Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Review: Rogue Rings (Rogue Fitness)

Rogue Rings

So here's the review of the Rogue Rings (USD $72.00) which I ordered from Rogue Fitness some time ago. For those of you who might prefer a brief overview of the product, the rings were of very impressive quality, finely crafted, a cinch to set up, and looked to be extremely durable. Not to mention, they're highly aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Black powder-coated steel rings hanging from black straps emblazoned with the red and white Rogue Fitness logo set against a gray background do indeed make for a pretty aggressive setup. I highly recommend them to anyone who's looking to purchase their first set of rings. Click on the accompanying images to enlarge them.

Order Process/Customer Service/Shipping:
I placed my order through the Rogue Fitness website (linked above). The order process was smooth and painless, and it was easy to navigate the website. I also signed up for a customer account with Rogue Fitness since it was my first time placing an order with the company. As was typical of online orders, I made my payment using my credit card information on a secure portal.

The Rogue Rings were shipped via UPS ground service from Ohio, to my place in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I received my rings almost two weeks after I'd placed my order. I initially thought that I'd receive them earlier, as my expectations were based on how most of the equipment I've ordered online from other athletic companies have generally reached my doorstep in less than a week or so. I received an email from Rogue a couple of days after I'd placed my order, informing me that the next batch of Rogue Rings were to be shipped out altogether the following week.

If I'm not mistaken, I understand that these rings are carefully crafted and personally inspected, batch by batch, by the good people at Rogue Fitness and so I wouldn't hold the somewhat delayed processing time against them. I also received emails from Rogue Fitness regarding the status of my order as well as shipping information, which were definitely appreciated.

Texture and Grip:
The Rogue Rings are crafted out of black, heavy-gauge steel, with an aggressive texture. The powder coating allows for a secure grip on the rings, and holds chalk very well. Personally, I wound black athletic tape around the rings (but that was purely a personal preference - I have unbelievably sweaty palms and grip is a huge factor when it comes to equipment considerations), and that worked awesome too. That being said, it wouldn't have been a problem for me to use the rings straight up without the tape, just chalk.
Closeup of my taped rings

For those of you who are fortunate enough not to be afflicted by excessively sweaty paws, I believe the texture of the rings is aggressive enough for you to maintain a strong grip, even in the absence of chalk. In my opinion, the rings are not too textured to the point of being abrasive, which is good particularly if you don't want to rip the skin off your wrists when performing muscle-ups using the false grip.

Design and Specifications:
The rings are sturdily constructed, with no discernible welding seams. If I'm not mistaken, each ring is made from a single piece of metal and machined down to exact specifications, which explains the lack of seams. The circumference of the rings forms a perfect circle, and the thickness of the rings will accommodate any trainee's grip. I didn't perform exact measurements but I estimate the thickness of the rings to fall somewhere between 1" and 1.5", which makes for a comfortable, secure grip.

As mentioned earlier, the rings are constructed out of steel. This makes them somewhat heavier (2 lbs per ring), but you can rest in the secure (ha ha, pun!) knowledge that they will be able to tolerate great amounts of stress.

As perhaps the best testimony to the strength of the mounting straps that come with the rings, Bill Henninger, the owner of Rogue Fitness, actually used a Rogue Ring strap to drag one of his client's vehicles which was stuck after heavy snowfall. You can see the video here. Attaching the strap between the vehicles, he pulled his client's car about 600 m without the strap giving out. If that doesn't tell you enough about the strength and durability of the mounting straps, I don't know what will.
Closeup of the buckle and strap on the Rogue Rings

The straps (1.5 inches in width) are fashioned out of a strong, relatively stiff material that isn't too harsh on the arms either. Most people new to rings will naturally lean on the straps for support when performing exercises like dips, and these straps don't dig into your skin. Granted, a little redness is to be expected where the straps come into contact with your arms, but nothing abrasive, thanks to the smoothness of the straps. The ends of the straps are cut to a point and tapered for easy insertion into the buckles. The buckles are made out of steel and the catch on the buckle can be depressed enough to allow for easy insertion of the straps. The mouth of the buckle is knurled (presumably to allow for friction and stability once the catch is closed). I was extremely pleased with how easy it was to insert the straps into the buckle, as that was one of my fundamental considerations when it came to purchasing a pair of rings.

Numerous experiences with rings of other brands that featured flimsy, frayed straps and buckles that would hardly yield to pressure had left me with a certain aversion to mounting rings. The frustration that comes with trying unsuccessfully to mount rings at 6:00 am in the morning is hardly welcome. I remember taking up to ten minutes to mount one ring, and then needing another ten to set up the other. Hardly an efficacious use of time, considering I could probably have completed the workout in the time it had taken to set the rings up.

I had no such problem with the Rogue Rings (which even comes with an instruction sheet for the handiness-impaired) - I threw the straps over the mounting point (which can be a pullup bar, a tree branch, almost anything at all that you deem strong and stable enough to hold your weight - since if anything gives out it'll be the mounting structure, not the rings) - ran the tapered ends of the straps through the rings, ran them through the buckle, and completed the setup in around one to two minutes. There is a velcro loop attached near the buckle in the event you want to roll up the excess strap length to prevent it from getting in the way. Although I didn't make use of the velcro attachments, it definitely is a nice option to have.

Training/General Observations:
I tried out my rings by performing dips, pushups, muscle-up progressions, skin-the-cats and other gymnastic moves, and they held my weight superbly without budging. The Rogue Rings arrived in a 5x10x10 box - a compact tool, easy to transport around and bring to playgrounds or fitness corners where you can pretty much construct an entire workout around them. Throw a jump rope, a kettlebell, and a power wheel in the back of your car together with the rings, and you have unlimited workout options at your disposal.
Rings on a ring set!

The rings alone are sufficient to keep you occupied for hours as it's amazing how much they can add to your workout regimen. The added element of instability that comes from using the rings adds valuable difficulty to any workout - for instance, performing ring dips and pushups instead of regular dips and pushups enables you to fully engage your stabilizer muscles and strengthen your midline. Ring rows are also an excellent progression for those who are working towards unassisted pullups. Not to mention the plethora of gymnastic moves - front and back levers, L-sits, planches, (and the king of all - the iron cross) that you can attempt or work towards by using a set of rings.

Other Considerations:
The only conceivable drawback as to the Rogue Rings which I can think of now is that the steel rings will be very cold in winter, which might have an adverse effect on grip. Of course, you can easily solve that problem by storing your rings indoors in an insulated environment, instead of outside or in an uninsulated garage. Also, the Rogue Rings are slightly heavier than the Elite Rings and the Xtreme Rings (the other two options for rings in the market), which might have a slight effect on portability, but the durability of the Rogue Rings is uncompromised and CrossFitters typically enjoy carrying around heavy things anyway, so I don't think that'll be much of a factor. It remains to be seen if the quality of the buckle and straps remain strong over time for easy ring setup to take place.

Overview:
All in all, I find the Rogue Rings at USD $72.00 to be a worthwhile investment for any CrossFitter who is serious about acquiring valuable skills that can only be honed with ring practice. As an aside, Rogue Fitness is fast establishing itself as a major player in the CrossFit equipment market, recently releasing its own line of Do-Win weightlifting shoes, coming up with a reasonably-priced Olympic bar for barbell movements, and also home to a host of package options for CrossFitters looking for good equipment deals.

In my opinion, these rings get a solid 9 out of 10.

7 comments:

-Fred. said...

I wish I had waited to buy rings, because I would have grabbed a pair of these (BTW - Doug is using Rogue Rings at HyperfitUSA now). I have the Elite Rings (v1) and though they, too, are nice; I hate the fact that you have to thread the strap through two small slots in the ring to hang them. (v2 of the Elite Rings - which came out a WEEK after I got my rings fixes this issue with a single slot, but why have a slot at all?).

I've had the Rogue Do-Win weightlifting shoes for a week now and so far I really like them.

Excellent review, BTW.

-Fred.

And, yes, we do need to do dinner some night!

Jay C said...

Feng;
Nice new design on blog, great review on rings.
Be well.

Hey Fred, how goes it.

Spider63 said...

That is an awesome review! I had seen the photos before but I did not have time to read the review until now! What is the weight limit on those?

Carl said...

i like to buy a set of rings but can't decide between rogue or elite. it seems you have experience with elite rings as well? which do you recommend?

Feng said...

Fred -- Yup, I know, I hate it when new products come out right after I've purchased an existing product! In fact, Rogue is coming up with the Rogue Portable Gymnastic System - link can be found here: http://www.roguefitness.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=34&products_id=390

Portable pullup bar and rings. How sweet is that? With regards to the Elite Rings v1, you can probably just skip passing the straps through the slots and hang them like you would any other rings.

Glad the shoes are serving you well!

Jay C -- Hey Jay! Thanks for the kind comments! Hope you are well. Shoot me an email sometime!

Spider63 -- Thanks! The rings are awesome. I think they will have no problem with loads as heavy as 400 pounds and beyond (just an estimate). I don't know the specifics but the heavy gauge steel tube used to construct the rings, coupled with the heavy duty nylon strap and buckle, ought to hold out under any human weight. I would say the only factor you would have to worry about (in terms of support and safety) would have to be the mounting point of the rings. If that's a firm support, everything will hold up well!

Carl -- Thanks for stopping by! I really like the material the Elite Rings (version 2) are constructed out of - you can see a close-up here:
http://www.ringtraining.com/pages/eliteringsii.html
The texture is aggressive but still fine-grained, which doesn't tear up your hands. In terms of grip I would rate them slightly above the Rogue Rings.

There's a slot that comes with the Elite Rings but you can choose to forgo passing the straps through the slot and just hang the rings as you would the Rogues. I personally prefer free-hanging rings.

The Elite Rings are made out of plastic, unlike the Rogue Rings, but I wouldn't assume that is a compromise in terms of strength/durability. The good thing about using plastic is that the Elite Rings are considerably lighter than the Rogues. I don't have them with me right now but according to the website they weigh less than a pound apiece.

The main bear I have with the Elites is that it was very difficult to feed the strap through the mouth of the buckle. Even with my Elite Rings v2 I spent plenty of time agonizing over fitting the straps through the rings. And that's pretty much the last thing you want to do when you want to get started on a workout. Of course, you can just leave the straps in place, attach a carabiner to the straps, and just hook the carabiner over your mounting point whenever you want to use the rings. But that won't work for mounting points that are high up or too thick in breadth, for instance a tree branch, since you'll have to hook the carabiner around the mounting point.

So I would probably pick the Rogues over the Elites by virtue of the easy mounting process, thanks to the buckle system on the Rogues. They're priced around the same. You might also want to look at Coach Sommer's Xtreme Rings if you're looking for a cheaper alternative - www.gymnasticbodies.com (look under the Store). I've tried them too (but really briefly at CrossFit NYC) and I thought they were great value for the price (USD $49.99). The grip width of the Xtremes seemed to be slightly smaller in terms of diameter. Rings were easy to mount, almost as easy as Rogues, but straps were also thinner. Rings were made out of plastic and had the most aggressive surface texture out of the three, I thought. Had I known the Xtremes had come out on the market, I might have bought those in place of the Rogues. But I don't regret the Rogues.

Alright, hope this helps. Feel free to shoot me an email at ikiddyounot05(at)hotmail(dot)com if you have any more questions!

Carl said...

wow, you are the man Feng. that is probably the most detailed reply I have seen, a review by itself! bravo bravo

After reading reviews, I guess I will go with the cheaper xtreme rings.

Keep up with the good work cuz you have just gain a fan. :D

Feng said...

carl -- why, thank you so much for your kind words! Xtreme Rings are awesome, I think you'll love them! Let me know how they are once you get them. Also, Coach Sommer has great resources on his website w.r.t ring training and other gymnastic skills, so check it out!