Bodyweight Training – Work out used by men to survive in California prisons

Work out used by men to survive in California prisons

Here is another story of “Real Prison” fitness. You can always tell whether
the man writing has actually been in prison, by the terms he uses.

The men that write and complain because they were fooled into thinking
something is the right way always seem to attack and are fast to jump to
defend themselves.

So here is a comment posted by someone who spent some time in prison
and pay attention!

I can tell you first hand that there are tons of strong men in prison. I was in prison in CA.
I did 400 burpees a day 6 days a week, pushups, dips, pullups, sit ups, squats, running,
jogging etc. We had NO WEIGHTS so we made do with what we had. I was on max security
LVL 3 for a while, then LVL 2, 1 and then “fire camp.” There were lots of guys doing insane
amounts of working out on the normal yards. Sometimes we would do dips and pushups
“all day.” Same with pullups and body weight rows. Same with abs and legs. Tension exercises,

Yes there are some weaker guys in the joint but it is MANDATORY workout on a lot of yards
here in CA (for some of the “races”). So a guy is gonna workout or get stabbed. That  simple.
Being a white boy we had to work out which was no problem because I had been working
out for about 14 years prior to going to prison. But let me tell you: I was in excellent shape
while in prison and when I got out I was MUCH stronger than anyone I knew.

Toughness Builds Winners

Johnny Grube


  1. John Nel says

    So high reps makes you strong.

  2. Yes, high reps do make you strong.

  3. John Nel says

    Why is it mandatory for inmates to workout? I understand that for survival it is important, but are inmates “forced” to train?

  4. Quinten Huggins says

    I knew an older farmer who would milk about 10 or 12 cows by hand every morning and although it was not hard it was a lot of reps. When that man would shake your hand I promise you that he could break every bone in your hand if he wanted to. High reps, no weights. By the way he just turned 90 and still has forearms that most people would love to have.

  5. Frank Whyte says

    @ John Nel.
    Just as members of the military are forced to workout consistently, some gangs in prison force their members to workout in order to build comradery. Some gangs want to be known as those with the fittest members. In a fight, who would you choose to be on your side; Average Joe schmo or the athletic guy who looks like he can take multiple hits and still cause damage?
    Never been to prison before but those are my .02 cents.

  6. What Quinten says about the older farmer reminds me of a lot of laborers I knew and also of pro boxers. machine days. High reps are best for “conditioned strength”. The Mighty Atom and Slim the Hammerman also used high reps.

  7. John Smith says

    What kind of squats was he doing? Bodyweight squats?

  8. John Smith says

    Someone please reply because I hate barbell squats its been hurting my back and knees a lot so I want to go strictly all bodyweight squats

  9. John, why not test it for yourself? Do few minutes of regular BW squats and/or some jump squats/monkey jumps and see how your legs feel. Outside validation will not be necessary.

  10. I am the one who wrote what Johnny has posted.

    Yes it is mandatory (at least on the yards I was on) here in California prisons to workout. The penalty for not working out was getting stabbed. The only way a guy could not workout was days he was sick.

    The whole thing is “you are only as good as your weakest link.” And also no one wants to have “weak guys” when the riots happen.

    I did 400 burpees MINIMUM per day, 6 days a week to “finish off my day.” The squats we did were sometimes body weight and sometimes we’d have one of the homeboys sit on our shoulders. The yard had a dirt/asphalt track that was 1/3 mile around. We would sometimes do 15+ laps, single file non stop, plus do “harvard” steps (bleachers) for 15-20 mins, take a break and then do sit ups, pull ups, body weight rows, etc depending on what day it was. I can flat out tell you there were a lot of days where I would get at least 500 dips and 500-600 pushups, 200-300 situps, 2-3 miles jogged and 400 + burpees. This is no joke. You DO NOT want to be in a fight or riot in prison and run out of wind. If you do , you are done. The guy who runs out of wind first loses. That simple. Being in CA prison system, whites are the “smallest in numbers” so we were “first up and last down.” We would workout ALL THE TIME. We’d get trashbags and put water in em and lift em all kinds of ways.

    You must not think about it like its a gym atmosphere. It is not a “social” event to workout in the cell or on the yard. It is a “survival” event because even your own “kind” will stab you for “being weak.”

  11. John Smith says

    Thank you very much Bruce and Allan. I also heard that a hockey player named Jaromir Jagr and the wrestler Great Gama would do ultra high rep squats to build strong muscular thighs. I just want to build my legs up, and I don’t want chicken looking legs. Also thank you so much Johnny Grube for a great site on bodyweight training and really great articles. I might be thinking on ordering your products one day.

  12. Body weight squats are great. We used to do em til they burned super bad- then rest 15-30 sec, and do a half squat and try to hold that (half way down) for as long as we could.

    This makes a guy strong.

  13. Frank Whyte says

    So Allan,

    How many pounds in total did you put on during your prison stint?

  14. The truth is: convicts do as many as up to 2000 reps of any exercise a day. That volume alone on a weekly basis or even a 4 day a week basis would put mass on even the skinniest endormorph alive. They also do not care about range of motion on their exercises which also contribute (in contrary to popular belief) to their quick size gain and long term joint health.

  15. John Smith says

    Yeah one of my co-workers was also locked up before. While he was in there all he did was bodyweight exercises and he said he gained 100 pounds of muscle in a few months. For his diet he basically ate all day included commissary to put on weight and workout.

  16. I think Allen and Stephen hit the nail on the head. I just wanted add a few examples and my $.02….
    High frequency and high volume is very old school and effective. Anyone notice the difference in a Marine or Army recruit after boot camp? What COMMONLY happens is a 10-25 lbs. weight difference in a matter of weeks. Everyone muscles up and unless very thin, loses fat. I personally went in the Marine Corps at 110 lbs., barely making the minimum weight and leaving Boot Camp at 135 lbs. Still skinny, but huge gains. We would do “motivational” training probably 4-10x a day. High intensity bodyweight circuits that build lactic acid and massive sweat in a matter of a very few minutes. Combine that with regular PT 3-5x a week, double time to training areas, chow, etc., I believe that as soon as our testosterone levels, muscle pump and metabolism would start to return to normal after exercising, we would do it again and bump it back up. Keeping our bodies “Amped” all day long.
    Additionally, Charles Atlas recommended twice daily workouts, exercising at odd moments and participating in a sport. High frequency and high volume again…..

  17. This is true. Even Kali muscle talks about this stuff. He would do hundreds of reps a day on bodyweight exercises and sometimes stick inmates on his shoulders to squat. He still uses high reps and the guys an enormous and strong as hell bodybuilder. He always says that he was doing 500-1000 push-ups and he looked better than most gym rats eating damn tuna top Raman and cake

  18. Bishwick says

    Some of the “yards” are just cages and if some gang is there at same time you are then you’re forced to follow their routine at the same time. All gangs have their own routines they do esp the Mexicans which is like a military in it’s over the top discipline. You don’t have to workout in non max security jails where there aren’t gangsters everywhere.

  19. Bishwick says

    Also, nobody should be doing burpees you will screw up your back. They were designed as a fitness TEST, not a way to get fit. Doing burpees to prove fitness occasionally is fine but everyday is a bad idea. Google this and plenty of doctors will confirm.

  20. What kind of burpees did you guys do? The six count (one push up) and stand or the jump. I read about this workout called The Machine and they did a hundred but was 25×6 count, 25×8 count, 25x 10 count, and 25x 12 count. Did you do sets of 10-20 or just power through 400 in a straight set? I have also seen some guys do like 5 push ups per burpee and jog in place for 20 seconds and just do that for a while. I love bodyweight training cause it works and I dig burpees because hard people use em for a reason.

  21. Brian Bailey says

    How do you keep your shoulders from hurting doing push-ups, forearm pain/joint pain Pullups etc everyday?

  22. 100 pounds of muscle in a few months? Absolute horseshite.

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