Tire flipping, during which you use all your deadlift muscles by hauling tons of tractor tire weight, is one of the most popular exercises for today’s gym rats. Tire flipping is such a coveted workout because the technique required to execute it effectively is so challenging. It requires an exceptionally good deep squat ability to lift enough tractor tire weight to flip a tractor tire.
The tire flip has been a favorite technique of strongmen for decades. The biomechanics involved draw movement from the glutes, hamstrings, and various other muscles of the lower body. Tire flipping is a great exercise for targeting muscles that other lower body exercises like lunges and deadlifts miss. For many people, tire flipping is used as part of strength training when gains appear to have plateaued.
If you’ve been contemplating including tire flipping as part of your strength training or bodybuilding routine, there’s a lot you need to know. Read through this guide to get all the information you need to start preparing yourself for flipping tires so you can get the muscle gains you want without hurting yourself.
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What Muscles Does Tire Flipping Workout?
If you’ve ever done a deadlift, you’ll be familiar with the muscles and muscle groups that tire flipping exercises. When performed with the proper form, tire flipping gives your whole lower body a strong workout. That includes your back, hamstrings, and glutes.
For some athletes, tire flipping doesn’t have much appeal. Swimmers, for example, might like to have the extra lower body strength, but there’s no reason to put so much stress on their lower back. That being said, there are many other sports involving lots of cardio whose participants can benefit greatly from flipping tractor tires.
The tire flip works out all the muscles in the posterior chain, which is the name for all the muscles leading from the glutes to the ankles on the back of the leg. In addition to the hamstrings and glutes, flipping tires also works out the trapezius muscles and the deltoids.
While it may seem like tire flipping is primarily a workout for the biceps, shoulders, and upper body muscles, the lifting action is actually accomplished with muscles in the lower body. Flipping tires with the upper body can lead to serious injury.
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How to Safely Flip Tractor Tire Weight
Safety is the most important part of tire flipping. The most common injury sustained by flipping tires with incorrect form is a torn bicep. Studies show knee, shoulder, and lower back injuries are also some of the most frequent in this type of exercise.
Understanding the proper form can help reduce the likelihood of injury in tire flipping. The first thing you should know is how to grip the tire to prevent slipping, which can quickly lead to injured hands and feet. Here are a few other ways to grip a tractor tire:
The Pinch Grip
This grip involves pinching your fingers together to put pressure on two different places of the side of the tractor tire closest to you so that you can lift it enough to put slip one foot underneath. Once the tire is lifted slightly on top of the foot, you can proceed with the flipping.
The Forearm Wedge
Some tractor tires are easier to grip from a deep squat position. If that’s the case, you should approach the tire with your arms shoulder-width apart and your knees bent low so that you are in what is essentially a squat position. Next, place the tops of your forearms against the tire. Let your shoulders and glutes lock up and flex your arm muscles to put pressure on the tire. With the tire wedged between the forearm and the fingers, you can more readily flip it.
The Upright Grip
This is very similar to the forearm wedge but it doesn’t require you to be in a deep squat position. Instead, a slight squat is fine. If it’s a taller tire, a more upright position may also be necessary to get a good grip on the tire. Just like in the previous grip method, approach the tire with your arms shoulder-length apart.
Once you have your forearms up against the tire, flex your elbows more to create a grip on the tire. It will be in contact with your chest rather than supported solely by the tension between your forearms and fingers.
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Besides getting a good grip, there are some other safety precautions to make before tire flipping. One of the simplest is choosing a tire that is the right size. Everyone wants to believe they can flip a 900-pound tire but even strongmen don’t get tractor tires that are that heavy. Executing a tire flip with the right form is also key to completing the flip without injury.
How to Flip a Tire
Flipping a tire only takes a few steps, but it’s important that you have the right base strength in both your upper body and lower body first. Once you have built up the muscle and strength to perform this rigorous strength training exercise, here are the steps you should follow:
Get a Grip
Determine which is the grips discussed above is most appropriate for the size of the tractor tire you have. Make sure your grip is as wide as possible to give you more traction and leverage on the tire. This will make the flip easier and also keep your arms and shoulders from buckling during the flip. If your grip is too narrow, it will put too much pressure on your biceps, which will have to channel energy from your lower body.
In essence, your arms should be supports for the flipping action, but they should not be the ones doing all the work. Lift with your lower body and make sure to keep your grip wide and your arms as straight as possible.
Keep Your Hips Low
For some reason, the body’s natural response to the weight of a tractor tire is to bend at the hip to try and get leverage. Although it inexplicably feels like it will give you more power, it will actually give you much less and is a surefire way to get injured when you try to flip a tire. Just like lifting boxes on moving day, you shouldn’t be putting all that strain on your lower back when you flip a tire. Even supporting your bodyweight on your spine entirely could cause injury when you’re flipping tires. It’s best to rock back onto your hips, feet, and legs.
If your hips are lowered, you’ll be at a better angle to pivot forward with the explosive energy required to flip a tractor tire. Like plyometrics and other exercises that provide a body workout with fast, intense bursts of energy, flipping tires and other tire exercises improve range of motion. That means keeping your hips low will cause your hip flexors and other lower body muscles to get stronger.
Push Equal Force Through the Tire
Tractor tires are heavy enough, which is what makes flipping a tire such an effective exercise. If you haul through the tire unevenly, you run the risk of losing control of the tractor tire which can injure you or anyone nearby when you attempt the flip. When the tire is flipping, it should land and stop moving as fast as possible. Putting force into it across the top in an even manner will help prevent it from spinning around like a coin.
If you plan on doing two or three of iterations of tire flipping, avoiding making the tire spin on landing will save you lots of time and effort. Plus, it will very likely prevent injury if the tire flips and lands stationary as soon as possible after the flip.
Maintain Good Posture
Throughout the movement of flipping a tire, it’s imperative to keep good posture. If you don’t you risk following the motion of the tire flip too far, which can overextend your muscles and joints and lead to injury. A straight back will also help you put power into the tire, making it much easier to flip. If you find that you’re unable to flip a tire with a straight back, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Practice with a lighter tire or go back to perfecting your deadlift form so you can apply that same technique to tire flipping at the gym.
Your back will suffer greatly if it’s not kept straight. The only worse thing you can do is let it bend too much, going from straight to bent and back again through any kind of twisted shape in between. Imagine the thread between all the posterior chain muscles in both your upper body and lower body. The back is the core of the movement needed for flipping a tire, so keeping it straight and flexing it as little as possible will only help you.
Exercises That Will Help Prepare for Flipping a Tire
It cannot be stressed enough how crucial it is to be capable of flipping a tire before you try it. The injuries that can be sustained from failing a tire flip are no joke. Luckily, there are plenty of body workouts that will help prepare you, and they all lead to muscle gains regardless of whether you use them to prepare for flipping a tire or not.
While flipping a tire and deadlifts are not the same and tire flipping should not be done with the same form as deadlifts, you can still use deadlifts to build muscles that will be needed to successfully flip a tire. Deadlifts work the hamstrings, quads, and other lower-body muscles. Just about any exercise with dumbbells or a barbell will help prepare you for flipping a tire, but none so well as deadlifts.
Battle ropes are great fun and make for the perfect ending to a workout routine. If you want to prepare for flipping a heavy tire, battle ropes are perfect for building the necessary muscles in your back, arms, abs, and glutes.
It probably goes without saying, but no upper body workout is complete without push-ups. They may be used as a warm-up, finisher, or throughout a plyometric routine to prevent the body from starting to cool down during a rest period. Push-ups work the pectoral muscles, delts, triceps, and abdominals.
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Alternative Tire Training Exercises
Flipping a tire isn’t the only way to get muscle gains with a heavy tire. Here are a few other body workouts that use a tractor tire to target more specific muscle groups in both the upper body and lower body.
In this tire training exercise, you stand inside the center of the tire and lift it up off the ground. It looks very similar to deadlift and grip is very important to pull off this move correctly. Once you have the tire up off the ground, walk with it. This will work your upper body muscles even while your back and lower body muscles get targeted as well.
Since there’s some movement involved, this exercise can feel a bit like cardio. It’s not the same as sprinting or long-distance running, but it can be used to create a more gradual exercise rather than relying on the explosive energy of flipping a tire.
If you have some anger you’d like to get out while still getting some muscle gains, the sledgehammer is the move for you. In this tire training exercise, all you have to do is slam the tractor tire with a sledgehammer. The motion, when done correctly, will work muscle groups in the back, upper body, and lower body.
Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart and make sure your hips are driving down to perform a proper sledgehammer tire training exercise. Many athletes use this move to train because it mimics the motion people make with golf clubs, tennis rackets, baseball bats, hockey sticks, and more.
Team Tire Training
It’s possible for two people to use the same tire, which works especially well with the heaviest large tractor tires. If you want, try “arm wrestling” with a tractor tire. One partner drives into the tire with their forearms and legs while the other pushes from the other side to see who will give up first.
Alternatively, you can pass the tire. Each partner stands close enough to the tire to catch it on the way down and both take turns lifting and shoving the tire toward each other. The resistance required to stop the tire from falling all the way to the ground is just as challenging as flipping a tire normally.
Part of the reason so many people are flipping tires these days is simply that it looks cool. Unfortunately, if you don’t have the requisite range of motion, flipping tires can cause serious injury and impede or outright ruin a physical fitness plan for weeks while your body takes time to recover. It’s vital that you understand the technique used to flip a tire safely and practice for a long time before you try the real thing.
Finding a tractor tire is usually fairly simple since there are plenty of used tire shops that have used tractor tires and would prefer to give them out rather than having to take the time to recycle them. Aside from that one large piece of equipment, there’s nothing else you need. Many people like to have a tire around in the backyard so that they can try a few tire flips as part of a home workout.
Learning the form required for flipping a tire is pretty easy, especially if you already know a full range of Crossfit or other strength training exercises. There are also quite a few other exercises you can do with a tractor tire other than flipping it over. Most of them are based on a very similar stance, so learning how to flip properly can allow you to create an entire strength training routine around a tractor tire.
There’s been some debate about what advantages can be expected from tire flipping. Some experts claim it’s an overhyped exercise that doesn’t lead to nearly as many bodybuilding gains as advocates promise. While there are some strongmen and Crossfit fanatics who tend to exaggerate the benefits of flipping a tire, the exercise can still be used to target very hard to reach muscles, and flipping a 400-pound tractor tire is definitely going to burn some calories.
Flipping a tire is a great workout for people who have plateaued in their muscle gains. It’s absolutely critical to make sure you have the energy and muscle strength required for flipping a tire before you attempt to prevent injury. There are tons of exercises you can do with a tractor tire and many simpler ones to use to prepare for flipping a tire. Most people will not be able to flip a heavy tire more than 3 – 5 times.
Like plyometrics, this exercise doesn’t need to be done every single day. Fitting it into a workout routine once every few days will allow your body the time to recover and build more muscles, which will allow you to flip a heavier tire in the future. Flipping a tire is a great challenge and it comes with a great feeling when you train and manage to do it single-handedly for the first time.
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