Do you think you’re particularly fit/ healthy, or just looking for something to shake up your workout? Then this is for you. The prison workout is intense, can be done by anyone anywhere, and hits all aspects of fitness. The idea of a ‘prison workout’ is that you don’t need any gym equipment or much space to do it in, like being in a prison cell.


Why do the prison workout?

For starters these 5 exercises will hit your entire body, infact, the burpee exercise alone hits all the body, so if you are pushed of time just doing the descending burpee will be enough to get aching the next day. The descending burpee strengthens your whole body, and improves cardio – the 2 things people workout for.

The following 4 exercises look to isolate muscle groups a little more, but not to the same extent as biceps curls isolate the biceps. Push-ups for example will largely focus on the chest and triceps, but also will exercise your shoulders, back and core, whereas the jump lunges will exercise calfs, gluts and quads. This is great for conditioning muscles and will promote muscle growth, strength and definition as well as improve your cardiovascular strength.

Finally, this really can be done anywhere (especially if your balance for hand-stand push-ups is good), so there is no excuse.


1. Descending burpees

There are different ways to incorporate the burpee in prison workouts, but the descending burpee is by far the most intense, and is first in the exercise because it hits your entire body with both strength and cardio.

You can see a video of the burpee here, you can either reach your hands up in the air when you jump, or pull your knees up and tap them with your hand – both are good, the important part is the jump.

With the decending burpee, start with 20 reps then take a short break. once you have caught your breath do 19 rpes, then 18 reps and so on until you reach 10 reps.

If you can’t do 20 reps in the first set, do as much as you can, then descend 10 sets. I.E if you can only manage 15 reps, descend down to to 5 reps, then next time try and do 16 reps.


2. Push-up card game

Grab a deck of cards, sit facing a wall or chair and throw the top card at it (the wall/ chair is to stop cards flying all over the room which will otherwise take ages to tidy up). For every card which lands face up do that many push ups. So face up ace = 1 push-up, and a face up king = 13 push-ups. Do this for the whole deck of cards.

For every card 7 or lower do military press-ups (hands facing forward with your elbows tight into your side) and for every card higher than 7, do a wide-grip push-up (hands further apart than military push-ups, elbows pointing out).

If you don’t want to be throwing cards all over the place, or don’t have a deck then don’t worry. Assuming that 50% of the cards land face-up, you can say that you will have to do 2 sets for each card (totalling 182 reps). So you would do 2×1, 2×2, 2×3, 2×4……..2×12 and 2×13 sets. You can do them randomly (as the cards would be random), but don’t lose track of which ones you have done, and remember to do the military/ wide-grip push-ups.

Again, if you struggle with this, do as many as you can and next time try and increase the sets.



3. Jump lunges

Give your upper body a bit of a rest and hit the lower body a bit more with this one.
You can see a video of how to do a jump lunge here, either have the arms swinging as seen in the video, or have our arms pointing down with your fingers extended, and each time you lunge try and touch the ground with your hands.

The quicker you can do the exercise the better – it makes it much more intense! Try and aim to do 20 reps. Jump lunges are great for strengthening your legs and cardio strength.


4. Plank with arm & leg raises

Planks are a tough enough exercise as it is, and is both a mental and physical challenge. This is a variation of the plank which will help develop your balance as well as work out the core. Simply get in plank position, then when you are ready, raise your left leg and right arm. Hold that position for a few seconds, then switch arms/ legs. You can see it done it this video.

Try and do this for 3 minuets. It doesn’t sound much, but when in plank position it feels like time stands still. It is important not to rush movements here, keep it steady, and hold each position.


5. Pull-ups/ hand-stand push- ups

If you have somewhere you can grip and lift your body up then you are a lucky one, and this exercise is quite simple. Simply lift your chin above your hands, and then lift your knees up as high has possible. Do 3 sets of this, all until failure.

If you don’t have a pull-up bar, or anywhere to grip this one is going to be interesting/ fun. After all, the prison workout is not meant to require any equipment, so I guess everyone should really be doing a hand stand push-up.

It might be a good idea to do this against the wall with a pillow under your head. I know this doesn’t sound like a ‘tough prison guy’ thing to do, but trust me, if you fall, banging your head will hurt!

Once you are in position with your head on a pillow (or the ground) and your hands either side, slowly extend your arms and lift your body up. It might take a couple of tries to perfect this. Again, try and do 3 sets of this, all until failure.



Images courtesy of Torehippie and locknloadtraining

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