In my younger days, I remember sitting in front of the television mesmerized by athletes competing in The World’s Strongest Man, wondering how they pulled off such amazing feats of strength that mere mortals could only dream of.
I fantasized about being just like them and possessing the ability to make the impossible seem easy. Thousand pound squats, keg tosses, diesel truck pulls, heavy farmer walks, and of course the old strongman staple: The Tire Flip.
Even through all of my training programs over the years, I have never amassed the hulking physique and Herculean strength to compete at that level, but thankfully, strongman training is not solely reserved for the uber-athletes on television.
In recent years, the popularity of using strongman training (especially large tires), has exploded with many coaches and athletes incorporating the various exercises into their programming.
When performing the various tire movements correctly, they can enhance the strength, power development, and conditioning of anyone willing to challenge themselves like their Strong Man idols.
The one nice advantage about using tires to train is that you only need to be concerned about storage space because they are an inexpensive piece of equipment to obtain. I have three tires at my gym and none of them cost me more than some beer money.
To find a tire, do a local search for shops that deal with commercial vehicles. For one of my tires I had to leave my contact information and they called me when they had one in.
Usually, tire shops are more than willing to part with these large tires because it costs money to recycle them; it’s a win-win situation for you and them.
Once you have your tire, it’s time to start using it, and there are a variety of exercises that will challenge you in ways traditional weight training can’t. With proper technique, your functional strength can reach a level much higher than before.
The Farmer Walk
The tire farmer walk is a challenging variation that taxes your conditioning and grip. Simply set up in a deadlift position and lift the tire, then take it for a walk. Make sure you keep your chest up and shoulders back for safety.
Tires can be used as variations for conventional exercises like the deadlift. We all know of the benefits the deadlift has for hip strength and power production that is necessary for many sporting movements.
The tire deadlift adds a unique grip training dynamic because you have to rotate your hands so that your thumbs are facing back to grip the tire.
Before you attempt the deadlift, it is very important that you lock your shoulders down and back to maintain their stability and safety, and then simply drive with your legs and extend your hips until you are in the standing position (much like a barbell deadlift).
This is the classic movement that The World’s Strongest Man made famous. The flip is a tremendous movement for people who need explosive power. This is one of the best exercises for athletes such as football linemen, wrestlers, and others who need to exert force quickly to move heavy opponents.
The flip looks simple enough, right? You just lift the tire up and flip it over. Essentially, that is the idea and with a light tire it may not matter how strict your technique is, but if you want to lift a relatively heavy tire without proper technique, you might be setting yourself up for a potential injury.
The first concept to consider is the fact that the tire flip is not a deadlift; it is more like a hack squat. The movement is generated solely from the lower body, the arms merely lock onto the tire. Do not attempt to lift the tire with your arms or serious injury can occur.
To set up properly you want your arms slightly bent and in a comfortable position. Your feet should be back away from the tire and your chest up against it. Your back is flat and your hips are low. Lockdown your upper body and drive from your legs to extend your hips, knees, and ankles.
When you do this your hips should be propelling the tire simultaneously upward and forward. Your body should remain close to the tire at all times as you quickly rotate your hands and follow through until it is completely flipped.
Some tires are heavy and you may only be able to lift it waist high; at this point, drive one of your knees against the tire to prop it up until you can get your hands turned and your hips adjusted to complete the flip.
You can train tire flips in two ways: you can flip a heavy tire for strength and power production or go with a lighter tire to work more volume and train your endurance and conditioning.
I do not know of a single person who does not enjoy beating a tire with a sledgehammer. Much like the tire flip, this exercise is great for power production, however, sledgehammer work focuses on power production in the opposite direction.
Instead of extending the hips and propelling the tire upward, you drop your hips to swing the hammer into the tire. Sports like wrestling, judo, and rotational sports (baseball, volleyball, golf, etc.) can benefit tremendously from sledgehammer training.
Like the tire flip, the movement might seem simple enough, but understanding a few important technical components will make sledgehammer work safer and much more effective. Line up the head of the hammer on the middle of the tire in front of you.
Have your feet lined up about shoulder width apart. One hand should be on the top of the handle and one near the bottom. Rotate the hammer until it gets aligned directly over your head.
With the hammer overhead, it should feel weightless, this is where you begin to simultaneously drop your hips downward as your top hand slides toward the bottom so maximum power can be generated. Catch the hammer up high on the rebound and then repeat the motion.
When you get the hang of it, alternate sides.
Tires can be great for team building and there are a few movements where two people can work together to get the job done. At my gym there is one tire that is so heavy that only one person has successfully flipped it by himself.
To manipulate this monster weight, we do partner flips. Each person sets up close to the other and away they flip. Timing and teamwork is necessary for this exercise to be successful.
Quite possibly one of my favorite drills is the partner tire push. This has a practical sporting application for anyone needing to absorb force and generate power from their legs and project it through their upper body, especially in a pushing motion like a lineman in football.
Put one person on either side of a large tire with a staggered stance. One person will keep their elbows tucked, drive with their legs, and shove the tire towards the other person.
The other person will tuck their arms close to the side of their body and absorb the energy with their core and legs muscles, then redirect the tire back to their partner.
Sample Tractor Tire Workouts
Tire training offers a unique and unparalleled experience that should be considered in most strength and conditioning programs where power generation is a necessity.
Adding some of these tire training exercises into a carefully structured strength and conditioning program will enhance strength, coordination and increase power production. Now go out and find a tire and make it happen.
Tire Flip And Farmer Walk Circuit
This circuit consists of three rounds of two tire movements; simply flip the tire a desired distance and then jump inside, deadlift the tire and farmer walk it back to the start. Try to complete three rounds in a row or rest if you want to fully recover.
I also like using partners for this circuit. One person completes a round and then it’s on to the next person. If you have enough athletes at one time, make some teams and time them and see who completes the challenge the fastest.
2 Minute Tire Flip Challenge
One of the records on the board in my gym is the Two Minute Tire Flip. We use the small tire (approximately 250lbs.) and flip it as many times as we can in two minutes.
By the end of the challenge your hamstrings should be screaming and you should have some burning lungs to go with it. If you can get into the high 40s for repetitions you are doing quite well. Take the challenge and see where you stand.
Tire Flip And Sledgehammer Circuit
Much like the circuit above, start by flipping the tire for a desired distance and then when you get to the end grab the hammer and hit the tire for 15 strikes on each side. Rest and repeat the circuit two more times.
My favorite sledgehammer circuit consists of 30 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest. You are going to work on one side, rest, and then perform the strikes on the opposite side. For an added challenge add a third round where you alternate strikes on each side.
Rest about 60 seconds after each group of two or three and complete the whole circuit three times.