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

  • By: Dave Moffat
  • Date: June 21, 2023

In popular culture, movies and TV shows often depict prisoners as being incredibly muscular and fit.

This phenomenon raises the question of how inmates manage to achieve such impressive physiques while serving time in prison.

This blog post will delve into the factors that contribute to the development of substantial muscle mass among prisoners, despite the challenging conditions they face.

How Do Prisoners Build Muscle?

Training Regimen and Workouts

One of the primary factors contributing to prisoners’ impressive muscle growth is their dedication to a consistent workout routine. Due to the lack of traditional gym equipment in most prisons, 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, making them ideal for the confined environment of a prison cell. Additionally, many prisoners engage in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, as these routines provide a highly efficient way to build muscle and improve cardiovascular fitness.

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Food Plans and Supplementation

While prison food is often criticized for its poor quality and lack of nutritional value, some inmates manage to devise strategies to optimize their diets for muscle growth. They may do this by trading or pooling resources with other prisoners to obtain more protein-rich foods, such as canned tuna, chicken, or beans.

Some prisoners also have access to supplements, such as protein powders, which can further support muscle growth.

However, it’s important to note that the availability of supplements varies greatly between prisons and is often dependent on factors such as an inmate’s financial resources or connections within the prison.

Prison Cells Must Make Do

Improvising Exercises Without Traditional Gym Equipment

The lack of traditional gym equipment in prison cells forces inmates to become creative with their workouts. They often use everyday items or their own body weight to create resistance and 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
  • Performing isometric exercises, which involve holding a position for an extended period to create tension in the muscles (e.g., wall sits, planks)

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

The Impossibility of Distraction

Monotony and Focus on Training

One factor that may contribute to prisoners’ success in building muscle is the lack of distractions within their environment. Being confined to a cell for up to 23 hours per day can lead to boredom and a sense of monotony.

However, this situation also provides inmates with ample time to focus on their fitness goals without the interruptions and distractions that individuals in the outside world often face.

In many cases, exercise becomes a way for prisoners to cope with the stress and challenges of incarceration. The physical exertion and mental discipline required to maintain a consistent workout routine can provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment amid the harsh conditions of prison life.

The Influence of the Prison Diet

High-Carbohydrate Meals and Caloric Intake

Although prison diets are often criticized for their lack of nutritional quality, one aspect that may contribute to muscle growth among inmates is the high carbohydrate content of many prison meals.

Carbohydrates are an essential energy source for the body, and consuming an adequate amount of carbs can support muscle growth by providing the energy needed for intense workouts.

The overall caloric intake of prison meals may be sufficient to support muscle growth, particularly for individuals who are highly active and engage in regular exercise. While the nutritional quality of prison food may leave much to be desired, the caloric content of these meals can still contribute to muscle growth when combined with an effective workout routine.

Final Thoughts

The impressive physiques of many prisoners can be attributed to a combination of factors, including consistent workout routines, improvised exercises, focused training, and the influence of prison diets.

Despite the challenging conditions they face, inmates often demonstrate remarkable resourcefulness and determination in their pursuit of physical fitness. Their success serves as a testament to the power of dedication, creativity, and perseverance in the face of adversity.

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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.