Best Prison Workouts 2021

So many people are now are using this isolation as an excuse to let go of training responsibilities which will, trust me, only lead to heartache in the end. You need not waste away at home while you can get back into shape by steering clear of temptations we regularly face during our day-to-day lives without those overbearing commitments that make it hard on us all week long!

prison work out

So now is a perfect time–without these tempting features from work like lunch out and post-workout cocktails–you have no excuses but to find yourself right back where you left off before this world went nuts with lockdown protocol! 

Do you know that Charles Bronson, a notorious British criminal, and troublemaker,  has been incarcerated for decades but he still manages to stay fit? He’s spent years in solitude with only a few brief stints of freedom and created workout programs that require him and his body weight, along with some odd objects like tables or chairs. With no access to outside training methods such as weights, he set prison fitness records – one being the most push-ups completed in an hour: 1,727! He is someone who gave a name to this type of workout. If he can do this in prison, you can surely do this from the comfort of your homes. So, what is your excuse?

While most of us will thankfully never end up in prison, I think we can all take a lesson from convicts on how to not let our circumstances be an excuse for our fitness goals.

Here we have pointed out some very important bodyweight exercises used by prisoners around the world to stay fit!

Benefits of Bodyweight Workouts

Do it anywhere:

The prisoner workout is an intense full-body routine, perfect for those who live a busy lifestyle. It can be done anywhere – at home or in the office when you’re short on time and even if your only exercise space is a jail cell!

It is free:

Don’t have the money for a gym membership or purchasing your own equipment? That doesn’t mean you can’t get in shape. With these bodyweight exercises, all you need is some room to move and place as many weights on yourself as possible.

Strength and cardio in the same workout:

Turn your bodyweight workout into both a high-intensity cardio session and a strength workout. In just 30 minutes, you will finish this exercise! How? Increase tempo while decreasing rest between sets and exercises to turn what used to be just an hour of different types of movements into one intense full-body sweat fest in under half that time (30 mins).

The Workout

Imagine a world with no equipment, just your body, and mind. How would you exercise the entire body? Below we’ve highlighted six main exercises that work each part of our anatomy – but they can be made even more challenging by tweaking them to create over 50 different movements! For example: stand on one leg while doing push-ups or press up into the handstand for an added challenge when working out arms and chest. 

1. Warm-Up

warm up

The ideal warm-up session should last from at least 10 to 30 minutes.

  1. Initiate by stretching the core muscle groups through dynamic actions such as leg kicks
  2. Jog on the spot, intermittently switching between raising your knees high at the front and flicking your heels out at the back
  3. Touch your toes with your fingers without bending the knees
  4. Stand up and down on tiptoes

Time: spend 60 seconds on each stretch

Sets: 10

Rest: take 30 seconds rest between sets

2. Handstand Press-Ups

hanstand push up

A Charles Bronson favorite, the handstand press-up is one of the more challenging exercises in his ultimate prison workout–though critically important. “I swear by them,” he says as he’s done billions over years and each session gets better. Handstands are essentially all about technique: it starts with a strong push up to get into position before pressing up onto your hands (keeping elbows tight), then lowering back down for another rep.”

  1. Start by facing a wall in a standing position
  2. Next, kick your feet up so you’re in a handstand position against the wall
  3. Squeeze your abs, glutes, and thigh muscles
  4. Lower yourself toward the ground as far as possible in a controlled manner
  5. Clunch and push back
  6. Repeat

Reps: 10-15 reps per set

Sets: 5

Rest: 30 seconds rest between sets

3. Dips


In Solitary Fitness, Bronson reveals that dips are one of the most basic exercises in a prison workout guide. He has had an affair with this movement for decades and says he does 100 reps when holding his son Mike at two years old and not anymore since he is 35 now. “Remember, it’s not about speed – all these exercises should be done slowly,” said Bronson.” This exercise utilizes dynamic tension to put on 2 inches worth of chest muscle by doing them slow using lots of control”

To perform dips at home;

  1. Place two chairs slightly wider than leg length apart
  2. Hold the top of the back area with both hands
  3. Slowly bend arms
  4. Sink your upper body towards the ground
  5. Do not touch the ground, rather bring the body back up again in a controlled motion.
  6. Keep your back straight.

Reps: 10-15 reps per set

Sets: 5

Rest: 30 seconds rest between sets

4. Sit-ups

sit ups

Charlie loves the traditional sit-up, but he also has a few other favorites. He mentioned that his favorite variation of the classic movement is “the crunches” where you lay on your back with your hands behind your head and use specific foot placement to do them up against some furniture for added resistance.

  1. Lie on your back on the floor in front of a bench
  2. Set your heels atop the bench and make sure your knees and hips are bent to 90 degrees
  3. Cross your arms at the chest
  4. Flex your waist to raise your shoulders and scapulas off the floor
  5. Crunch straight up toward the ceiling as high as possible whilst keeping your lower back on the mat
  6. Slowly lower your shoulders back to the floor, and immediately go into the next repetition

Reps: 10-15 reps per set

Sets: 5

Rest: 30 seconds rest between sets

5. Squats


One of the most important exercises for any fitness regime, at-home or otherwise, squats must be incorporated into your bodyweight workout plan. While gyms are closed it can be hard to find barbells and weights to up your strength; so you might have to rely on friends and housemates. “When I’m lucky enough to mix with my fellow cons I often squat with one of them on my back as it’s good for balance & strengthens up the back as well as legs,” Bronson wrote in his journal entry from 1988. 

  1. Put your arms straight out in front of you, parallel to the ground, chest up, and spine in a neutral position.
  2. Keep your entire body tight the entire time.
  3. Breathe deeply, break at your hip and push your butt back. Keep sending your hips backward as your knees begin to bend.
  4. As you squat down, focus on keeping your knees in line with your feet.

Reps: 10-15 reps per set

Sets: 3

Rest: 30 seconds rest between sets

Muscles Targeted: Quadriceps, Glutes

6. Burpees

Crossfitters love the “burpee” for its stamina and strength-building benefits. Though they may sound simple, you’ll be puffing and panting as you do these exercises! Bronson says there are many benefits to doing burpees: “…they push [you] so when it gets hard in life or at work just think about those times that were a lot harder than this…”

  1. Start with your body in a standing position
  2. Jump down into a crunching position
  3. Kick your leg out into a push-up position
  4. Keeping your back as flat as possible, bring your feet towards your hands in a jumping motion
  5. Try to keep your knees between your elbows
  6. From here, keeping your back straight, jump up to the standing position, and on your return to the ground resume the position you took off from

Reps: do 20-25 reps per set

Sets: 3

Rest: take 45 seconds rest between sets

7. Star Jumps

Just the thought of Charles Bronson alone in his solitary confinement cell pumping out star jumps is a strange vision. But don’t let this image fool you-star jumps are great for cardio and strength because they work together! This is just one simple addition to your bodyweight workout plan that will keep you trim all year long. How does Charlie do it?

  1. Start in the leapfrog position and burst upwards into the shape of a star

Reps: 10

Sets: 2

Rest: 45 seconds

8. Step-Ups

According to Solitary Fitness, Bronson’s favorite workout is using his bed as a step-up box. If you want an easy way to do the same thing at home, just look for something that can be used as a chair or stool and use it instead of your bed!

This one is one of Bronson’s favorites according to SoleFitness. He performs hundreds if not thousands every day by utilizing his bed as a stepping stone in place of any other object which may serve this purpose such as chairs or stools.

  1. Put the bench (or box) in front of you
  2. Step onto the platform with one foot
  3. Drive-through with your other foot, raising your knee as high as you can
  4. Lower the knee and step back to the floor
  5. Switch to the other foot and repeat

Start with: 3 sets at 60 seconds per set

Muscles this bodyweight exercise targets: quads, hamstrings, glutes


The best thing about Charles Bronson’s ultimate prison workouts is that they require nothing more than some free time in order to perform them–no need for any fancy gear like barbells and treadmills! “They’re simple enough,” says Mr.B himself when asked if anything could go wrong during these exercises without supervision

Frequently Answered Questions (FAQs)

What is the best bodyweight exercise for muscle growth?

The best bodyweight exercises for muscle growth are pull-ups, push-ups, and dips.

What are the best no-equipment legs exercises?

Definitely try step-ups on a bench or chair.

Are prison workouts effective?

Prison workouts are impactful but not exactly in the same way conventional strength training is. You are less likely to build significant muscle tissue using only bodyweight exercises.

Michael Holding

Michael is an outdoor adventurer and a kayaking enthusiast who loves to share his experiences with others. He is the Chief Editor at XgearHub.

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