How Prisoners Manage to Get So Big While Serving Time: An In-Depth Analysis

  • By: Dave Moffat
  • Date: December 13, 2023

In movies and TV shows, we often see prisoners looking really strong and fit.

This makes us wonder how prisoners manage to get so muscular while they are in prison.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the reasons why prisoners can build a lot of muscle, even though their conditions are tough.

How Do Prisoners Build Muscle?

Training Regimen and Workouts

Prisoners’ dedication to a consistent workout routine is one of the primary factors contributing to their impressive muscle growth. Most prisons lack traditional gym equipment. Inmates often rely on bodyweight exercises to build strength and muscle mass.

Some common exercises performed by prisoners include:

  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Dips
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Burpees
  • Sit-ups

These exercises can be performed using minimal equipment and space. They are ideal for the confined environment of a prison cell. Additionally, many prisoners engage in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. These routines provide a highly efficient way to build muscle and improve cardiovascular fitness.

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Food Plans and Supplementation

Prison food is usually not very good and lacks nutrition. Still, some prisoners find ways to eat better for muscle growth. They might do this by trading or sharing things with other prisoners. They do this to get more high-protein foods, like canned tuna, chicken, or beans.

Some prisoners can also get supplements, like protein powders, which can help muscles grow even more.

But, it’s important to remember that not all prisoners can get these supplements. It often depends on things like how much money a prisoner has or who they know in the prison.

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Prison Cells Must Make Do

Improvising Exercises Without Traditional Gym Equipment

Prison cells lack traditional gym equipment. Inmates must get creative with workouts. They often use everyday items or their own body weight to create resistance. They then perform strength training exercises. Some examples of improvised equipment and workouts include:

  • Filling bags with books, water bottles, or other heavy items to create makeshift weights
  • Using a towel or bedsheet for resistance training exercises, such as rows or curls
  • Isometric exercises involve holding a position for an extended period to create tension in the muscles. For example, you can do wall sits and planks.

Prisoners can effectively build muscle without access to traditional gym equipment by thinking outside the box and using the limited resources available to them.

The Impossibility of Distraction

Monotony and Focus on Training

One reason why prisoners might be good at building muscle is because they don’t have a lot of distractions. Being stuck in a cell for up to 23 hours a day can be really boring and make every day feel the same.

This also gives prisoners a lot of time to focus on getting fit. They don’t have to worry about the things that people outside of prison have to deal with.

For many prisoners, working out becomes a way to deal with the stress and hard parts of being in prison. The hard work and focus it takes to keep up with a workout routine can give prisoners a feeling of purpose and success, even when prison life is tough.

The Influence of the Prison Diet

High-Carbohydrate Meals and Caloric Intake

Prison food isn’t always nutritious. However, many prison meals are high in carbohydrates. This might help prisoners build muscle.

Carbohydrates give our bodies energy. Having enough carbs can help muscle growth by providing the energy needed for hard workouts.

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The total amount of calories in prison meals might be enough to help muscle growth. This is especially true for prisoners who are really active and exercise a lot. While prison food might not be the most nutritious, its calorie amount can still aid muscle growth when paired with a good workout routine.

Final Thoughts

Many prisoners have strong bodies from a mix of things. They do regular workouts, make up their own exercises, and focus on training. Their prison diets also contribute to their strength.

Even though being in prison is hard, prisoners often show amazing creativity and determination when it comes to staying fit. Their success shows us how powerful it can be to stay dedicated, be creative, and keep going, even when things are tough.

Dave Moffat

Hi, I'm Dave Moffat the founder and Chief Editor of and certified International Personal Trainer and Certified Nutritionist. My passion has always been bodybuilding but with 15 years' experience in weight loss programs too, it's hard not to mention all that when you're working at your fitness level fullest (I hope). When Im not in the gym or spending time away from my family i often think about what advice would help others achieve theirs goals just like these inspired mine.