The Prison Cell Workout

Have you ever noticed that many convicted criminals walk into prison as skinny punks but walk out with 20-40lbs of new muscle?

Have you ever wondered how that is possible?

Recently, a customer of mine asked me if I thought it was possible to build muscle, burn fat and get a lean, muscular physique without lifting weights.

While I gave it some thought… he raised the stakes. He wanted to know if someone could build a better body while locked up in a ten by ten prison cell.

I thought about it some more… and then I started to do some research. After I completed my research I told him that I believed it was possible to build muscle even within the confines of a ten by ten prison cell.

Here’s why:

Point #1: Your muscles are stupid. In order to grow, your muscles must be placed under tension. If you lift a dumbbell, that puts tension on your bicep and back muscles.

But… if you do a pull-up… that also puts your back and biceps muscles under tension. Here’s the kicker: Your muscles don’t know the difference between the tension put forth by pull-ups or from dumbbell curls.

The important thing is that your muscles are being worked against resistance in each case. So lifting weights may be a convenient way to work your muscles under tension… but it’s definitely not the only way to work your muscles.

Point #2: In the late ’80’s, researches used electromagnetic imaging to discover which exercises caused the greatest degree of muscle fiber activation. The rationale being that the more muscle fibers that were activated, the better the exercise was for building muscle and strength.

Researchers discovered that the most effective exercises were the ones where your hands and or feet remained steady and your body moved.

The exercises where your body remained stationary and your hands or feet did the moving were decidedly less effective.

Here is an example: When you are bench pressing, your body remains stationary and your hands move up and down throughout space.

But when you do a push-up, your hands remain stationary and your body moves up and down throughout space.

How about another example? When you do a seated leg extension, your body remains stationary and your feet move up and down. But when you do a squat, your feet remain stationary and your body moves up and down throughout space.

So the push-up activates more muscle fiber than the bench press… and a squat recruits more muscle fibers than a leg extension.

This means that many bodyweight exercises actually require a greater degree of muscle fiber activation than many common weight-lifting exercises.

In short, bodyweight exercises can actually be more effective at building muscle and strength.

So… even if you’re stuck in a tiny prison cell, you can still build muscle and strength with bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups and squats.

Of course, to build extreme amounts of muscle you have to move beyond the basic exercises and start using some of the more advanced exercises. These include the one-arm push-up, the janda sit-up, dips and variations on the pull-up.

But in the end, I see no reason why you could not build an all-around spectacularly muscular physique within the tiny confines of a ten by ten prison cell.