During my recent trip to San Francisco, my wife and I visited Alcatraz, the most historic prison in the world. As the saying goes, “if you break the rules, you go to prison. If you break the prison rules, you go to Alcatraz.” Regardless of whether you are stuck in the most or least strict prison, the bottom line is that you are confined to a very tight space. Despite this restriction, you can get a great workout in prison…not that I’m advocating committing crimes just to ramp up your workout routine. Even though you have limited space and no gym equipment, you can use bodyweight exercises for strength increases.
The great thing about a prison workout routine is that it can literally be applied anywhere. There aren’t many situations more restrictive than prison, so there are no more excuses for not being able to exercise. So, how can you use bodyweight exercises to build functional strength?
A Core Group of Bodyweight Exercises
There are limitless combinations of exercises you can do using only your body weight. Below is just a sample of some that work well for me. The great thing about bodyweight exercises is that most require compound movements. Compound movements are much more effective for muscle growth. Think of the range of muscles required to do a pushup or pull up vs. the limited muscles required to do an isolation exercise like bicep curls.
One great exercise that truly provides a full body workout is the burpee. From a standing position, do a squat and throw your legs back so you are in pushup position. Do a pushup and immediately bring your legs back underneath you and jump up. Not only will you get a great arm and leg workout, but you’ll also get a fantastic cardio benefit as well.
Burpees never looked so good…
Upper Bodyweight Exercises
Pull ups: a staple of any bodyweight routine. All you need is something overhead to hang from. Get yourself a wall mounted pull up bar if you can. There are numerous variations of pull ups such as underhand grip, overhand grip, narrow grip, wide grip, etc.
Dips: get two chairs or any other object that you can support yourself on. If you’re not in prison, you can get a real dip station as well. Lower yourself until your arms are parallel or less to the ground and explode back up. These provide a great chest and triceps workout.
Pushups: no upper body weight routine is complete without pushups. You literally need no equipment or other objects for these. There are an endless variety you can perform including regular pushups, decline pushups (works upper chest), closed grip pushups (works triceps), wide grip pushups, dive bomb pushups, hindu pushups, and of course one armed pushups.
Lower Bodyweight Exercises
Squats: these are as simple as they get. Simple squat down and back up over and over. Too easy? Try squat jumps or one-legged squats.
Plyometrics: other great lower bodyweight exercises include a variety of plyometrics. Leap ups, step ups, depth jumps, and lateral jumps all help increase quad, hamstring, and calf strength.
You could do crunches all day, but those won’t really help your abs. Do a simple plank routine that involves a straight body plank and both left and right side planks. Think planks are just an easy yoga exercise? Let me know when you get up to 3 minutes each on straight, left, and right planks.
A Real Prison Workout – Convict Conditioning
If you want to really use bodyweight exercises for strength, then read Convict Conditioning. This provides a beginner’s template for how to go from doing simple bodyweight exercises to doing advanced bodyweight strength exercises.
Convict Conditioning lays out a template to achieve the following goals:
- One-arm pushups
- One-leg squats
- One-arm pull-ups
- Hanging straight leg raises
- Stand-to-stand bridges
- One-arm handstand pushups (this is just amazing!)
No fancy equipment, no fancy space, just you against your body. That’s what a prison workout routine is really about.
Not Your Average Fitness Tips
- The basis behind a prison workout routine is that it can be done anywhere with no equipment.
- Using bodyweight exercises for strength is a great way to improve your overall fitness.
- Burpees are one of the best full body exercises.
- If you really want to achieve bodyweight training greatness and increase functional strength, get Convict Conditioning.
- Bodyweight Workout for Mass and Strength
- Functional Strength Training Workout Routine: Compound Exercises to Improve Real World Movements
- Hotel Room Workout Routine: Use Bodyweight Circuit Training and Other Travel Exercises to Stay in Shape Away From Home
- The Best Bodyweight Exercises: Convict Conditioning Results
- Bodyweight Calisthenics Workout: Progressive Training Routine