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What is a Prison Workout?

By Tara Barnett
Updated Feb 20, 2024
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A prison workout is a series of exercises that fit the constraints of a prison cell. The activities involved must require no weights or special equipment and must be confined to a very small area. Usually, burpees, push ups, and wall squats make up a major component of the workout. These routines are popular with non-prisoners because they do not require any expensive equipment or membership and can be performed quickly in a space as small as an apartment. Actual prisoners may perform these activities as well, but prisons usually provide inmates with weight lifting equipment and recreational activities making exercise in the cell less important.

While any exercise that takes place in a small area can be a part of a prison workout, there is usually a high emphasis placed on strength training. Step aerobics, for example, could be considered a prison workout if a person knew all the moves and could perform them without music or guidance. Usually, prison workout exercises must be socially appropriate for a male-dominant prison setting.

Burpees almost always make up the main component of prison workouts, combining aerobic exercise and strength training. Starting from a standing position, the person goes into a squat with the hands on the floor then kicks the feet back and does a push up. The legs are then pulled back into the squat position and the person jumps as high as possible while clapping over his or her head. Burpees are often done in descending sets, doing 20 burpees followed by a short rest, then 19 with a rest, then 18, and so on. Most of the time, a prison workout relies on counting like this as a motivational tool, which can give a person the will power to get through a difficult exercise.

Crunches, push ups, and planks are also common exercises. Triceps dips and pull-ups require furniture of some sort, but these are also very popular in prison workouts. Moving on to more difficult exercises, such as handstand push ups, without supervision is not advisable because it is easy to get injured. A more challenging workout can be achieved by performing these safer exercises longer or faster.

Given the expensive and complex state of many exercise programs, the prison workout system is fairly popular. A prison workout bears a lot of resemblance to other minimalist fitness programs, although these may not place as stringent regulations on the kinds of activities enjoyed. Running or biking in combination with the exercises above can provide a more rounded exercise regimen. Alone or with other programs, these types of workouts can provide excellent physical fitness.

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