Gone are the days when training was limited to the same old traditional gym equipment.

While originally used in strongman and strongwomen competitions, tires have become a staple in well–equipped gyms throughout the world.

They allow for a unique kind of strength and conditioning training that readily transfers to a variety of sports.

This article lays out the best tire exercises, the muscles they work, and a sample tire circuit to get you started.

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The key to performing tire exercises is selecting a tire of the right size and weight to meet your level of strength and experience, as well as to avoid injury.

Start with a smaller, lighter tire and work your way up to a larger, heavier tire as you progress in strength and skill. It’s recommended that women begin with a tire that weighs 100–200 pounds (45–90 kg), while men are recommended to start with a 200–300-pound (90–135-kg) tire.

As a rule of thumb, you should be able to do 2–5 repetitions of the exercises below with consistency. If you can’t, the tire is probably too heavy.

It can be tricky to know how much a tire weighs because it’s difficult to put a large tractor tile on a scale. If you’re hauling it by truck, you can drive to a CAT scale, measure the weight of your truck with the tire, and then subtract the weight of your truck to find the weight of the tire.

Some specialized tires allow weights to be added or removed, making the process of adding resistance a bit easier.

Summary

Tires can be hard to weigh, and their weights are often estimated. Select a tire size that allows you to complete at least 2–5 reps consistently.

Tire availability varies depending upon where you live.

Those in rural areas may find it easier to find old tires from agricultural equipment, which also tends to be the most cost-effective source.

You may want to check local online classified ads for listings of people selling used tires, as larger new tires tend to be quite expensive.

While car tires can work for some exercises, you’ll want a slightly larger tire to best perform most movements, especially as your strength and skill increase.

Fortunately, many gyms now have an outdoor or indoor turf area with access to tires.

Summary

Tires are best found by searching local online classified ads or contacting a farm that has agricultural equipment. Also, many gyms now have a turf area with tires of various sizes for members to use.

The tire flip

The tire flip is a classic tire exercise that enhances explosive power development from head to toe.

The key to this exercise is selecting the right tire size and weight to meet your level of strength and experience, as well as to avoid injury.

Muscles worked: glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, lats, traps, biceps, triceps, forearms, abs (to stabilize)

  1. Facing the tire, start with your arms and feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Squat down and grasp the tire with an underhand grip, spreading your fingers wide into the treads.
  3. While in a squat position with your hips lower than your shoulders, lean forward, placing your forearms against the tire.
  4. Initiate the flipping movement by leaning into the tire, driving through your legs and raising the tire off of the ground.
  5. Once standing, use one knee to help continue to push the tire upward.
  6. Flip your hands to a pushing position and flip the tire over.
  7. Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets.

Tire deadlift with farmer’s walk

The tire deadlift with farmer’s walk is a unique tire exercise that provides all of the benefits of a traditional deadlift movement with an added conditioning aspect.

This movement requires excellent core and grip strength to stabilize the tire during the farmer’s walk portion of the exercise.

Muscles worked: glutes, hamstrings, quads, lats, traps, biceps, forearms, abs

  1. Start by standing inside your tire of choice.
  2. Bend down with a neutral spine, flexing at your hips and bending your knees just slightly.
  3. Grasp the tire with an underhand grip on each side.
  4. Create tension by loading your hamstrings and glutes, and in a controlled, explosive motion, stand up.
  5. Start walking forward, taking at least 10 steps before placing the tire back down on the ground.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

This movement can also be performed without the farmer’s walk portion as a deadlift only for a designated amount of sets and reps.

Tire slams

The tire slam is an excellent movement for developing upper-body power and endurance through various planes of motion.

This exercise requires a sledgehammer or mace as a training device with which to strike the tire.

You’ll want to use a tire that’s large enough to absorb the shock of the impact without moving around too much.

  1. To start, select a sledgehammer or mace of an appropriate weight for your skill level.
  2. Stand facing the tire with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Grasp the shaft of the hammer with one hand toward the top, near the weighted portion, and one hand toward the bottom.
  4. Swing the hammer up behind your body to either side while simultaneously sliding your upper hand down toward the bottom of the shaft for maximum leverage.
  5. Finish the movement strong by engaging your back muscles to strike the tire with maximal effort. The path of the movement is circular — up and back behind you, over your shoulder, and down onto the tire.
  6. Repeat on the other side of your body.

The tire slam can be performed in timed intervals, during which you strike the tire for a designated amount of time, or in sets, during which you perform a given number of reps or strikes.

Tire broad jump with tire flip

This is a dynamic exercise that combines two popular tire exercises to maximize your training adaptations.

For this exercise, it’s best to select a lighter tire that you can comfortably jump over repeatedly.

Muscles worked: quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, lats, traps, biceps, forearms, abs

  1. Start facing the tire with a slightly wider than shoulder-width stance.
  2. Perform a tire flip by squatting down, gripping the tire with an underhand grip, driving through your legs, and finishing the flip with your arms.
  3. Next, squat down to prepare for the jumping portion, and explosively leap over the tire, bracing with your legs for stability when landing. Turn around to begin the exercise in the other direction.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets.

Tire box jumps

Box jumps are a common plyometric exercise in which your muscles exert maximal force for a brief period of time.

In this variation, a tire is used instead of a box, providing an added layer of difficulty, as you’ll need to stabilize yourself on the landing due to the flex of the tire.

Select a tire of an appropriate height for your skill level.

Two tires can be stacked on top of one another as you become more advanced.

Muscles worked: quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, abs

  1. Face the tire standing approximately 1 foot (30 cm) away from it with a slightly wider than shoulder-width stance.
  2. Initiate the jumping movement by squatting down and explosively jumping onto the tire.
  3. Stabilize your body by squatting down slightly when landing on the tire.
  4. Jump back down to the floor, once again absorbing the shock by landing in a half squat.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets.

Tire pushups

Tire pushups are a versatile upper-body exercise that can be adjusted for your desired level of difficulty.

Beginners should perform torso-elevated pushups, which will decrease the resistance, whereas more advanced trainees may want to try leg–elevated pushups to crank up the resistance.

Muscles worked: pecs (chest muscles), anterior delts, triceps, abs

Torso-elevated pushups (easier)

  1. Stand facing the tire.
  2. Place your hands on the edge of the tire just wider than shoulder-width apart, with your arms extended.
  3. Bend your elbows and slowly lower your chest toward the tire while keeping your core tight throughout the movement.
  4. Extend your elbows, pushing your body away from the tire in a controlled manner.
  5. Repeat until your desired reps and sets have been completed.

Legs-elevated (harder)

  1. Start on your hands and knees facing away from the tire.
  2. Set your hands on the floor slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Prop up your feet on the edge of the tire, approximately shoulder-width apart, adjusting your hand position so that your body is aligned from head to toe.
  4. In a smooth, controlled motion, lower your chest toward the floor by bending at the elbows, maintaining an aligned posture.
  5. Push yourself back up until your arms are straight again.
  6. Repeat until your desired reps and sets have been completed.

Tire planks

Planks are a challenging exercise that targets your abdominal muscles.

In this variation, you’ll use a tire to increase or decrease the difficulty level.

To make the exercise slightly easier, you’ll perform an incline plank, or if you want to kick things up a notch, you can perform a decline plank.

Muscles worked: abs, obliques (side abs), lower back

Incline plank (easier)

  1. Start facing the tire.
  2. This movement can be performed by either placing your elbows on the edge of the tire, or by placing your palms on the edge of the tire with your arms extended (the latter is slightly easier).
  3. With your body fully aligned and toes touching the floor, you’ll hold this position for the desired amount of time.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Decline plank (harder)

  1. Start facing away from the tire on your hands and knees.
  2. Set your hands on the floor at about shoulder-width position, and prop your feet up on the edge of the tire as if you were going to do a pushup. This movement is difficult to perform on your elbows, so most people execute the exercise with extended arms.
  3. Hold this position for the desired amount of time.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Tire dips

Tire dips are a fantastic exercise for isolating the triceps, as well as a great addition to any well–rounded tire circuit.

For this movement, you’ll want to use a tire large enough to support your body weight without tipping over.

Muscles worked: triceps, pecs, shoulders

  1. Start by sitting on the edge of the tire.
  2. Extend your legs out straight, placing your heels on the floor shoulder-width apart.
  3. Place the palms of your hands on the edge of the tire with your fingers facing away from the tire, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  4. Initiate the movement by pushing your body upward, extending your arms, and keeping your legs straight.
  5. Now slowly lower your body until your arms are at a 90-degree angle.
  6. Then push your body back up to the starting position by extending your arms.
  7. Repeat this for the desired number of reps and sets.

Tire squat and press

The tire squat and press is a dynamic exercise that targets multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

Muscles worked: quads, hamstrings, glutes, triceps, shoulders, chest, abs

  1. Start facing a tire that’s standing on its edge, placing your palms on the top edge of the tire with your fingers on the treads.
  2. Position your feet a bit wider than shoulder-width apart, pointing your toes outward slightly.
  3. To initiate the movement, slowly pull the tire toward you until it starts to tip over.
  4. Embrace the momentum of the tire by squatting down just until your hips are lower than your knees.
  5. Reverse the movement by pushing through the floor and coming out of your squat, extending your arms at the top to push the tire away from you slightly.
  6. Repeat the movement for the desired number of reps and sets.

Tire side-to-side hops

This high intensity tire movement will be sure to get your heart pumping.

Side-to-side hops provide excellent conditioning while hitting several major muscle groups.

Muscles worked: quads, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, chest, triceps, abs

  1. Start by standing inside the hole of a tire.
  2. Bend down, placing your palms on the outer edge of the tire with your fingers on the treads.
  3. Keeping your torso perpendicular to the floor, jump over the tire to one side, then jump back into the tire hole, then jump to the other side of the tire, and finally back into the hole.
  4. Repeat this movement for a set period of time.

A tire circuit strategically combines a series of tire exercises to provide a high intensity, full-body workout.

The goal during a tire circuit is to keep your heart rate elevated by performing movements back to back with only brief periods of rest in between.

Tire circuits can be performed as a training session on their own or added to a strength training program as additional conditioning work.

Here’s a sample tire circuit to get you started, incorporating the above movements.

Sample tire circuit

The warmup

Start with a 5–10-minute warmup to get your blood flowing and joints loosened up. Some suggested warmup methods include jumping rope or hitting the treadmill, elliptical, or spinning bike.

Follow this with some dynamic stretches to prime your joints for the high intensity movements to come.

This tire circuit is not for beginners. You’ll want to make sure you can perform each of the movements individually before attempting the circuit.

If you’re using a heavy tire, start with a total of 10 reps maximum of each exercise. That can be accomplished with 2 sets of 5, or 3 sets of 3. If you’re using a lighter tire, you can do 3–4 sets with 6–10 reps each.

Feel free to swap out a movement if you’re unable to perform it. Always begin your workouts with more complex, compound exercises.

The main event

  1. Tire broad jump and flip
  2. Squat and press
  3. Side-to-side hop
  4. Tricep dips
  5. Planks
  6. Leg press
  7. Pushups
  8. Box jumps

Cooldown

After an intense workout like a tire circuit, static stretching can help your muscles recover more quickly, reduce muscle soreness, and improve flexibility (3, 4).

Perform some general stretches to boost the recovery process and cool down after your workout.

Summary

This intense tire circuit will put together all of the exercises previously introduced to give you a full-body workout that promotes both strength and conditioning.

Tire exercises are unique in that they provide a muscle stimulus unlike most other movements.

Completing tire exercises regularly comes with several potential benefits.

Multiple planes of movement

There are three planes of movement you move in during daily activities and exercise. These include frontal (side to side), sagittal (front to back), and transverse (rotational movement).

Many traditional exercises only work in one plane of movement, whereas most tire exercises utilize multiple planes of movement simultaneously.

This makes tire exercises transfer more efficiently to various sports, which also require you to move in multiple planes of motion.

Therefore, athletes training for their given sport may benefit from incorporating tire exercises into their exercise regimen.

Provides both strength and conditioning

Another notable benefit of tire exercises is their ability to provide both strength and conditioning training simultaneously.

Strength training, also known as resistance training, refers to moving your muscles against an external resistance as a means to increase muscle mass, metabolic rate, and bone mass, as well as prevent injuries (5).

Conditioning, on the other hand, refers to performing high intensity movements specific to your sport that improve aerobic endurance, speed, skill, agility, and balance.

Most tire exercises tick both boxes, providing enough resistance to improve strength, while also providing high intensity movements that enhance conditioning applicable to a wide variety of sports.

That said, other methods of weight training should also be incorporated into your training program to maximize muscle and strength gains (6).

Can improve power development

Power, or the ability to rapidly create maximal force, is an important aspect of athletic training.

Research suggests that power development is best trained with explosive movements at 30–50% of your one-repetition maximum (1RM), or the amount of weight you can lift for one rep of a given movement (7).

Many tire exercises fit this category, making them excellent for training power development.

To further enhance the power-developing effects of tire training, perform the movements explosively, providing maximal effort with each rep.

Summary

Tire exercises provide a unique muscle stimulus that offers several benefits. These include providing movement through multiple planes, contributing to both strength and conditioning, and boosting power development.

While tires are an excellent tool to boost your exercise intensity, there are some precautions you should take to avoid getting injured.

Tires can be awkward to work with, especially the larger ones, and tire workouts require a great deal of skill to perform properly. As such, it’s important to focus on good technique throughout the movements.

One of the most common tire–related injuries is a bicep tear (8).

These often occur during the lifting portion of the tire flip, during which the biceps are in a stretched and compromised position.

To avoid a bicep tear during the tire flip, make sure to press your shoulder into the tire at the bottom of the movement and use the stronger muscles of your posterior (glutes, hamstrings, back muscles) for momentum. Avoid lifting the tire solely with your arms.

Other common injury–prone areas include the lower or mid-back, shoulders, and knees (8).

The best way to avoid injuries from tire exercises is to choose the right size tire for your level of strength and experience.

Work with a partner when possible to help you manipulate the tire and prevent it from falling on you.

Summary

Given the size and weight of large tires, there’s a risk of injury when completing tire exercises. Select the right size tire for your level of strength, and work with a partner when possible to best avoid injuries.

Tire exercises have emerged as a training strategy for athletes and recreational gym-goers alike.

They can be strategically combined to create a tire circuit that provides a well-balanced, full-body workout, hitting all of your major muscle groups.

Regularly performing tire training comes with several potential benefits, including providing movement through multiple planes, contributing to both strength and conditioning, and boosting power development.

Considering the large size and weight of many tires, they present a significant risk for various injuries. Therefore, it’s best to start with a lighter tire and gradually progress as you become stronger.

Whether you’re an athlete looking to improve your performance or a recreational gym-goer looking to improve your fitness, tire exercises may be an excellent addition to your training program.