An Odd Implement for Surprising Strength: The Slosh Pipe

To build unexpected strength, first build an implement that behaves in unexpected ways.

Sometimes men do weird things for no other reason than to “mix it up” with one another. Classic boys-being-boys behavior. I remember one such instance years ago when a co-worker pounced on me out of the blue.

I was 24, and worked in a huge factory with my brother Dave. One day on lunch break, a burly-looking guy who I’d never seen before walked up to me and asked if I was Dave’s brother. I said yes and we started talking. I swallowed the last bite of my sandwich and he asked if I was done with lunch.

I said I was, and turned to toss my wrapper away. Just then, he launched into my shoulder and knocked me flat out onto the stack of waist-high cardboard I was sitting on. Me being me, I reciprocated the “nice-to-meet-you-man-shake.” We scuffled about on the cardboard for a brief moment, at which point I managed to twist out of his grasp and back onto my feet.

“You’re wiry,” he said with a laugh, and then hurriedly walked back to work. My supervisor merely shook his head and grinned. It was a lively place to work. At 6’3”and 185lb (depending on how much pizza I’d eaten the night before), I was the physical definition of wiry – lean, tough, sinewy, and strong. 

Getting lean and strong happens all the time, even for people with no gym memberships.

Strong Like an Animal

Most of us could use some of that wiry strength. Coach Dan John calls it anaconda strength. Others relate it to a wrestler’s strength and you often find it in physical laborers. It’s the kind of strength that takes someone completely by surprise if they mess with you. They might even say “Man! You’re like wrestling a gorilla!”

This kind of strength allows you to move furniture without getting sore the next day and withstand hours of strenuous outdoor activities. It goes far beyond bi-lateral barbell strength and gives you the ability to move, act, and react with strength and grace. 

During the last few months we’ve worked on the kettlebell snatch and trained with sledgehammers. I am giving you the tools to develop the kind of unexpected, gorilla-like strength I used to hold my own against my coworker. The next tool you will need for the program I am building to get you there requires some assembly: the slosh pipe.

Build Your Slosh Pipe

A slosh pipe is easy to make and will set you back about $50. Go to a hardware store and purchase the following: 

  • One 10-foot piece of black, 4-inch diameter ABS plastic pipe.
  • Two 4-inch end caps
  • One small container of ABS glue

Do not use the white PVC. ABS is stronger and UV resistant, so unless you can inconspicuously stash a 10-foot pipe somewhere in your house, you’ll want the pipe to be able to withstand outdoor storage.

slosh pipe back rack

Unless you plan to stash this bad boy in your house somewhere (and never drop it), don’t use white PVC.

Here’s how to assemble a slosh pipe.

  1. Read and follow the directions on the can of ABS glue.
  2. Glue one end cap to one end of your pipe. Apply the glue liberally so you get a good seal. Let the glue cure according to directions.
  3. Next you need to fill the pipe with water. This step requires some creativity. I leaned mine against a building and climbed on the roof to dump water into the pipe. You might need to recruit a friend to hold it while you climb on top of a car, into a tree, or onto a step ladder to fill it up.
  4. Do not fill it completely. You need to leave some space in the pipe so the water can slosh back and forth. More on the weight below.
  5. After pouring the water in, dry the end completely. Glue the second end cap on the pipe. It may try to pop off from air pressure in the pipe, so have a piece of tape handy to secure the cap if this happens. Once the glue sets, you can remove the tape.
  6. Let the glue cure while the pipe leans against a wall or tree. Measure five feet from one end to the center of your slosh pipe and mark it with duct-tape or paint so you can easily pick the pipe up in the middle without thinking about it.

A 10-foot piece of 4-inch diameter black ABS with end caps weighs about 10lb. Water weighs about 8.3lb per gallon. The pipe holds a total of 6.5246 gallons of water, but remember we’re not filling it to capacity. Therefore:

  • For a 20lb slosh pipe, add 1.24 gallons of water.
  • For a 30lb pipe, add 2.5 gallons of water.
  • For a 40lb pipe, add 3.5 gallons of water.
  • For a 50lb pipe, pour slightly over 4.75 gallons into your pipe. This is what I use.

It’s All About the Leverage

When you carry a slosh pipe, the water weight is leveraged away from your body. This, coupled with the action of the water flowing back and forth, creates inherent instability that your body has to fight against. Resist the temptation to make a shorter slosh pipe, as it ruins the properties of the tool. Ten feet is optimal.

Since a liquid cannot be compressed, the only way to get more water weight away from the body with a slosh pipe is to increase the diameter or length of the pipe. If you want a lighter slosh pipe, use less water. I don’t like smaller diameter slosh pipes because you cannot get enough water into them to make them weigh much.

This thing won’t be easy to control, but that’s the point. Handling a 4’’ diameter pipe will develop a strong, dynamic grip as the water sloshes back and forth.

slosh pipe low carry

Carrying a thick pipe that moves around irregularly will challenge your grip and balance in new and interesting ways.

Become One With the Slosh

You’ll want to become comfortable wrangling this beast before you use it in a structured program. Get outside and start playing with your new tool. Pick it up and carry it overhead, in the crooks of your arms, in your hands, or on your back. You will quickly find that it is a bear to handle. My wife said I looked like a drunken sailor when I first started carrying mine.

Be sure your hands are equidistant from the center mark on your pipe. It’s easy to place one hand farther away without realizing it. Keep your body tight and use your inner strength to control the pipe. More on that concept coming soon. We’re wrapping up the final touches before I reveal the strength and conditioning routine I’m building for you. Until then, get comfortable with your new slosh pipe and have fun!

More Ways to Get Strong Without a Barbell:

Photos courtesy of Walter J Dorey.

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