The question is; How do the rings give such potent strength (and often muscle) gains without using greater than bodyweight resistance? The answer is quite simply leverage. Many of the positions on the rings are what we call "disadvantaged leverage" positions. In the same way that lifting a weight attached to your elbow is a lot easier than lifting the same weight attached to your wrist despite no change in mass, holding many static ring positions require an enormous degree of strength due to their tendency to place much of the mass away from the pivot. It is with this principle in mind that the following two tools were designed. They allow the force generated by bodyweight and leverage to be adjusted. This opens up the option for gradual progression of such feats as the Iron Cross by reducing the leverage variable. There are two models that I have tried over the past five months, Ring Training.coms Elite Strength Trainer and the Gymnova Educano.

The Price

Gymnova Educano
$309.75 (£211.50)*

Elite Strength Trainer $110.95 (£75.75)

*Gymnova is a British company, therefore sold in sterling

There is clearly an enormous price difference between these two pieces of kit. While this is in part due to the exchange rate bumping up the price of the Educano once it's converted into dollars, it has to be said that £211.50 is a huge sum to be charging for a ring training aid.


I would say that this could be down to just a matter of preference if it weren't for the fact that the majority of people I've tested this with hadn't voted in favor of the Educano when the question of comfort was raised. It's up to the user to decide whether this is an important point but the Elite Strength Trainer does feel somewhat harsh to use - particularly in the wrist. It is not painful however.

The Design


The Strap

The Educano fits snugly onto the arm and reaches just up to my elbow. You grip one end while the other is attached by a Velcro strap on the upper forearm. I have used the Educano slightly longer out of the two and have found that in six months of use, the strap has failed only once -the Velcro simply opened up- and it was possible that this was due to it having been poorly attached in the first place by my spotter.
I have seen it undo only a handful of times with other people and only ever on people with large forearms. The reliability of the strap is due to two things. Firstly; the end attached to the Educano is stitched in, turning this potential point of failure into a point of strength. Secondly; the Velcro strip on the strap is very long, allowing for maximum surface area contact and a stronger link.


The Educano allows for five incremental progressions. These five levels are each five centimetres apart and stop 10cm away from the hand. One thing I found was that five centimetre jumps towards the hand made for very big leaps in difficulty between levels. Especially now I've progressed to level 4, the jump from level 4 to level 5 is enormous. This is the Educanos first main weakness.

It's second soon follows. Upon reaching level 5, you realise that the jump from level 5 to the ring itself (see diagram above) is 10cm -the equivalent of two levels!-. Combine this with the fact that each level increase is greater the closer to the hand the ropes are attached, it becomes very difficult to progress to the Iron cross from level 5 using solely this device.


A strength of the educano is its flexibilty of use. The above
weakness in which the hardest setting only reaches the wrist is also a strength. The design allows a wide gap at wrist level (see photo at top) which allows the wrist to flex. While wrist flexion should be avoided during the Iron cross progressions, it is completely nessecary in performing Butterfly pulls (see previous post). Without this gap allowing the wrist to flex, the wrist would be forced into the metal housing making the butterfly Pull far too painful.

I have attempted to use the device to progress towards Front levers and even Planches on rings but found it to be inappropriate for these purposes.

Elite Strength Trainer

The Strap (Rant warning - Please don't judge the EST on the strap alone)

I'm going to go right ahead and say it; the strap for the Elite Strength Trainer needs further development. I believe the limitations of the strap add an unnecessary element of frustration to an otherwise great piece of kit. The problem is quite simple; while the Educano's strap is attached with velcro at only one end -allowing only one point of weakness-, the strap of the Elite Strength Trainer is held with velcro at both ends (Thus two points of weakness!!). Unfortunately, it doesn't end there. The band of velcro that secures the strap to the device (but not the one that binds your arm to the device) is only 3cm wide! This is insufficient to afford any confidence to an 80kg man working the cross, I can attest as it failed on me three times in a row on the first use.
This is not the end of the world however: I borrowed a friends sewing machine and did some serious stitching along that 3cm piece of velcro, binding that side of the strap in place and thus removing the biggest problem altogether. It worked so well that I was surprised to find the EST had more strength on the other side of the strap than the Educano due to a very adhesive velcro.


Now this is why I urged you to read on past the strap rant at the begginning. The Elite Strength Trainer has a total of eleven levels! Each level is only three centimetres apart as opposed to the Educano's five levels with a five centimetre gap between each. This makes gradual progressions much easier to handle as they are broken down into small incremental levels. Additionally; the Elite Strength Trainer lacks another of the Educano's weaknesses. The progression holes reach right up to the hand and don't just end frustratingly at the wrist. This means that you can gradually train your cross strength with the device right up until you're lifting the equivalent of full bodyweight if you like.


As the Elite Strength Trainer lacks the Educano's above weakness, it also lacks its strength in the flexibility of use. Without the gap at the wrist (bearing in mind that it's the same gap that prevents progressions right up to wrist level in the Educano), training Butterflies on the EST are just far too painful. The wrist is forced against the metal housing which hurts.. a lot. I believe that having the progressions up to the hand level and being able to do butterflies comfortably are mutually exclusive and it is therefore a positive point for each device that each one takes care of one so that you can decide which it is that you require. The EST has a great little feature in that the handle can be moved between one of the positions to cater for people with different length arms. It's not a problem I've really noticed with the Educano but it's certainly a feature that makes the EST more comfortable than it would be without.



Strap: 4/5
Comfort: 5/5
Flexibility: 4/5
Progressions: 3/5
Price: 1/5

Total: 68%

If you weigh more than 95Kg or wish to train Butterfly Pulls to supplement your cross pulls then this is definately worth thinking about. The price is my biggest issue with this one as it'll have you reaching deep into your pockets - especially if you're not in the Uk.

Elite Strength Trainer

Strap: 2/5
Comfort: 4/5
Flexibility: 3/5
Progressions: 5/5
Price: 5/5

Total: 76%

If you wish to use the device right up to the cross and don't mind stitching up one side of the strap, the EST offers far more gradual progressions and a well thought out design.

Note: I have done my best to be as unbiased as possible while reviewing these two items and have relied heavily on the opinions of many others and their feedback on many points.


  1. thanks! very helpfull what level are you with the elite strength trraininer

  2. Hi Flo,

    The highest level that I have reached on the Elite Strength Trainer is level 7. I have since moved onto training for the Cross on the rings alone. (Twice a week on an Olympic length set (18") of rings with a spotter and using a false grip; and once a week on my Elite Rings with the strap at about five feet long using no spotter or false grip).

    I'm glad that you found this review useful:)

  3. AnonymousJune 09, 2011

    Thank you for the detailed review. Now I'm training cross on rings and it's very difficult, so I need some helpful device like the above.