8 Exercises to Include In a Prison Workout Routine

Man doing a pullup outdoors.

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Ever wonder how celebrities like Mike Tyson got so jacked while they were in prison? Without supplements, a gym or even weights, the odds of emerging with bulging muscles were rather slim.

Yet, that’s exactly what they did. How, exactly? Three words: prison workout routine. These men had to rely on their own body weight and makeshift equipment to build a flawless physique — and you can, too! All you need is a little time and a lot of dedication. 

Anyone can start a prison workout routine, regardless of how much space you have or how strong you are. So, why not begin today? Incorporate the following bodyweight exercises into your routine to strengthen and sculpt your body:

  1. Pike push-ups
  2. Plank walk up and down
  3. Prisoner sit-ups
  4. Muscle-ups
  5. Jailbird jumping jacks
  6. Prison burpees

Let’s take a closer look.

1. Pike Push-Ups

Regular old push-ups will do wonders for your biceps, shoulders, chest and core. However, if you’ve already mastered this rather basic exercise, try executing a few reps of pike push-ups. This version will set your shoulders ablaze and help you engage your abdominal muscles like never before. 

Begin in plank and lift your hips up and back until you’re in a downward-facing dog shape. Bend your elbows and lower your upper body towards the floor. Then, slowly push yourself back up to the V position. Move slowly and focus on quality over quantity.

2. Plank Walk Up and Down 

Heat things up with another push-up variation— the plank walk. This full-body move will make your six-pack pop without putting too much stress on your chest. Plus, it’ll pump up your triceps and deltoids in no time flat. 

Assume the plank position and lower one forearm and then the other. Place your right hand where your right elbow was and push back up, following with the left hand. Alternate arms, pushing up and down as many times as you feel necessary. 

3. Prisoner Sit-Ups 

Work the entire abdominal region with a few sets of prisoner sit-ups. This jail-worthy take on the original sit-up is much more difficult as you must keep your legs straight instead of bent. Doing so adds more stress to the movement so your abs have to work double-time. 

Lay on your back with your legs straight and shoulder-width apart. Clasp your hands behind your head for support and engage your core to life your entire body off the floor. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat. 

4. Muscle-Ups 

Muscle-ups have to be one of the toughest prison workout exercises because they combine pull-ups and dips. Subsequently, they’re an excellent way to build both your triceps and biceps at the same time. 

Create an active hand from a pull-up bar — or, if you’re a prisoner, an overhead cell bar — with your thumbs on top of it. Pull yourself up to chin level and roll your chest over the bar to transition to a dip. Push down to press yourself up. Then, slowly lower all the way back down and try again. 

5. Jailbird Jumping Jacks

If you want to spice up your prison workout routine, throw in some jailbird jumping jacks. Improve your endurance with this killer cardio move that engages your abs and strengthens every inch of your body. 

Unlike the classic jumping jack, this power move requires you to put both hands behind your head with your elbows out to the side. Lower down into a squat and keep your knee bent as you jump your feet together. In the next breath, jump your feet back into a squat position, keeping your knees bent the entire time. Do as many rounds as you can without stopping.

6. Prison Burpees

A prisoner never misses leg day – and neither should you — which means a few sets of prisoner burpees are in order. By nature, this move is hard as hell. However, unlike the classic version, prisoner burpees throw three push-ups in the middle of each round. 

Begin standing and lower to a squat with your hands on the floor. Jump your feet back and assume a plank position. Do three push-ups and jump your feet forward to your hands. Jump straight up in one, explosive motion and repeat. 

Creating a Prison Workout Routine 

Getting ripped without equipment in a small space isn’t going to be easy. But if jailbirds can do it, so can you. If you’re determined to whip yourself into shape and finally get the beach body you’ve always dreamed of, you’ll find a way to make it work. 

Don’t have weights? Take a hint from what prisoners do and fill some bags with sand. Don’t have a lot of room at home? Stick to a simple bodyweight routine, or take your workout outside. Then, blast some music and get to work.

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