Tire flips do not only look challenging. This exercise also works a variety of muscles to a nice extent. Find out which ones and whether flipping tires is enough to build muscle.
The first part of the tire flip mainly works the glutes (butt), hamstrings (upper thighs), erector spinae (lower back), quadriceps (front thighs), inner thigh muscles, calves, and grip muscles.
Additionally, your trapezius (upper back) will have to work to some extent to keep your shoulders up and shoulder blades back.
What muscles you engage in the second part of the tire flip after it has reached hip height depends on what technique you implement.
A leg-focused (similar to the jerk part of the clean and jerk) technique will mostly work the leg muscles above together with some isometric (static) deltoid (shoulder), trapezius, triceps (back upper arm), chest, ab, and oblique engagement.
The upper-body-focused technique (upright row + chest press) will mainly work the trapezius, front deltoids, biceps, forearm grip muscles, pectoral muscles, triceps, and to some extent side deltoids.
Whether tire flips are enough to build muscle depends on things like your current strength level and the weights of the tires you have available.
Part 1: sumo deadlift with extra grip challenge
The first part of the tire flip will be a movement that is familiar to people more experienced with resistance training.
More specifically, this part is similar to a sumo deadlift which is a deadlift with your feet wider apart.
That means the first part of the tire flip mainly works your glutes (butt), hamstrings (upper thighs), erector spinae (lower back), quadriceps (front thighs), inner thigh muscles, calves, and grip muscles.
Additionally, you will get some trapezius (upper back) engagement to keep your shoulders up and shoulder blades back.
Compared to a barbell lift, the same weight in a tire flip will generally be harder for your forearm grip muscles due to the somewhat awkward hold. This could be a downside as will be discussed later.
You could also try to flip the tire with a regular deadlift movement with your feet closer to each other although this would likely feel less natural for this task.
Flipping tires with your feet closer to each other would focus slightly more on your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back and slightly less on your inner thigh muscles and quadriceps.
Part 2: flipping the tire higher than hip height
If you would stop after the initial sumo deadlift part you would stand up about straight with your hands (and the tire) at about hip height.
To actually flip the tire over you likely need to do an extra movement (unless you are using a tiny tire). There are two main ways you can approach this.
The first and most convenient technique to lift heavy involves quickly going through your knees, keeping the tire at the same height (but “moving” your hands to chest height), and then doing the final push with your legs.
To do the second technique, the first part of the tire flip is preferably done somewhat explosively. After that, you continue the upward movement with your upper body muscles without really going through your knees.
Version 1: leg-focused technique
First of all, letting gravity do its work on your body to lower it and in turn having your hands higher in relation does not really require any work from your muscles.
After that, you have to intercept the falling tire.
To do this, upper body muscles like your deltoids (shoulder), trapezius, triceps (back upper arm), chest, abs, and obliques and lower body muscles like your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves will have to work to a certain extent.
Next, you have to push the tire up to flip it over. Your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves will mainly be responsible for this.
At the same time, your deltoids, trapezius, and triceps are still working in an isometric (static) way.
Version 2: explosive upper body technique
In this second version of the tire flip, you basically do an upright row and potentially a chest press (depending on the size of the tire).
The upright row part will mainly work your trapezius, front deltoids, biceps, forearm grip muscles, and to some extent side deltoids.
After that, the chest press part works your pectoral muscles, triceps, and front deltoids.
During both of these movements, your leg and core muscles have to work in a static way to keep yourself upright. However, this is definitely not as significant as in the initial deadlift movement.
Do tire flips build muscle?
To grow and strengthen muscles you have to pressure them with enough weight and repetitions, give your body enough nutrition, and rest enough.
What enough weight is depends on the current strength of the muscles you work.
While it is possible to gain muscle with higher rep ranges too, a rough guideline is that if you can do 25+ repetitions of an exercise, it is not challenging enough to be considered an effective muscle growth exercise.
So if the tire you are flipping is heavy enough to not be able to do 25 repetitions, you are likely building muscle in at least a few areas.
What muscles will actually grow will depend on your technique and how strong your muscles are.
For example, if you do the leg-focused technique, you could actually grow and strengthen your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and grip muscles.
In the explosive upper body technique, you may not be able to flip a tire with enough weight to challenge the strong leg muscles since your upper body muscles would not be able to flip the weight.
Downside of using tire flips to build muscle
As briefly mentioned, the weight of the tire is relatively important in whether or not you will build muscle.
In more standard weight lifting exercises, you work out with a certain weight and slowly increase how much weight you use as you get stronger.
A downside of doing tire flips to build muscle is that you likely don’t have many different tires with small weight jumps available.
You can still make something work in a case of bigger weight jumps by really increasing your reps and pushing yourself close enough to failure.
However, most people will agree after trying out both types of training styles that progressing with smaller weight jumps is more convenient.
Do tire flips build muscle?
Tire flips can build muscle if the tire is heavy enough, you do the right repetitions, give your body enough nutrients, and give your muscles enough rest. What muscles you build depends on your technique and the relative strengths of the muscles.
Are tire flips the same as deadlifts?
The initial part of the tire flip is similar to a sumo deadlift with more grip muscle challenge. After the tire reaches hip height, the second part of the flip is very different from deadlifts.