The Sloshing Pillar of Pain
by Dan John
The day after I came home from my annual two-week vacation at Discus Camp in Ohio, I helped my young friend Sarah move into her new apartment.
I was still gassed from training four sessions a day for two weeks, but I have those important skills necessary for being a mover: I'm Mongo, Blazing Saddles strong and I can walk backwards up a flight of stairs while holding just about anything. Sarah is only in her mid-twenties, and hasn't amassed a fortune in furniture, so it was an easy move. The only hard part was having to keep asking people to get out of the way. You see, Sarah had about thirty-five friends and family members show up to help.
Mongo and Dan John only pawn in game of life.
I don't know how much she makes as a teacher, but it is hard to ignore the amount of "Social Capital" she has in her life bank account. The term "Social Capital" might not be familiar with many of our readers, but I'm sure you know the concept. When your water line breaks and a bunch of people show up to help you dig it out at three in the morning — none from the city water services — you have a lot of Social Capital.
Simply, it's those social strings and social ties that go deep through the people you know. So much so, in fact, that you may at times ignore what a great resource you have at your grasp. If your dad is a plumber, your brother is an electrician and your sister runs a hair salon and they all live within a few miles of you, your life is probably much easier than most other's.
And now you know my great secret: I have great Social Capital in the fitness and lifting business. When I was struggling hourly on the Velocity Diet, I called the man who invented the diet, Chris Shugart. If I have a problem with stretching or GPP, I call Pavel. My post-Velocity Diet fat loss program was a gift from Alwyn Cosgrove.
Yeah, okay, I guess you could say I'm bragging here, but what most people don't know is that some of my best ideas come from a group of guys who come out to Ohio with me every summer. We share insights, train together, and occasionally come up with something brilliant. This year, Greg Henger brought the Slosh Pipe. It's relatively cheap (under twenty dollars) and easy to make (with even someone from Utah around to help).
Many of my long time readers will recognize the names that show up at camp. Among them is Mike Rosenberg, the inventor of the Rosenberg Bars. These are thick Pipe Farmer Bars that rehabilitated my grip after my two wrist surgeries. I'll never forget what the surgeon told me in 2001: "You will probably never be able to lift weights again."
Three months later, I competed in an Olympic lifting meet. Why? Well, the fact that I'm stupid played a big part, but the Thick Bar Farmer Walks allowed me to work my grip without any stress on my recovering pieces of bone. When you slip the Joe Garcia Handles on the Rosenberg Bars, you have a standard Farmer Bar.
Mike Rosenberg with the Rosenberg Bars. This and other pictures courtesy of Mike's son Seth, a great lifter and thrower himself.
That's the essence of Social Capital right there, folks. Friends helping friends sweat blood. It's a beautiful thing.
Also visiting us in Ohio was young Lonnie Wade from Vermont. Now, he comes from the land of Tree Tappers, but we allow him in to our group anyway. When my dad retired and moved back to Vermont, Lonnie was the little boy across the street. Today, three decades later, Lonnie is an excellent throws and lifting coach and still brings his heart and soul to every training session.
Which brings us back to Greg. Greg is from West Virginia, and really, what more need be said? I have a theory that all men in the universe can be classified into two groups depending on which of the following two questions they answer "yes" to:
1. Have you ever partied with cheerleaders?
2. Have you ever been bitten by a snake?
Asked both of these questions, Greg's famous answer was, "venomous or non-venomous?"
For the record, no snake has ever bitten me.
I have recorded our exploits of idiocy in other places. For example, the famous contest where we held a 175-pound steel pipe in the Zercher position dragging a 85-pound sled uphill, simply to see who could go the highest. This year, however, Greg brought the "Slosh Pipe."
It's simply a 4 or 6 inch diameter PVC pipe with the ends capped, filled about two-thirds full of water (filling it all the way up defeats the purpose, trust me).
Our pipe stands 9 feet 4 inches, and weighs about 38 pounds. I'm begging the readers not to ask me about PVC pipe cleaners or glues or cutting or anything like that. If you can't figure out how to put this together yourself, show these pictures to your friendly "neighbor guy" and he'll take care of you. That's what I did for my pipe here at home. I can give you one piece of advice, though: cap one end first, then fill it with water, then cap the other end. Any other method won't work too well.
Thirty-eight pounds soaking wet, and it'll kick your butt for about twenty bucks.
The darnedest thing about the Slosh Pipe is this: the water doesn't stay still and behave itself. It sloshes. Back and forth. Uncontrollably. So, just picking up the pipe and holding it quickly becomes the Core Workout from Hell.
Now, as many readers know, I loath the term "core" because it has become such a grab bag term for the fitness industry, like "functional" and "fit" and "weight loss." These terms get tossed around by the nice ladies at the spa like NFL strength coaches and, really, with apologies to Wittgenstein, nobody knows what we mean when we say these words.
The first day after trying the Slosh Pipe, my "cobra" muscles were killing me. Basically, those are the all the upper body muscles that you flex when you imitate a Cobra. My serratus muscles felt like someone had ripped them off my ribs. What did I do the first day to get this sore? One exercise with a 38-pound pipe: a Zercher carry for distance.
Are you man enough for the dreaded Slosh Pipe Zercher Cobra Walk?
Now, I've been around for a while, and I have a fair amount of experience with dragging and carrying stuff for general training. I was stunned by the soreness the next day. Remember: this is only 38 pounds! We had a number of athletes who couldn't (wouldn't?) pick it up the next day.
The Zercher Carry alone might be a great complement to the training of anybody who fights, hits, tackles, throws, shoves, or bangs around with other humans during a game. Greg Henger (whose nickname, by the way is "Coach Pain") noted that simply walking with the Slosh Pipe was like "wrestling a python." I've never actually wrestled a python, so I'll just have to take Greg's word for it, he being from West Virginia and all.
For those interested in fat loss, walking for a specified distance is like being in a wrestling match: your heart and lungs will be pumping as hard as they can while practically every muscle in your body will be trying to simply lumber ahead. The Slosh Pipe could become a fat loss sensation. Jump on the wagon now, folks! Somebody will be hawking these on late night television before the month is out.
Just trying to do curls or deadlifts with this sadistic nine-foot beastie is a great way to get kicked in the face by the laws of physics. I can't think of a better way to train for a "change of pace" than a fun workout of just picking up and moving the Slosh Pipe.
A quick hint if you choose to put the Slosh Pipe overhead: Start with the Slosh Pipe "caber" style, as shown below.
The only position in which the Slosh Pipe feels light.
This way, all the water will be, for a few seconds, on one end of the pipe. The pipe feels amazingly light with all the water at one end. This will soon change!
A thirty-eight pound military press that feels like you're lifting near your max.
This photo was taken as the water jumped from one of the pipe to the other. We found that simply doing Military Presses with the Slosh Pipe was as taxing as doing near maxes in the exercise. Walking with the Slosh Pipe overhead was a full body workout and a ruthless gut buster.
You might say it's a hardcore coreworkout. There, I said it.
The Slosh Pipe will take about an hour to make, including a run to the hardware store. You will need to cut the flanges off the ends, if you have them, clean and glue the ends and cap them. Don't be too heroic and try to use a longer piece, and be careful of using the Slosh Pipe in a confined area: you may think you can keep it under total control, but you can't.
The Slosh Pipe. The nine-foot pillar of pain. Walk with it. Carry it. Lift it. Enjoy the agony.
Social Capital is one of the least appreciated aspects of economics. In education circles, Social Capital is considered the key to a great institution... all those hidden benefits of knowing this person or that person and what they can do for the school. Begin the process of mining your Social Capital in the fitness and lifting game. The crazy guy at the gym might just be me or one of my friends. And those lunatics running up a hill with a large piece of PVC pipe just might be on to something.
About the Author
Dan John is the strength coach and head track and field coach at Juan Diego Catholic High School in Draper, Utah. He is ranked as a Master Highland Games athlete, holds the American Record in the Weight Pent and holds numerous National Championships in weightlifting and throwing. He has been teaching for over twenty-five years, and maintains a full-time free internet coaching site.
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