Aside from the Atlas Stones, the tire flip could be one of the most recognizable strongman events in the sport. However, it is probably the one event most incorrectly performed by athletes and most improperly used by strength coaches.

Let’s start by looking at the event itself. The tire flip is a test of total body strength, flexibility, endurance, and explosiveness. It closely mimics the starting position of linemen in football, has tremendous carry over to other sports performance, and is a staple in strongman. Visually, it’s one of the most impressive strength feats for a crowd to watch and much more exciting than say, a Hercules Hold.

It is also an event that is all too frequently done inefficiently, causing injury, specifically to the biceps. When done incorrectly, this exercise can easily tear a bicep, but when done correctly, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

We have found two main reasons why a tire flip goes wrong—poor technique and poor choice of tire weight/size.

First, let’s look at technique. Many athletes will try to lift a tire like a deadlift with their arms straight .

This can be disastrous! Tire flipping is not deadlifting. It needs to be performed in a certain way so that the benefits are maximized and the injuries are minimized.

Here’s how: assume a four-point stance as if playing football, and set up with your chest pushing into the tire. Your arms should be out fairly wide, your back should be arched, and your butt should be down .

Foot position will be different for everybody, but a good rule of thumb is to have your feet in a “jump” stance, similar to the one you would use if doing cleans. Ankles, knees, and hips should be aligned straight for maximum power transfer.

Once you’re set, begin to lift by using your hips to drive your chest into the tire, and push up at a 45° angle. Don’t lift with your arms! Use your hips to drive the tire upwards, and try to achieve a triple extension of the ankle, knee, and hip. It’s not uncommon to see a good tire flipper’s feet leave the ground after they begin the push.

Once the tire is on its way off the ground and you have hit your triple extension, you need to “jump” under the tire to catch it. This movement is similar to jumping under a clean or snatch. Your arms will move in closer to the body when you begin your “jump,” and you should drive the tire forward as if bench pressing it away from your chest.

This is where we see many mistakes that cause injury. All too often, athletes will lift the tire straight up and try to curl it up with their arms. Avoid this action! Start out by learning the proper technique that we’ve just described with a light tire, and practice explosively!

Some athletes prefer lifting one knee as the tire begins to come up.

This is perfectly fine, and for many, feels quite natural even though it’s not the best transfer of power. Many very successful strongman competitors utilize this technique, especially with very heavy tires. However, a better way to do this is to keep both feet in contact with the ground, drive with the hips as fast as possible, and then jump under and catch the tire as described above.

By keeping both feet on the ground, you’re delivering maximum force. Think of it like this: if you wouldn’t try to clean a heavy weight with just one leg, then why would you tire flip with only one? Of course, I realize that the flip is not the clean, but there are many similarities.

The second problem we often see is poor choice of tire. The wrong tire can cause technique problems. Often, people choose tires that are too short, too heavy, or a combination of both.

When choosing a tire—especially when dealing with those new to the exercise—pick one that is roughly twice the athlete’s body weight. It should come to (at least) their knee area when the tire is resting on its side. If the sidewall doesn’t come up to/around the knee, it is too small for your athlete to get into a good starting position.

A double bodyweight tire should be fairly easy for your athlete to flip with little practice and is a good starting point for them to learn from. It is also a good starting weight to use for conditioning drills.

Remember, the law of individuality applies here—some tires may be too heavy, other too light, but overall, it is the best guideline we have.

My advice is to get several different sizes if you have the space. You can easily add weight to a tire by stuffing it with 13-inch to 14-inch tires.

Adding three, 13-inch tires will increase the weight by about 50 pounds. It’s also a good way to manage your athlete’s training load. Just as you wouldn’t jump an athlete from a 200 pound squat to a 400 pound squat from one workout to the next, the same applies to tire flipping. Incrementally loading with smaller weights is simply Training 101.

There you have it! Learn well from our mistakes, and go flip some tires!

Train hard, lift heavy stuff, and get strong!

CJ Murphy

Total Performance Sports©

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