There's some very good advice that kids from humble backgrounds who get scholarships to schmanzy prep schools often get: 'Don't party and act out like a rich kid, because a rich kid can get over being suspended, arrested or addicted...and maybe you can't.'
Tire flips as a workout first came up, far as I know, in the 90's, in the 'Strongman' competitions that were getting more press and TV attention. I had a subscription to Milo magazine, which detailed the individual events as well as the training of the contestants, and it certainly looked like a killer workout. Crouch down, deadlift it up, push it on over, then repeat 'till you're across the finish line! Man, that workout does everything: lower body, pushing muscles, pulling muscles, cardio...Couldn't wait to try it myself. When I opened my own place in '05, I set out to do just that.
Getting a great big tire isn't hard, as once they're worn out for their intended use, the owners have to pay to dispose of them, so the main obstacle is finding a vehicle that can carry one, they don't just fit in the back of your Accord. Think I borrowed a minivan, but I corralled a tire, brought it back, and was ready to get my clients lifting, pulling, and pushing into the shape of their lives.
Problems quickly presented themselves, the main one being getting the thing off the ground, which constituted not just a deadlift, but a deadlift starting much lower than normal, a 'deficit deadlift' as they're called.
As I've written before, I think starting a deadlift with the weight on the ground (though it's how its normally done, in most gyms) is stupid, like starting a bench press with the bar on your chest, and a standard deadlift starts about 8” off the ground. Tire flips start at ground level, and if you don't think eight inches is a big change in a deadlift, you've never tried starting one that low. Even 2 or 3 inches makes a huge difference in how you can perform a big lift. As well as the strain it puts on your body.
The deadlift is a super-valuable lift, not just because of all the muscles it works at once (over 30, by some counts), but because it's a motion we all have to do, every day, in some form, and if you can do it correctly with a big weight, putting those mulch bags in your car trunk at Lowe's isn't such a big deal.
The problem with deadlifting is, if you're handling weight that's heavy for you, your lower back has to have a slight outward arch ('lordosis' is the technical term,) whereby (simplifying here) the entire spine works as a unit. Bending the spine forward, like the letter 'C,' 'spinal flexion,' should be avoided with heavy weights as it's the most common cause of disk herniations, when the goo inside the disk between the bony vertebrae squirts out ('jelly comes out of the doughnut.')
As an aside, there is, and probably always will be, 'brisk' debate on how much, if any spinal flexion is safe and can be included in workouts. Some trainers compare the spine to a credit card, 'you can only bend it so many times before it breaks,' and recommend against any exercises involving spinal flexion at all. Me? I think you have to be cautious, and you'll never be able to lift with your spine rounded, what you can lift with it arched, but you can, carefully and progressively, build strength going rounded to arched, and that life will most certainly have you do that movement whether you're ready for it or not.
Well, most people have a hard time, at least at first, holding that back arch for a regular deadlift, and it's a rare person who can do it picking up a tire off the ground. Much less, picking up a tire multiple times, getting progressively more muscle-tired and winded, as tire flip workouts typically go. So, clients of mine that tried it, and the majority of people I've seen attempt it, end up picking up the tire with their back rounded over like a rainbow, and then they over-arch that back to push the tire forward. This was...just no good. Most people picking up that tire, end up looking like the guy in the photo above.
First, do no harm; I've often remarked how kind-of odd it is when clients thank me for not hurting them as I trained them, as though that was some extra benefit they weren't expecting. That's like thanking your mechanic for not screwing up your engine worse when he works on it...anyway.
Tire flipping is, potentially, a great workout. Also, it's cool and edgy and butch and badass, no sissy stuff here! But it's also, for most people, an exercise where the potential risks outweigh the benefits. Getting clients tired is just not real hard, and doing it with something where the potential for not just hurting the back muscles, but also the spine, is not a good idea. Don't get me wrong, no exercise is totally safe, and there's no movement you can't do wrong and hurt yourself, but there's higher risk and lower risk. So, I gave my tire away.
Saw it for years afterwards behind this other gym in West Ashleigh, knew it was my old tire from the white stripes I'd spray-painted on it, targets for hitting it with a sledgehammer. Hope everyone's back is OK.
My point is, like non-rich students from humble backgrounds, average trainees, especially if they're over 35, even more so over 50, can't expect to get away with what their more gifted peers do. Throwing neato-torpedo exercises at your clients may keep them engaged, but if they wind up with frozen shoulders or bad backs, well...why did they come there in the first place?
There are a number of exercises, top of my head – bag punching (like a boxer), box jumps, tire flipping, pullups with tons of momentum ('kipping',) burpees, sledgehammer work (yeah, I do it, but my clients don't), that are tough, tiring, cool-looking, and...done wrong a lot more than they're done right. And they usually figure in workouts done to exhaustion. If you can't do an exercise in good form, so you're not hurting yourself while you're doing it, you should be doing something else.
There's a term used in the fitness community, 'any-idiot workouts,' (Sometimes, we use words other than 'idiot,' shhhhh) meaning that any idiot can make you tired, get you doing stuff over and over, or with a lot of weight, until you collapse. As a wise man once said, if you want to experience pain, work in social services, and if you want nausea, take some syrup of ipecac. Don't make rich-kid mistakes with your body, as, especially after 35, there're some things Mommy and Daddy can't bail you out of.