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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Meet My Slosh Tube (i.e. How I came to have a 10 foot PVC pipe in my basement)

I remember being pretty surprised at what my sports doctor told me when I went in for an appointment about my bum knee several months ago.  During some strength diagnostics, he had me doing some step-downs.  I thought I would breeze through these tests without issue.  I feel like a pretty fit guy.  Instead I hear this: "You have a really weak core." 

I thought to myself, "Seriously?!  I'll lift my shirt and show you six reasons why I have a strong core!"  I was doing Crossfit four times a week at that point.  That program is crammed full of core stability work.  I'm doing stuff like overhead squats and situps and kettlebell exercises several times a week! 

Well at the same time, I wasn't terribly surprised.  As much as I love my Crossfit, I've also recognized for a long time that the program has limitations.  For one, it really only works two planes of movement (the sagittal and frontal planes for you health nerds) and leaves out the transverse plane (which deals with rotational movement).  Not to mention that you won't catch a Crossfitter doing any kind of isometrics like a plank or a wall sit.  And don't even get me started on exercise form or appropriate programming!  But I digress.  This is all fitness nerd crap that only folks like me think is cool.  If you didn't understand a lick of it, just nod your head politely and keep reading.

Anyway, for the past several months I've been working to make my strength training more wholistic.  As a result, I've been talking a lot more with evil fitness genius Pete Kemme of Kemme Fitness.  Specifically, I've been adapting Pete's K-Crosstrain program for runners to my own strength training needs. 

More than anything, what Pete's programming has done for me is to get me to look at workout equipment in a whole new way.  It's kind of been a continuation of my experiences at the MovNat clinic I attended in May (recaps part one and part two if you're interested).  The result is that I've largely traded in my traditional weights for random heavy crap like sandbags.  I haven't used my barbells for their intended purpose in months.  My wife has been forced to hide my daughter's sport's equipment so that I don't cut them open and fill them with cement. 

And most recently, Pete's madness has inspired this scene in my basement bathroom:

Yes, that is a fuzzy cover on my toilet.  No one likes a cold toilet seat dude. 

And yes, that is a 10 inch PVC pipe sitting on my bathtub.  Earlier it was sticking out of the window of our Ford Escape while my wife tried to hide her embarassement.  It was also an interesting conversation at the check-out counter of Home Depot.  I believe my wife was covering her face at that point too, or at least doing some kind of disapproving head shake. 

This weekend I made the ultimate in evil fitness equipment: the slosh tube.  It's a deceptively simple tool; a large pipe filled with water.  And it's not terribly heavy.  My finished pipe probably only weighs about 50 lbs.  What makes it so effective is that the water is constantly moving within the tube.  It's one thing to lift 50 lbs when it's not shifting around on you.  When it's falling from one end of a tube to another...well, you'll feel like Will E Coyote with a ball and chain strapped to your body.  In other words, you're going down buddy.

Making this torture device is pretty simple.  Beside the PVC pipe and end caps, which can be any size (I chose the 4 inch by 10 foot model, although the smaller the diameter and length the less evil it will be), all you need is some PVC Primer, PVC Cement, and something to fill your pipe with.  Total cost of these materials is around $20 (including the cost of disapproving and puzzled looks from your family and hardware store staff).  Then follow these steps:

1. Seal up one end of your pipe with an end cap.  Don't forget to seal up one end, and don't seal up both ends.  If you do either, the only exercise you'll be able to accomplish with your pipe is the one in futility.  I also reserve my right to call you a dumbass.  Also, make sure it dries fully before you start on step two.  Failing to do this would also reserve your spot on the dumbass bus.  

2. Figure out how much water you'll need to put in.  You want the pipe to be about 40-50% full of water for maximum ridiculousness.  Fill it too full and you just have a big heavy pipe.  Don't fill it enough and you won't get to experience the full force of what it feels like to be tackled to the ground by an inanimate object.  And we don't want that. 

I majored in math in college, so of course I geeked out on calculating the amount of water needed.  For non-nerds, here's what you do.  The formula for volume of a cylinder is pi * diameter-squared * height divided by 4 or (D^2*PI*H)/4.  Then since you only want the pipe half-full, divide that number by 2.  Then convert that number into a unit of measurement that actually makes sense to you.  I converted my number from cubic inches to gallons.  That gave me a number right around 3 gallons. 

There are other ways to figure out how much water to put in the tube.  But since I did all the nerd leg-work for you, why would you want to use them?

3. Fill the tube with that much water using your filling tool.  I did this step in the basement bathroom because I didn't care if I splashed water everywhere.  You may want to exercise caution.  Even do it outside with a hose if it's not witch-tit cold outside like it is around here right now. 

That bucket in the above picture was 3 gallons almost exactly, but I used the gallon water jug to fill the tube because it was a lot easier.

4.  After you get the water in there, you can seal up the other end.  For those who've never used PVC pipe before, you'll want to do the following.  Clean off the pipe and then paint on a layer of PVC primer where you intend the cap to go.  Spread some PVC cement on the end cap, and then stick it on.  You won't be able to redo this step, so make sure you do it right.  If you're not confident you can do it right the first time, get some PVC scraps to practice on or something.  The previous homeowners in our house seemed to do their plumbing with duct tape and a prayer, so I'm handy with PVC. 

5. Follow the instructions for drying on the PVC cement.  Usually it takes about 15 minutes to fully dry.  I waited a full day before playing with my slosh tube just in case. 

6. Apparently it is good form to name all homemade workout equipment.  So I named mine Sloshy McTuberson.  For some reason, I see my slosh tube as a pissed off old Scottish guy, similar to the dad in "So I Married An Axe Murderer". 


Now that you've brought evil to life, what do you with it?  First I suggest doing some kind of maniacal laugh.  You could even say something corny like, "It's ALIVE!"  After that, you can also do pretty much any exercise you would do with a normal barbell.  Or just pick it up and hold it.  Just keeping a slosh pipe steady is a decent workout. 

Here's what I did for my first workout with Sloshy McTuberson.  I wanted to do more, but ended up collapsing in a heap.  Rarely do my muscles straight-up give out on me...but they did during this workout.

10 Military Presses
5 Burpees
10 Lunge Twists
10 Thrusters
10 Bench Presses
10 Forward Paddles
Overhead carry until I dropped the bar
10 Backward Paddles
10 Zercher Squats

This workout can be a lot for someone without a lot of experience in strength training, but you could just do some of it and substitute exercises for pushups or squats or something. 

Anyway, doing stuff like making your own fitness equipment can really invigorate your old strength routine.  I hope you try something like this.  In the meantime, I'll be continuing to post on my strength training adventures.  Go get some muscles citizens!  Cheers!


  1. dude, that sounds A W E S O M E period.

    might need to fashion my own!

  2. Damn... I can just see myself stumbling around with that thing over my head.... putting it through windows etc.. but what a great idea! looking forward to hearing more about it.

  3. Is it just me or do those photos not load (except the crazy Mike Myers one)? Is 10 foot the preferred length? Most results of a quick google search show 10 feet. I live in a tiny crappy apartment and don't have a lot of room for a 10 foot tube!

  4. Lola, pictures don't load well on some browsers with Blogger. It doesn't play nice with everyone.

    And 10 feet is just one of the many lengths you can get. I saw some six foot PVC that would work well also. It won't be as challenging because the water won't create as much torque, but will still work pretty well. You can also make mini slosh tubes (my next project).

  5. So, I am really intrigued by this. Did you make some sort of a mark at the 5 foot mark so you can have a rough idea of equal for both sides? It seems if you did not do this you may inadvertently work one side of the body harder than the other. I am going to have to keep this idea in my head for when I get a real house and not a stupid condo and have room for a 10 ft pvc pipe.

  6. Three slosh tube tips:

    1. If suing outisde in cold weather, add about a cup of salt to the mixture. If it's REALLY cold, add alcohol.

    2. The non-nerd way of filling: tap on the side as you fill it. You can identify the fill line by the change in sound.

    3. If you want a mobile slosh tube (in the event you live in a travel trailer), use a screw-on cap on one end.

  7. Nick, I have a piece of tape at the middle of the tube. But even if you know where the middle is, it's not going to prevent the possiblity of overworking one side. The water will naturally shift to your weaker side because you can't support the tube as well.

    I also fashioned some handles out of rope that are pretty handy. That helps prevent getting an uneven grip

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