The tire flip is an incredible exercise. I know I’m hardly new to the party on this one, but in my workout today I performed a bunch of tire flips and it really hit home just now great they are. Although I’ve made the tyre flip part of my workouts for years, I’d never really given them any deep thought – they were just something I did.
In terms of a full body exercise, there are few that can match it. It trains so much muscle, it burns a lot of calories and it’s an excellent functional movement.
Before we go any further, I apologise to my British readers – I know we spell it ‘tyre’, but the bigger search traffic for tyre/tire flipping comes from the USA, so for the sake of search traffic, we’re going to go with the Americanised spelling!
Oh, one other thing. When I’m referring to a tire, I mean a big, heavy tractor tire – not a piddly little car tire!
So why the sudden interest in the tire flip?
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about minimalist training recently, because the global lockdown means that access to gyms has been cut. There’s a limit to how many burpees, push ups and pull ups you can do. Yeah, they’re all great exercises in their own right, but variety is the spice of life and a tire can provide that. It’s an easy item to have at home too.
At my gym I have four different tyres – something for each strength level, but also there’s a variety from an exercise point of view…
What to look for in a suitable training tire…
Before you just get hold of any tire, you have to make sure it’s going to be suitable for training with. Here’s an outline of what you should be looking for…
- Weight – it needs to be heavy enough. I’ve got a variety of tires from 150lbs to 250lbs
- Wall strength – I like to mix up my tire exercise, so I want the walls of the tire to be strong enough for me to stand and jump on
- Grip – a tire is only suitable if it has enough tread or grip points for you to grab when flipping it
- Condition – it has to be in pretty good condition, without big holes in it
Prepping the tire for use…
Before you start using the tire for exercise, you should prep it properly first. Here’s what you need to do in order to make sure it’s safe for you to use for a workout…
- Remove any nails/screws/glass that may have become embedded in the walls. Check it thoroughly and remove them with pliers. Be thorough with the check
- Drain any water from the inside – do this by hand or by flipping it around to get rid of the majority of it
- Drill holes all around it to allow for drainage. A masonry bit works just fine, but expect to be there a while. Rubber is tough stuff and you’ll need a lot of holes!
- If you have one, give it a very thorough jet wash to remove dirt. It’s been on a working vehicle so will probably be filthy!
- When the dirt is off, give it a thorough scrub with disinfectant and jet wash it again. It’s now ready for use!
The 5 reasons you should make get hold of a tire for your workouts…
Before we go into the intricacies and techniques around tire flipping, here’s a series of practical (and physical) reasons why you should add a tire to your gym set up – especially if you train at home.
#1 Tires are often free!
A tire is (usually) free. Most farmers and plant operatives will happily give tires away for free. In a lot of places (certainly the UK), they have to pay to dispose of them so are delighted to have someone take them off their hands for free! They’ll even drop them off with you, although you may need to offer them something for the favour!
With good gym equipment costing thousands (and a lot of it is out of stock anyway), it’s nice to be able to get hold of something for nothing – especially when it so versatile and genuinely useful.
#2 The tire flip trains so much muscle!
Here’s the beauty of the tire flip – it trains pretty much everything. It trains the legs and glutes in the initial explosive leg drive to lift the tire. It trains the lower back as you drive the hips forward and up. It trains the biceps and upper back in the final pull to get the tire on its end. It trains the chest, shoulders and triceps as you push it over. It trains the core throughout the entire flip.
You know how I said there are few exercises that can match the tire flip in terms of all-body exercise? That’s what I meant. In a single exercise you’ve trained a lot of muscles and as a result, you’ll burn a lot of calories.
#3 Tires are versatile
You can use a tyre for a whole workout, as an accessory element, as a platform to lift/jump onto/use for push ups etc. It’s so much more than just something you can flip. It’s another element of weight and resistance you can add into your training.
You can perform a whole body workout on a tire with ease, adding in progressions, regressions and different workout stimulus. You can mix up the exercises to include pulling, pushing, hinging, squatting, lunging and the like.
#4 They take up barely any space
You don’t need much room with a tire workout – just enough space for the tire and a few feet around it so you can move around it safely and easily. Even a big tractor tire will probably only need 5yds x 5yds for you to train effectively with.
When you’re done with your workout, just flip the tire so it’s stood on its edge and roll it out of the way. You can store it either stood on its end against a wall or lying flat on the floor. Either way, it doesn’t take up much room and can be rolled around very easily.
#5 Tires are low maintenance…
A tire is about as low maintenance an item of equipment you can get. It’s perfectly suited to living outside (although if you do leave it outside, I’d suggest you cover it over because you don’t want rain water getting inside!), it’s tough, so you can throw it around etc without worry.
You can put a good tire through pretty much anything and it’ll be able to cope. You’ll also never have to worry about rust, maintenance or breakage!
Workout help: Tire flip technique…
There’s probably no ‘perfect’ way to flip a tyre, but I think it’s best to adopt a weightlifting/deadlift first position.
- Bend at the knees, get low, keep your back straight and your chest up
- Initiate the movement with a leg drive – keep the back and arms straight
- Using the momentum from the legs, help pull the tire up with your arms in a ‘curl’ movement
- When the tire is almost stood up, flip your hands round so the palms are on the tire wall
- Push the tire down and repeat
Think of the tire flip like olympic weightlifting movements – go fast, explosive and powerful. Your aim isn’t to lift slowly here, you don’t want time under tension. It’s not a bodybuilding exercise. We’re trying to build power and speed with our lift.
Done correctly and with a heavy enough tire, you’ll be fatiguing pretty quickly!
Programming tire flip workouts
In my opinion, a tire flip is a better conditioning movement than a strength movement because although flipping tires will make you strong, it’s not as easy to add extra weight as it would be for a kettlebell, dumbbell or barbell. You can however, perform multiple tire flips in quick succession which makes it an excellent fat burning exercise.
There are lots of ways you can programme tire flips – you can make them a foundational exercise that is a core component of the workout. In order to do that, you’ll have to decide on the workout goals and outcomes, then select an appropriate weight tire.
All of the usual varieties of workout intensity measures still apply – sets, reps, rest periods will all be adjusted as per your workout goals. The tire is simply the tool that provides the resistance to the workout, just like a kettlebell, barbell or dumbbell would.
Personally, I tend to use tire flipping as a high intensity element to a workout, designed to work on strength endurance. It’s an excellent finisher movement, where I flip the tire up and down the turf length in my gym. Even if you don’t have a long stretch down which you can flip your tire, it doesn’t matter – you can flip it one way, run around it and flip it back the other way.
With my 220lb tire I tend to shoot for 4 or 5 25yd lengths of tire flips with minimal rest between sets. After a big workout, I find this is a pretty gruelling workout finisher and certainly ramps my heart rate up!
A simple but effective way to mix up your training…
There’s a whole section on tire workouts in my Ultimate HIIT Workout Book – it’s a way for you to explore new tire workouts and see how such a simple item can lead to huge fitness improvements.
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