The Plumbing Product That Belongs in Your Lifting Routine

Don't sleep on PVC. Try these moves with the cheap tubing.

January 22, 2024 9:18 am
A man squatting in a pink-lit room.
Offbeat routines start with offbeat equipment. We explain.
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Ever wondered why there are random, sawed-off tubes hanging out in the corners of your local weight room? That’s PVC piping — the same stuff you can get at Home Depot or Lowe’s for less than a dollar a foot. It’s typically used in plumbing systems, as polyvinyl chloride is durable, moisture-resistant and won’t corrode over time.

Still, the tubes are a surprisingly effective supplement to a weightlifting regimen. After years of seeing some of the most cut guys at the gym incorporate a little PVC into their workouts, I finally set out to learn more. Here’s what you need to know, along with five moves to get you started.

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Why It’s Effective

  • Lightweight and Versatile: The PVC pipe is light, making it ideal for fine-tuning your form without the strain of added weight. Sometimes, you’ll see a lifter bring one over to the squat rack for some phantom reps before they dive into the real deal. (It’s a great “feedback tool” in that respect.)
  • Improves Mobility: Many PVC-specific exercises (like those outlined below) specifically target joint mobility, which is crucial for safe and effective lifting. It’s a good habit to get into, assuming you want to lift for the rest of your life.
  • Cost-Effective: PVC piping is super cheap. You can also cut it to your exact specifications. (It’s critical that the pipe is long enough to accommodate your width and range of motion.)
  • Portable and Convenient: You can bring it to the gym without any issues. (You could probably store it at the gym. Who cares? It’s $3.) And depending on your post-pandemic appetite for working out at home…this is a good one to keep in the garage, too.

Five Moves to Know


Shoulder Pass-Throughs: Warms up the shoulders and improves shoulder mobility.

  • Hold the PVC pipe with a wide grip.
  • Slowly bring the pipe over your head and down behind your back, keeping your arms straight.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Check out a video here. Once you feel comfortable with the pass-through, graduate yourself to the Figure-8.

Overhead Squats: This warms up the entire body and helps improve squat form.

  • Hold the pipe overhead, arms straight.
  • Perform a squat while keeping the pipe stable above your head.
  • Check out this video for a more advanced warm-up: the squat-press-stand.

Mobility Exercises

PVC Pipe Lean: Improves hip mobility, plus your form for deadlifts.

  • Hold the pipe vertically against your back, touching the head, upper back and tailbone.
  • Hinge at the hips, maintaining all three points of contact.
  • Check out a video here. You can also hold the pipe horizontally, if you wish…see here.

PVC Pipe Twists: Helps with thoracic mobility. Will give the obliques a blast in the process, too.

  • Hold the pipe on your shoulders behind your neck.
  • Twist your torso to the left and right, keeping your hips square.
  • Check out a video here.

Good Mornings: Increases hamstring flexibility and lower back strength.

  • Place the pipe on your shoulders.
  • Bend forward at the waist with a slight bend in the knees, keeping your back straight.
  • Check out a video here.

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