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Iron rings are an ancient martial arts training tool designed to help people become physically stronger. The use of these rings, which is basically a kind of weight training, primarily comes from Chinese martial arts traditions. Usually, the rings weigh about a pound (0.4 kg) each, although this can vary, and they can actually be made of either brass or iron. When using iron rings, the practitioner will generally wear several on each arm while performing movements or holding positions. Over time, practitioners believe that this training can add significant strength to the upper body.
There are a few different methods for using iron rings. For example, some people use them in conjunction with static poses that could be compared to yoga. The practitioner will stand still in a position that puts stress on particular muscles while wearing the rings, which increases the resistance. In other cases, trainees might practice doing specific punches while wearing the rings, or they might even use the rings in sequenced form training where they go through a long series of traditional training movements.
Most weight-training methods have the potential to increase strength because muscles tend to adapt to greater strain over time by becoming more powerful, firmer, and larger. Iron rings can potentially have a similar benefit even though the weight isn't necessarily quite as large as some other weight-training methods allow for. Also, many practitioners eventually get to the point of using more than six rings at a time, which can add up to significant weight, depending on how heavy the rings are.
The fact that iron rings are made to fit loosely around the forearm adds some other potential benefits to the training. For one thing, the way the rings move around on the arm and change position constantly might help strengthen certain support muscles that may not get used with weight-training machines. Additionally, many practitioners believe that the repetitive force of the rings hitting parts of the arm and hand might actually toughen those areas.
Since many Chinese fighting styles use the forearm as an important striking surface, this sort of toughening might be especially desirable. Some experts also believe practitioners might become more skilled in their movements from practicing with the rings on. This is partly because the movement of the rings can work as a reminder to do things correctly, and partly because the weight will help the trainee recognize mechanical flaws by making incorrect movements more difficult than correct ones.