Improvising your Training in Prison
By Aarron Lambert MA8124, HMYOI Swinfen Hall, Litchfield
Organised by James Collier, MuscleTalk Co-Owner
Foreword by James Collier
I recently visited my friend Aarron who is currently serving a 4 ½ year sentence in Prison. For a 19 year old, before he was sent to prison, Aarron had an excellent physique with some great size, strength, condition and proportions, and potentially rivalled by very few. Thus, when I visited him, I expected Aarron to have lost loads of size, but was pleasantly surprised to see that he still had some great size and shape, and while we were chatting he mentioned that he hardly got to train in the prison gym so had to improvise a few basic home-made exercises in his cell, in order to maintain his size. He described some of the exercises and I immediately saw that this would make an interesting article and asked him if he wouldn't mind writing one... I mean it's not as though he's stuck for time!
If you're somebody who trains quite frequently, to suddenly stop would be a big shock to your system both physically and mentally, so if you can't get to a weights room for a long period of time, then you will need to use your imagination and improvise with what you have at hand to train with and give yourself a pump. Prison is not like what you see on TV; there is no gym every day, there are no protein shakes and if you look like somebody who trains and you look strong, then you will hardly get to use the gym at all because the screws and the system do not like above average size and strength because they feel intimidated, and they want everyone to look the same. However, if you use your imagination and improvise then training for muscle mass can be down anywhere no matter what the situation, e.g. banged up all day in your cell, solitary confinement - anywhere with four walls, a toilet and a chair!
To use myself as an example, before I came to prison I had been bodybuilding for 5 years and had entered four shows. I am now serving 4 ½ years in prison, I'm on lockdown for 22 ½ hours exactly per day and have two gym sessions per week, which I have had to put applications in on my wing to get. I have had no choice but to come up with some basic exercises to do in my cell to get pumped and to keep my mind active.
A simple exercise that you need nothing but your own bodyweight and a wall to perform. Simply place both hands on the floor shoulder width apart and at least 2 inches away from the wall. Lift your body into a handstand position comfortably resting your body upside-down against the wall for balance and strictness. Then slowly bend your elbows lowering your body until your chin touches the floor, then simply push the whole of your body back up into the handstand position by locking your arms out. Do 8-10 reps to failure. It may be difficult to do at first, but as the old saying goes, 'practice makes perfect'. Commandos are a way of doing shoulder presses using your own body weight.
A basic exercise and again needs nothing but your own bodyweight. Place your hands on the floor shoulder width apart and the balls of your feet close together on the edge of your toilet, so your body is in a straight vertical position. Then complete the exercise by doing a simple press-up style movement whilst staying in this position. Do 8-10 sets to failure. Incline press-ups is an excellent classic exercise to bring results to your top chest and triceps.
Canteen & Flyes
In prison you are allowed some luxuries providing you have the funds to pay for them. For example each week you will receive a canteen order form (see below), allowing you to order all sorts from cookies to oats and cereal to noodles and cans of tuna. So this standard privilege is a great opportunity to keep packing the food down and keeping size. It will also enable you to receive a small amount of protein. On the canteen form you can also order bottles of pop that weigh one litre each. Now, this can be very helpful for doing flyes in your cell. Simply order 2 x 1 litre bottles, then hold them in each hand and perform a normal flye movement for chest.
Other luxuries you're allowed whilst incarcerated are newspapers and mags, so there's no excuse not to keep up your subscriptions to Flex and Muscle & Fitness! On a standard prison wing you can pick up magazine application forms to order them, but again only if you have enough funds in your account. Now the trick is to use this opportunity to make a good weight for an arm curl exercise. Buy a good load of cheap mags like Zoo, Nuts, etc, about 20 of them (which will cost you around £20). Once you're banged up in your cell with your mags simply place them in your prison issue kit bag which would then make a weight of about 20.5kg. Grip both corners of the kit bag and proceed to do an arm curl movement. Do 10-12 sets to failure.
In your cell you get given a chair as standard which can be used as a vital piece of equipment for exerices. The tricep dip exercise involves the use of your chair and toilet. Simply measure your body distance and place your feet on the edge of the toilet then take your own weight by placing your bum on the edge of the chair with both hands either side. Nudge your bum forward off the chair so your body is supported by your arms then simply dip your body down until your elbows are level with your shoulders, then push back up locking out both arms. 8 sets to failure.
Depending on whether you're in a single cell or not, will depend on whether your bed is a normal single bed or a bunk bed. Either way they are made out of basic tube-like poles, which are ideal for towel squats. Get hold of a towel and roll it up like a sausage, then place it round the pole at the end of your bed, holding each end of the towel in each hand. Gently lean back with the towel supporting your body weight on the pole and slowly squat down and then back up without locking out your legs fully. 40 reps, 8 sets to failure.
If you grab your prison issue kitbag and fill it full with mags, it can weigh about 20kgs. Place the bag on the floor and kneel down in front of it with your back facing the bag. With both hands, reach back over your shoulders and grab each corner of the bag. Whilst holding the corners of the bag, stand up straight and let the bag rest against your back. Then begin the exercise by pushing the bag up to the back of your head and locking out both arms, then letting it ease down to your back again. In the gym you would do this exercise using cables and rope.
This is a great exercise for your abs and quads. Lay flat on your back whilst on your bed straight like an arrow with your legs together. Place your arms above your head and gently grip on to the bed, keeping your legs straight and together. Slowly raise them up placing your body in an 'L' shape then slowly ease them back down not forgetting to squeeze your abs constantly. 30 reps of 8 sets to failure.
The following are order/application forms at the prison:
1) Newspaper & Magazine Application form
2) Canteen extras order form (two sides)
3) Gym Application Form