Maybe you were misled. You believe that you need a roomful of weights + steroids + some secret plan + creatine + whey protein + this + time + that +……
And yet, some of the best looking and most athletic physiques coming out now are those formerly incarcerated.
Ryan Ferguson, a man who was wrongly accused of murder and spent 10 years in prison, describes hs workout behind bars in a GQ interview:
“I would walk the length of the 50-foot cell and back and do 25 push-ups. I would do it for one hour, I would do it for two hours. I would get a minimum of 500 push-ups—regular, elevated, diamond push-ups. I would also do dips on a half-wall—kind of like you’re climbing over a fence.
Another day I would do pull-ups. They had a stairway and there was no backing to it. It was metal and it was grated—you couldn’t just grab the stairway. You had to take toilet paper and roll it up and put it over the grate so it wouldn’t hurt your hands. I would do five pull-ups then walk back and forth and then another five pull-ups.
They would bring in coffee at five o’clock in the morning in this round jug. It was quite large—it probably held four gallons, five gallons—and we would wrap the laundry bag through the handles and we would do curls with that.”
We go through a lot “you have to do this” and “you have to do that” when in fact all you really need are the basics. Even if you have no idea what you’re doing, if you at least do something, and just keep at it, you’ll eventually figure out what gives you results and what doesn’t.
The Shah Training Jailhouse Workout Plan
Nearly all prisons in the U.S. will have an exercise yard, but not all of them will have a full gym or even partial equipment. Some may have basketball courts, tennis courts, or some may even pull-up and dip bars.
As stated by Mr. Ferguson, when you don’t have access to equipment, you simply need to get creative. The way that inmates workout and improve their bodies attests to the power of bodyweight calisthenic and limited equipment workouts.
Workout #1: Deck of Pain
- Get a deck of 52 cards. Assign an exercise to each suite. For example:
- Clubs = Dips
- Clovers = Chin-ups
- Hearts = Decline Pushups
- Diamonds = Lunges
- Shuffle the deck, and draw a card. Based on what card you draw, that’s the number of repetitions and exercise you perform. For example 7 of diamonds would be 7 lunches on each side.
- Face cards, queen, jack, king = 10 repetitions. Ace card = 11 repetitions.
Workout #2: Tabata Intervals
- Perform 8 rounds of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off of the following exercises:
- Burpees with Pushups
- Burpees without Pushups
- Bodyweight Squats
Workout #3: Isometric Pushups
- This is going to hurt.
- Perform 10 pushups, now hold the pushup at the bottom position for 10 seconds. Perform 9 pushups, hold for 9 seconds at the bottom. Continue in this manner until you get to 1 repetition (if you make it that far.)
Workout #4: Gironda Style
- Vince Gironda made the 10×10 style of training very famous. So we’ll do the same here, 10 sets of everything:
- Bodyweight Squats 10×15
- Dips 10×10
- Chin-ups 10×5
- Rest 30-60 seconds between each set.
Workout #5: Gironda Circuits
- Today you’ll perform 10 sets in a circuit style. Rest 1-2 minutes after each circuit.
- 10 rounds of:
- Decline Pushups 10 reps
- Lunges 10 reps
- Sprint in Place 10 reps
- 10 rounds of:
Workout #6: EMOM Sprints
- Set a timer for 20 minutes. At the top of each minute, perform Sprints in place, 10 repetitions with each leg.
- Sprints in place are very similar to the high knee exercise. Make sure you swing your arms back and forth on each side, and bring your knees as high as possible, as fast as possible up and down.
Workout #7: Burpees to Failure
- Set a timer for 5 minutes. Perform as many burpees with pushups as possible in those 5 minutes.
- Rest 1 minute, then set a timer for 4 minutes. Perform as many burpees with pushups as possible in those 4 minutes.
- Continue until you get down to 1 minute.
Workout #8: Burpees & Jacks
- Very simple: Perform 100 jumping jacks followed by 10 burpees (without pushups). Repeat 5-10 times.
Workout #9: Marathon Squats
- Perform 25 squats. Rest 30 to 60 seconds. Perform 20 squats. Rest 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat until you reach 5 squats. This completes a total of 75 repetitions. Start again with 25 squats, and perform this sequence for a total of 3-5 times.
Here’s a great video on why high rep bodyweight squats are so effective: