For the folks who go to a regular, stainless and glass gym and hop on a treadmill for a few minutes to warm up, then get in a few reps on the fancy machines and a call it a workout, the CrossFit athletes who are out flipping giant (300+ pound) tractor tires in a parking lot must seem like “Hillbilly Jim” the professional wrestler! Who in their right mind flips huge used tires for exercise? The answer is simple: Someone who wants to build explosive power in their lower body, upper-body strength and aerobic conditioning.
The tire flipping exercise, recently discovered by coaches of all sports – especially football and wrestling – was a staple of the old World’s Strongest Man competitions and is now an insanely popular activity in CrossFit gyms around the world. As Doug Fioranelli noted in an article he wrote for Onnit Academy, “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.”
There are at least two good reasons for this re-found popularity of tire flipping:
The Basic Flip
As with any CrossFit exercise, proper form is critical in order for the athlete to avoid injuries. This is a big, old heavy hunk of rubber and if you do this movement incorrectly, you will feel the pain!
According to MD Labs here’s how it’s supposed to be done. “When you flip the tire it is best to start with the tire flat on the ground. Place your fingers and hands as far under the tire as you can in this position and keep your hands about shoulder width apart. Squat down and then while pulling the tire up with your arms and back explode out of the bottom position. As the tire comes up you should have enough momentum that you can change your hands from a pulling to a pushing position and push the tire all the way over. Immediately after the tire is pushed over and flat start the process again.
“In the beginning you may have to use your knee to pop the tire up high enough so that you can change hand positions to a pushing motion. Try to get away from using your knee as soon as possible to avoid possible leg injury when you have one leg planted on the ground and one in the air. You can flip the tire on any type of surface from concrete to grass to sand.”
Three Tire Flipping Workouts
As with most CrossFit functional exercises, the tire flip can be used for at least two objectives; strength training and/or conditioning. The best training strategy is to vary one’s objective from workout to workout. Here are some examples for using the tire flipping in a CrossFit program.
Flipping for time (3 to 4 sets)
Flip a tire over 70 meters and put a stopwatch on each trip. You should get quicker over time
Flipping for 90-seconds or two-minutes intervals (3 to 4 sets)
Flip a tire as many times up and down the course over 90-seconds or two-minutes. Keep track of the number of times the tire is flipped. With more practice and strength, the number of flips should increase.
Sled pulling and tire flipping (3 to 4 sets)
You can also include tire flips with pulling a sled loaded with the heavy tire. On the course pull the tire one way and flip the tire coming back.
Anyone of Any Age Can Reap the Benefits of Tire Flipping
In an informal poll of fitness enthusiasts who happen to hit Facebook on a day when a question about tire flipping was posted by yours truly, more than 50 people responded, most extolling the benefits of this exercise. Some of my friends who are more (how can we put this delicately?) sedentary in their lifestyle had some witty and disparaging comments about tire flipping. However, their idea of a workout is sitting in front of a TV, drinking lite beer and watching nine hours of pro football.
Most had great things to say about the fitness benefit of tire flipping. Former middle-school football coach, Jason Martin, from Marietta, Georgia wrote, “Actually we used to have our middle school football team do this in the off season. We would divide them into two teams and race.
“This was different from just pushing weights around. It helped with team – building and competitive spirit. All the while, they were getting great exercise. Note we stressed form: Lifting using legs and pushing over using arm muscles. The kids loved it!”
CrossFit athlete Debby Rogers from Dallas wrote, “It is fun and takes us back to when humans did actual labor!”