“How To’s” of the Performing Strongman – Bursting Hot Water Bottles

Bursting a hot water bottle is a feat that has been performed by old time strongmen for decades. I have been performing this feat myself for nearly 10 years. I really like adding it to a performance because it is exciting to for the audience to watch, and really builds the tension in the room leading up to a grand explosion of rubber and hot air!

It’s Rewarding, but It’s Not Easy

While bursting a hot water bottle is, no doubt a very exciting feat to perform, it is very taxing on the entire body. Performing this feat can tax your chest, biceps, abdominals, neck, and cardio vascular system. It can also wreak havoc on your tongue, which makes it difficult to speak shortly after performing this feat. The degree to which it taxes you depends on several factors, including: the type of Hot Water Bottle being used (some are tougher than others), the cardiovascular fitness level of the individual performing the feat, and what feats have been performed prior in your performance.

Learn from My Experience

I was reminded of the importance of taking your own advice about one year ago. I was performing at the annual employee crawfish boil for the company I work for.  I have been performing there annually for at least 7 years. In preparing for my performance, I only took one of the above listed factors into consideration: my cardiovascular fitness level was pretty high, as I have implemented some big changes in the last 2 years. That being said, I did not seriously consider the the feats I had performed prior to bursting the hot water bottle.

I was tired and winded by the time I got to the hot water bottle.

I also overestimated my ability to burst the new bottles I recently acquired. They are 2 – 3 times harder to burst than my normal bottles. Up to that point I had only practiced bursting them when my body and mind were “fresh”.

I wish I could say my years of experience allowed me to skate through that feat and complete it with seeming ease, but I would be lying to you. I was able to get about 30 breaths of air into the bottle, and then it began to overcome me. In general, my body and mind were tired, and more specifically my cardiovascular system was taxed by the time I got that much air into it. I could literally hear and feel the air escaping as I tried in vain to “hold my breath” in the bottle. The struggle became too much, and I let the air escape, put the bottle back up to my lips, and started over. You see, the first time trying to burst that bottle went so “well” that I decided to give it another shot. Once again, I was severely disappointed. I admitted defeat, moved on and completed the performance.

Either You Win, or You Learn

That failed performance taught me something valuable, again! It taught me that practice makes perfect! No matter how good you think you are, you should never skip out on practice! I was overconfident in my abilities and it cost me a failed performance. Thankfully the crowd was forgiving and enjoyed the rest of the show.


Do not take yourself so seriously that you cannot mess up in front of people. While you must be a proficient in any feat of strength, you must also learn to laugh it off and move on.  In other words, be prepared!

Planning is key. Lay out your performance (or workout routine) in such a way that you are able to complete all of the required feats (or exercises). Practice, practice, practice. You do not become an expert at something without hours and hours of repetitive practice.

Step by Step Guide to bursting a hot water bottle.

  • Fig. 1 Fold or pull down the lip surrounding the nozzle of the hot water bottle.
  • Fig. 2 Place the nozzle up to your pursed lips, creating a nearly air tight seal around your mouth. NOTE: your dominant hand should be holding the bottle up to your mouth and the other hand should be near the bottom of the bottle, waiting to palm the bottle whenever you start to inflate it.
  • Fig. 3 Begin forcing air into the hot water bottle, one solid breath at a time. Remember to breath in with your nose, and out with your mouth.
  • Fig. 4 Take your time, as you begin to force breath after breath into the bottle. As your bottle reaches the size of a basketball, it would be wise to slowly transfer your dominant hand to the bottom of the bottle.  Once this is done, both hands should be palming a side of the bottle.  This allows you to use both hands to pull the bottle toward your face, making a tight seal that will not be broken as long as you have the strength and wind to do it.
  • Fig. 5 Once the bottle is this large, you will begin noticing that the air will be under tremendous pressure, looking for a way of escape. The only way you can prevent that is to keep it sealed air tight against your mouth.  Your lips, tongue, throat, and the roof of your mouth must work in unison to keep the pressurized air from evacuating the bottle.
  • As you work on maintaining a seal while at the same time continuing to add breaths of air into the bottle, you will notice that this activity takes a toll on your entire upper body, as well as your mental and cardio vascular faculties. Do not let the pressure get to you, keep fighting until you are able to put enough to air in the bottle to burst it.

This is not something you will be able to accomplish overnight.

It is a feat that requires many hours of practice and should not be undertaken lightly.  There is an inherent danger in performing this feat.  As long as you keep that in the back of your mind and take necessary safety precautions, you will be fine.

Safety Precautions

  • You should only try this with hot water bottles made of natural rubber. Most large chain stores sell latex bottles, which will not burst.
  • You need to use personal protective equipment (PPE), including:
    • Safety Glasses / Goggles
    • Gloves – recommended but not required (NOTE: I once performed this feat and it burst with such force that when the rubber struck my left ring finger it snapped or strained a ligament under the skin. I was unable to fully straighten the tip of that finger for 3 months, and to this day there is still a lump under the skin)
    • Hot Water Bottles burst under tremendous pressure. Often the rubber will strike the skin of your face, neck, hands, or arms when it bursts.  This will usually leave the skin discolored (red), raised, and bruised for several days.  It can make for interesting conversation on the job.
    • The tremendous pressure of the air in the bottle can endanger your throat and lungs. It has been said that, if you were to allow the air to rush back into your lungs, that they would burst.  With that in mind, I suggest you release the bottle if you think your seal (tongue, mouth, throat) is collapsing.

Final Thought

When you fill a hot water bottle with air, you are also filling it with spit. If you perform this in front of an audience, give them the courtesy of not bursting the bottle over their heads.  It will keep them from being covered with spit.  One of the first times I performed this in public, I was traveling with a team of strongmen.  At our last stop of the day, I was tired and was unable to burst the bottle.  My teammate helped me out by popping for me, covering his arm with spit.  It was definitely one of the highlights of that day!

Have fun learning to do something that most people would never dream of trying!

Should you have any questions regarding this article, public speaking, or performing feats of strength, please do not hesitate to contact me.


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