Workout in prison for huge gains, no equipment needed

Even though lockdown has been going on for a long time, there are still times when we need to attend a session without equipment or space. Whether it’s a business trip that requires a quick pump in the hotel room or time constraints that prevent your trip to the gym, taking inspiration from those with limited iron but max muscle can be a quick solution to your low gear predicament.

The prison workouts of the likes of the infamous Charles Bronson are legendary and can still be used effectively today. MH breaking down the best prison workouts, key moves and why they should be in your free training with equipment arsenal.

What is prison training?

Prison exercises are high-paced and often use minimal space and equipment. They focus on bodyweight movements:

The exercises facilitate progressive overload to gain muscle and strength. With a high rep range, the rep plan improves the hypertrophy effect to create a big pump. Prison workouts also often include plyometric jumps to increase fitness and cardiovascular intensity.

Due to time, prisoners can practice twice a day, but it can be divided and repeated as follows:

  • 1 day: Above
  • Day 2: Lower
  • Day 3: Whole body
  • 4th: Rest


  • 1 day: Shove
  • Day 2: Attraction
  • Day 3: Lower
  • 4th: Shove
  • Day 5: Attraction
  • 6th: Lower
  • 7th: Rest

What is the method of exercise in prison?

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The “strongman” method was popularized by strength coach and author Josh Bryant. It covers a decreasing repetition range of 20 or less. This is similar to the inverted pyramid method. This might look like the following sets, using squats as an example:

  • 1st half: 20 repetitions
  • Set 2: 19 repetitions
  • Set 3: 18 repetitions…
  • Set 18: 3 repetitions
  • Set 19: 2 repetitions
  • Set of 20: 1 representative

Between each set, walk the length of the room before you’re ready to start the next set.

How can prisoners be so big without weights?

Prisoners gain muscle very quickly due to the high training range and high frequency of training given the amount of time they have, combined with as much food as possible. With three meals a day and supplements available for purchase, prisoners can easily put themselves in a calorie surplus (consuming more calories than they burn) to gain weight.

If you want to create your own version of the prison diet, follow these simple tips:

  • Eat three balanced meals a day that include moderate amounts of protein, carbohydrates and some fat. Also, if possible, give two snacks.
  • Get familiar with how many calories you need. Aim for a stable calorie surplus of about 200-400 calories, any higher and you will likely gain fat instead of muscle. Although you don’t need to meticulously count calories, you may need to increase your portion sizes to gain weight if you’ve been on this diet in the past.
  • Eat enough protein. For muscle gain, this amount is usually 1.6 grams to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight. As a general rule, multiply your body weight in kilograms by 2.
  • Focus on recovery by incorporating rest days into your program and making sleep a priority. 1-2 days off per week is enough.

3-day prison training plan


In this workout, you’ll alternate pull-ups and push-ups in a superset. The pull-up will reduce the number of repetitions from 20 to 1, combined with the press increasing from 1 to 20. To undo the exercises, you can cut the number of repetitions and set it to 10 for each movement operate or use the cord. For example, complete 20 pull-ups and 1 push-up, in your next set do 19 pull-ups and 2 push-ups, etc.

pull up

pull up

The number of repetitions gradually decreases from 20 to 1 repetition per 20 rounds

Grasp the pull-up bar with hands shoulder-width apart, lift your feet off the floor, hanging freely with straight arms. Pull yourself up by bending your elbows while clamping your shoulder blades together. Once your chin passes the bar, pause before lowering to the starting position.

press up


The number of repetitions gradually increases from 1 to a maximum of 20 repetitions in 20 rounds

Get into a strong plank position, tighten your body and place your hands under your shoulders. Bend your elbows to bring your chest toward the floor. Keep your elbows close to your body as you push up.


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Air squats

Pyramid set: 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20 repetitions

Stand up straight, keeping your chest high and hips tucked back, before bending your knees to drop your thighs until they are at least parallel to the floor. Drive back to standing position, ready to repeat.

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Split squat jump

20 EMOM repetitions in 10 minutes

Step one foot back and sink into a deep lunge position with your back knee lightly touching the floor. Explode upward, switching legs mid-air to land in a lunge position with the opposite leg forward. Repeat the movement, switching legs each time.

calf lift

Raising calves

20 repetitions of 5 sets

Engage your core and glutes and keep your knees straight. Lower your heels off the bench or stacked plates until your heels almost touch the ground, then press back up, trying to point your toes.

Whole body

In this workout, you’ll alternate burpees and leg hangs in a superset. Burpees will reduce the number of repetitions from 20 to 1, combined with leg hangs gradually increasing from 1 to 20. To regress the exercises, you can cut the number of repetitions and set it to 10 for each movement or Step in burpees and take out the jumps. Hanging leg raises can be converted into knee raises. For example, complete 20 burpees and 1 hanging leg raise, in your next set do 19 burpees and 2 hanging leg raises, etc.

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The number of repetitions gradually decreases from 20 to 1 repetition per 20 rounds

Bend down and place both hands on the floor. Jump your feet back to the top position of the press and lower your chest to the ground. Straighten your arms and jump your feet forward, before jumping into the air with your arms above your head.

abdominal exercises, abdominal exercises

Hang your legs high

The number of repetitions gradually increases from 1 to a maximum of 20 repetitions in 20 rounds

During your final burpee, jump up and grab the pull-up bar and hang with your core tight and shoulders pulled away from your ears. Raise both legs until they are horizontal, before you slowly lower them. On your last rep, move on to the next burpee.

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