“Across the three sets, you’re supposed to go up in weight. I started with a 45-pound bar and two 5-pound plates, for a total of 55 pounds. I got the weight overhead, but when it came time to drop into a squat I could only go a few inches. Beal gently suggested that I use the 35-pound bar with no weights – the girl bar. I took the suggestion, but my right knee had a different plan fro my left knee. I looked crooked enough that Beal, again with a gentle tone, and as much positive, affirmative energy as anyone could have mustered, suggested I use a pvc pipe instead of the bar. So we started there.” – T.J. Murphy Inside the Box
The most recent message that has been placed on my mind to share has been focused around “getting back to the basics.” Placing focus on the fundamentals of movement and making sure that we have a rock solid foundation to build upon is honestly the most valuable thing we can do for ourselves.
That being said, when it comes to weightlifting, nothing is more fundamental than practicing barbell movements with a PVC pipe.
You can head on down to Lowe’s or The Home Depot and pick up 10 ft of 1 inch PVC pipe for about 3 bucks. Chop it in half with a saw and you’ve just purchased one of the best weightlifting tools you can ever hope to own. It’s not fancy, there are no bells and whistles or shiny aspects to it, and that is the most important aspect of it.
If you don’t believe that statment, ask yourself this:
If you cannot perform a barbell movement with proper form and technique using a PVC pipe, what makes you think that you will be able to do it with a loaded barbell?!
This isn’t just my own opinion, though I can speak from personal experience that regular practice with a PVC pipe helped drastically increase my learning curve when it came to weightlifting.
Even the best coaches in the world, such as Coach Mike Burgener, use the PVC as a valuable learning tool during warm up and technique practice. Check out the video of Coach Mike explaining his signature warm up below!
- You may be very familiar with the feeling of restricted mobility. There have been plenty of people at the box I attend who can back squat 150+ lbs, but can barely overhead squat an empty bar without significant difficulty. An easy rule of thumb is: if you can’t perform the movement without discomfort with a PVC pipe, don’t grab a barbell yet. If you want to take a more advanced path, seek out a Function Movement Screen which can help to identify specific mobility restrictions you have as an individual and you can build a plan to start recovering mobility in those areas.
Learning New Movement
- Some barbell movements are just more technically complicated than others. The Olympic lifts (clean, jerk, snatch) are perfect examples of technique driven, complex movements. Even experienced lifters still spend time working with a PVC pipe during warm up before grabbing a bar, so don’t rush to load up. Let your coach cue you on the basics of proper technique in these movements, learn to master the basics, and the weight will increase appropriately over time. Remember, we have to learn to walk before we can run.
Return from Injury
- PVC practice is critical to learn proper technique, which can prevent injury. However it can be just as valuable to help reestablish technique when coming back from an injury if you do sustain one. Using a PVC during metcon’s when returning from injury can be a great way to prep your body for high volume/rep practice without loading up the bar.
Movements You Can Improve with PVC pipe Practice
- Back Squat
- Front Squat
- Overhead Squat
- Overhead Press
- Push Press
- Push Jerk
- Split Jerk
- Bench Press
- and many variations on the above!
This is easily one of the most actionable suggestions that anyone serious about improving the quality of the above movements can follow: go get a PVC pipe to practice with today. It no surprise any weightlifting gym worth your time has a supply of these on hand.