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Gym workouts with nice, new, shiny equipment are all well and good, but there’s nothing like getting your grime on with a back-to-basics outdoor workout. Whether it’s Braveheart-inspired rock throwing (“You should have remembered the rocks”), firing up some vintage strongman footage on YouTube or watching The Mountain from Game of Thrones move some serious weight in The World’s Strongest Man contest, there’s something primal about going outside and slinging stuff around.
There are some real fitness benefits to unleashing your inner Neanderthal, too. A lot of people’s go-to gym sessions involve lifting carefully balanced, symmetrical weights, whether that’s on a barbell, pull-up bar or machines. Contrast that to an outdoor workout in which your tools are oddly shaped and unevenly weighted objects like tires and rocks, which not only require strength and power to tip, lift and throw, but also ask more of your stabilizing muscles. In this first installment of a two-part workout, I’ll take you through three staple backyard exercises. Before you get going, I suggest you prepare yourself 10 minutes of running or the same amount of time on a rowing machine, a couple of minutes jump roping and a circuit of 10 bodyweight squats, pushups and lunges. Finally, do one minute of unweighted torso twists to prep yourself for the rotation of the twisting rock toss. Then it’s time to embrace your inner cave dweller and get after it.
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A strongman competition staple, this exercise sounds exactly like what it is: lift one edge of a tire and flip it over. Your local tire shop is always looking to get rid of old tires so just ask and they’ll probably give you one for free. So you don’t mess yourself up, use these technique pointers:
—Stand with your feet shoulder width apart or slightly wider and toes straight
—Screw your feet into the ground so you feel your hip and butt muscles turn on
— Squat down and put both hands under the bottom of the tire, keeping your back flat and looking straight ahead
— Squeeze your abs and glutes as hard as you can and drive your feet into the ground to power yourself and the tire up
— As the tire reaches the top position, aggressively push it away from you, again bracing your abs as you do so
—Repeat 5 times then take a break
Twisting Rock Throw
The other two exercises in this workout emphasize flexion and extension. Now we’re going to go after rotation, which you’ll need whether you’re slaying pow, shredding tubes or doing just about any other sport or outdoor activity worthy of outlandish verbiage and hyperbole. The twisting rock throw requires you to both maintain the stability of your upper body “cylinder” from hips to shoulders, while also generating power to throw the rock. Yeah, you’re gonna feel it tomorrow. To make the most of this exercise:
—Try to maintain an upright upper body throughout the movement
—Aim to generate a smooth twist that maintains consistent speed throughout
—Aim to release the rock slightly behind your hip
—Try doing 10 twists on each side. If you want to aim for max distance on each throw, reduce that to 5 or 6 reps, take longer to rest between sets and switch to a bigger rock (or medicine ball if you’re indoors) if you need a more challenging weight. Targeting endurance? Then go for more reps and use a smaller rock if needed.
Reverse Overhead Rock Toss
The aforementioned behemoth, The Mountain (that’s Mr. Björnsson), did a variation on this when he broke a world record at The Arnold Classic. No need for you to target a place in the record books, but you can take a leaf out of his book and build explosive power with a similar, rock-slinging exercise. Here’s how:
—If you want to issue a primal yell as you launch the rock overhead, we won’t hold it against you. Just make sure you get the angle right so the projectile doesn’t go straight up and then come down on your head. You’ve been warned.
Here are all three exercises condensed into 15 seconds. Part II, coming soon.