The name "prison workout" refers to the notion that you could literally perform the workout in the tiny space of a prison cell, without any equipment.
For many years, this is my backup routine if I am traveling and don't have the time or access to use equipment. If you work out regularly, this is a fine maintenance stop gap. If you don't work our regularly, this can be a great way to get started on your path to fitness.
Since this involves on equipment, it's no surprise that we are going to be using "body weight" or "calisthenic" exercise for this. There are many choices you can make here, but we have some simple goals:
- Hit the major muscle groups
- Provide good range of motion for our joints
- A simple routine
Here is the one I use. Don't blink or you'll miss it.
The Exercise: Squat Thrust With Push-up and Jump
Basically, we are going to do a push-up in the middle of our squat thrust and we are leaping in the air as we return to our standing position.
- Normal standing position, feet comfortably shoulder-width apart
- Move into a squatting position with your hands on the ground in front of you
- Kick your feet out behind you into the start of a push-up (aka a "plank" position)
- Lower yourself down into a push-up (If you can do it, I recommend taking three seconds for this)
- If you can, pause at the end of this motion for one full second
- As powerfully and quickly as you can, push back yourself back up into the plank position
- Bring your legs back into the squatting position from #2
- Explosively jump up and reach up to the sky with your arms
- Land as gently as you can, bending your knees as need to minimize impact
- You should now be back in a normal standing position
The Routine: Pyramid/Countdown
You should pick a number of reps that make sense for you. This example starts with 10.
- 10 repetitions
- 60-second break
- Reduce the repitition count by 1
- If your count is greater than zero, back step 1
So, basically, 10 reps, break, 9 reps, break, and so on until you have one rep.
That's it. I hope you find this as useful as I have to ensure you can always get in a work out no matter how little space or equipment you have.
Would You Like to Know More?
While it's simple a lot of thought goes into it (there is a reason my blog is called Binge Thinking).
- Why three seconds on the first part of the push-up? This gives a great negative work out and helps you focus on good form, which means less injury. This also more fully engages your biceps and triceps as secondary muscles.
- Then why am I pushing up explosively, shouldn't that be slow too? We are trying to work different fibers in our muscles and the explosive push engages our "fast-twitch" fibers, giving us a more well-rounded workout.
- Why the pause at the bottom of the push-up? Our muscles will behave a bit like a spring. When you lower down into the push-up, your muscles are preparing for that upward motion. By pausing for one second, you encourage that coiled spring to relax. This makes the motion a bit more challenging, giving us a better work out.
- What about that explosive jump and gentle landing? The explosive leap engages fast-twitch fibers and by landing as gently as possible you are shifting from high-impact to low-impact and you are using your muscles to absorb and dampen the shock. The result is less injury and a better work out.