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  • Jack Wilson

Not In Prison? How to Benefit From Those Legendary Incarceration Gains

We’re not going to pretend we know what it’s like to be locked up with too many dudes that probably committed far more violent crimes than you. However, we do know a thing or two about making the best from the cards you’re dealt. The best gains, that is.

Bodyweight Background

A few names immediately come to mind when one thinks of bodyweight exercises and getting freaky in prison: Charles Bronson and Mike Tyson.

Known as Britain’s most violent prisoner (and that’s saying a lot in the land of hooligans and pub brawls), Bronson carved out a name for himself rampaging the local prison scene and repping out thousands of push-ups a day. That’s not a joke, Bronson allegedly completed up to 2,000 push-ups per day. What a savage.

Across the pond came the infamous Tyson. Our favorite ear-biting, knockout artist was destined for the ring before a career in boxing was ever presented to him. Long story short, Tyson got on the wrong side of a rape accusation and ended up in the penitentiary.

Instead of letting sub-par prison food and a lack of equipment derail his already titanic level of fitness, Tyson took a page out of Bronson’s book (Bronson actually wrote a book called Solitary Fitness) and got to work. Though we’re not exactly certain what Tyson programmed while in the Big House, there’s a good chance it involved a God-awful amount of push-ups and prisoner squats.


Get A Prison Pump

Complete this circuit as fast as you can to work in cardio and a pump simultaneously.

  1. 45 Push-Ups

  2. 5 Body Weight Squats

  3. 40 Push-Ups

  4. 10 Body Weight Squats

  5. 35 Push-Ups

  6. 15 Body Weight Squats

  7. 30 Push-Ups

  8. 20 Body Weight Squats

  9. 25 Push-Ups

  10. 25 Body Weight Squats

The next time you do it, start with the squats and go in the inverse direction. If you’re a real jailhouse star, keep going in that fashion until the number of push-ups reaches five.

We know most of you reading this are gym rats. We are, too, but be that as it may, giving your joints a break with a few weeks of bodyweight programming could actually set you on the right track for unexpected progress.

Contrary to reams of documented bro science, one doesn’t necessarily need kilos of iron to gain strength or size. We’re not knocking Olympic lifts and golden era pump sessions, but an open mind never hurt either.

More bodyweight schemes on the next page…

Who Needs Equipment?

Do you think you’re strong? We’re sure you do, so in the spirit of Bronson, Tyson, and all the other jailhouse athletes, pour out a little protein shake for their time behind bars and give these a try:

Pistol Squats

Not a movement for beginners or the chicken-legged, Pistol squats will test your strength and balance. If you can’t cut it on the first go-around, use a pole, cable tower, or a cellmate as something to balance as you work the eccentric portion down to the floor. Soon enough, you’ll be one-legged squatting deeper than a traditional Russian dancer.

One-Handed Push-Ups

You don’t mess with the inmate that’s powering out these for reps. Avoid eye contact, and get back to your cellblock. In any case, one-handed push-ups are a true measure of upper body strength and control. Just like the standard variation, they can be done at an incline or decline.

Plyometric Push-Ups


One-handed push-ups gave you strength; now develop power. The definition of power is energy over time — in this case, generating some considerable force quickly. Sink into the eccentric portion of a push-up, followed by immediately launching yourself upwards until you can bring your hands together into a clap. That’s one, now finish some sets.

Fight The Power Routine (Channel that solitary confinement time productively)

Warm up with three sets of five pistol squats and three sets of five one-handed push-ups.

Circuit – 5 Rounds

  1. 5 Jump-Squats

  2. 5 Plyo Push-Ups

  3. 10 Bodyweight Squats

  4. 10 Close Grip Push-Ups

  5. 5 Burpees

Get the strength work done when you’re still fresh, then follow it up with something more metabolic. That structure will work for just about any routine, simply change the exercises from time to time.

Don’t get complacent. Push the limits by timing yourself or increasing reps and rounds each week. You may not be in prison, but there’s no harm in being prepared.

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