Friday, April 25, 2008

Review: Rogue Rings (Rogue Fitness)

Note: I posted this on my training blog but I thought I'd also cross-post it here since the search term "CrossFit" seems to be one of the top terms linking to this blog.

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.

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.


wil said...

ORQ gym in SG! Really like your new blog topic by TR. Very apt reminder upon graduation.

Feng said...

wil -- yup that's one of my favorite quotes ever. congrats on graduation, my friend!!!

Andy said...

Great review. The bit about the ease-of-setup is key for me. The rings being cold in cold weather is a good point, though. Does the tape help that at all?

russell said...

well Im new to this kind of thing, but I herd of these things called a muscle up, did my reserch almost got the cxf rings(I think thats what there called) but did a little more reserch and found these guys! called them up the guy i talked to was very nice and (helpfull) Im looking forward to continue buying awsome produvt from them!

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