Getting fit to ring

Any ringers who have not rung for a long period in the past, might remember the physical problems experienced following the first practice night. The next day they might have sore muscles, raw hands and shoulder pain. It is inevitable they when we do restart ringing we will experience some problems, but we wondered what could be done to help us keep physically fit in preparation for the return to ringing.

Exercise your ringing muscles

First, what exercise do we gain from ringing? We know ringing is not going to keep us super fit, it is gentle physical exercise otherwise all ringers would look like athletes. What form of exercise is ringing and how can we help ourselves, so when the day comes and we can return to our ropes we are not too stiff and feeble to do so?

What does bell ringing do for us physically?

  • Balance – uneven paths, floors, hazards, stairs.
  • Lower limb strength – climbing stairs, checking bells, climbing ladders, crouching under bells etc.
  • Shoulder flexibility – up and down 5000 times plus.
  • Straight posture – allows a good reach at backstroke, which improves rope control.

Words that spring to mind are strength, balance, posture, grip, coordination, spatial awareness, stamina and more. That’s without the cognitive effect of mental agility, thinking and concentration. What a brilliant activity!

Here are some suggestions for each. All the exercises can be done standing up or sitting.

Not all of us manage to just jump up and get moving as many will have physical or even mental difficulties. The greatest message to all elderly is to move! No matter how little. Others will have various health conditions, so this is general advice and if concerned at all visit your local physiotherapist for specific advice and ask to have exercises adapted for bell ringing.


  • Stand with your feet together.
  • Stand in tandem – heel of left foot in front of the toe of the right foot – then the other way round.
  • Progression 1 – do this with arms raised in front.
  • Progression 2 – do this with eyes closed.
  • Progression 3 – do this with arms in front and eyes closed.

Lower limb strength

  • Sit to stand from a dining room chair (or similar height and firmness). Complete as many as you can in 20 seconds.
  • Progression 1 – aim to beat your score.
  • Progression 2 – increase time by increments of 10 seconds up to one minute.

Shoulder flexibility

  • When you walk through a door (provided you are not carrying anything) reach up to touch the door frame above your head and take another step so your arms are stretched.
  • Stand with your back against a wall, feet about 3-4 inches in front of the wall arms out to the side with bent elbows. Keep your arms as close to the wall as you can and raise them up so they are above your head.
  • Progression – do this 5040 times (only joking!)

A straight posture

  • Sit up straight on dining chair. Hold still.
  • Correct your posture as you pass a window or mirror.
  • Reach to touch high shelves (put teabags here).
  • Stand up against wall, shoulders back.
  • Think posture from your belly.
  • Grow tall, walk tall.

Movement snacks

Don’t sit working for long periods of time, try to break up the sitting with movement snacks selecting ideas from all the above activities for 10 minutes.

Dual tasking

Whilst being active why not revise methods lines, compositions, handbell pairs or calling. This enhances memory and recall – just what the Tower Captain ordered.

Remember that there is no substitute for the real thing so be prepared to have some aches once we are able to return.


The Get Active Guide to all from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.

Fives ways to stay positive through lockdown by BBC News.

Be active with a long-term condition.

Yoga for ringers

Early on in lockdown the need for keeping those ringing muscles exercised was recognised by Mary Jones and those folks in the Ringing World. The "Yoga for ringers" article is reproduced here with some excellent supporting photos.

» Yoga for ringers

Ringing a single bell

Take the pressure off and ask to ring a single bell before you ring with others. Make sure you have someone you trust nearby. You probably won't need them to intervene but its good to know they're there. If you're feeling really nervous, start with the bell down and ring up until you feel uncomfortable and then ring down again. Take stock, discuss with your mentor and try again, aiming to ring up higher the next time. You can even ask to do single handstrokes and backstrokes first. It's your confidence as much as your technique that is the issue, so go for it if you wish or build up in small steps if that's the type of person you are. Your mentor is there to help you and give advice.

You might want to chime or ring the 6.00pm service bell as a reminder of how to handle a bell. It will also help stretch your muscles.

And now for something a bit more active

The Peterborough Diocesan Guild have produced a series of YouTube videos with exercises targetted at those ringing muscles. Ideal for those who'd like a slightly more active work-out.


A good straight pull

Here's an exercise you can try at home.


Lucy Gwynne, Warks


Jane Mellor, Wokingham