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.
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.