One topic that seems to pop up on internet message boards with the regularity of a geriatric with a Metamucil addiction and the high-speed insanity of the pop-up plastic punching bag rodents in Whack-a-Mole is the unerring ability of inmates to get jacked and strong in spite of their indigence. appalling soy-and-sugar-filled diets, and the occasional inaccessibility of strength training equipment. By rights, every inmate in America should look like a pasty-faced, estrogen-filled, paunchy, detrained, sloppy-assed couch potato, but instead look like jacked-as-fuck bodybuilders that most gym goers wish they did. Every now and again, a pic will surface on the internet showing a bunch of dangerous looking dudes so heavily muscled that they make the nerds on Bodybuilding.com start paying to the sniveling gods of Planet Fitness for a lunk alarm to magically appear on their desks. The subsequent conversation regarding the methods the inmates used to send a giant “FUCK YOU” to the gods and the internet dipshits who demand empirical evidence for every diet and training method is invariably based upon the rambling musings of the genetic freak, general lunatic, and superhumanly strong inmate known as “Britain’s Most Dangerous Man”, Charles Bronson, and due to a total lack of other legitimate resources, never provides an adequate answer. The topic of Kali Muscle then rears its grotesque, Freddy Krueger-esque head, and the entire conversation gets derailed like an Indian passenger train as it devolves into polemic so laden with volleys of unfounded invective that it resembles a Justin Bieber fan messageboard that’s been brigaded by tr00 metalheads more than a passing conversation about training methods and diet.
I know this feel. Thanks, internet.
“When confronted by a problem involving the use of the reasoning facilities, individuals of strong intellect keep their poise, and seek to reach a solution by obtaining facts bearing upon a question. Those of immature mentality, on the other hand, when similarly confronted, are overwhelmed. While the former might be qualified to solve the riddle of their own destiny, the latter must be led like a flock of sheep and taught in simple language” (Hall).
It seems that for some reason, no one ever thought to interview actual inmates about how they get so insane jacked when it seems like most of the most vociferous weight training bloviators on the internet have trouble breaking the 175 lb mark. Well, guess what? I fucking went out and interviewed a whole shitload of felons so we could collectively get to the bottom of this apparent quandary. Instead of sitting back on my laurels and simply pontificating upon my assumptions about their training, I sought out people who have actually spent more time in prisons and jails than outside of them (and who surprisingly do not train on the outside), because it seems obvious that it’s far better to get information directly from the horse’s mouth rather than getting it from a bunch of 15-year-old know nothings idly speculating about shit while peering through a film of dried cum on their monitors. Thus, the following series of articles is the produce of a number of interviews that were frankly far less life-threatening than one might expect from a guy who’s lived in at least half of the richest suburbs in America, given that the interviewees had upwards of 200 collective felony convictions and countless misdemeanors.
Lifting In Lockup
One thing I’ve always found amusing about the fake-ass toughguy, chicken hawk, loudmouthed, bitch-ass right-winger radio demagogues like Rush Limbaugh is that they’re just as piss-ass scared of inmates as the pussy-ass politicians who demanded everyone get locked up on meatball bullshit in the first place. The result of this fear, in many prisons and jails, was to remove the gyms and weights from many penal facilities and restrict access thereto in those facilities where the weights remained… all because the inmates were going into those facilities underfed and underweight and coming out brick shithouses of hate.
You might see a dude who got beaten with hammers in prison, but I see a guy who should have spent more time lifting and less time playing spades and smoking.
There are a couple of reasons why these dudes are able to accomplish what most gym-goers do not:
- Survival. Being so jacked and strong that the Hulk would think twice about rumbling with you earns you the same respect as Mike Tyson in his prime and reduces the chances that anyone will start shit.
- Work ethic. They work out harder than meth-head housewives clean their bathrooms during a week-long run. If they have the opportunity, they train, whether it's inside, outside, or upside down, doing pushups, pullups, burpees, and every other bodyweight exercise of which they can think if they can't get into the gym and murder some weights. One inmate I interviewed said he gained 40 lbs in 5 months lifting for one to three hours a day and additional workouts consisting of nothing but bodyweight exercises, 7 days a week. Maniacal hardly describes that sort of a program.
- Boredom. You cannot fathom the utter, mind-numbing, suicidal thought inducing, grinding boredom that incarceration entails.
- Competition. Jails and prisons ave an air of competition that make the Olympics look like a game of pre-school hopscotch. There is a constant, overriding, brutal air of competition to be the biggest, meanest, baddest, strongest motherfucker in god's cruel kingdom inside of every correctional facility.
- Getting laid. According to nearly every inmate with whom I spoke, there is one premier, overarching reason why dudes in the penal system train so they can get laid immediately upon release.
Marcinko knows that first you get the money, then you get the bitches.
"Yesterday's successes are fond fucking memories. As soon as you start resting on your laurels, you begin cutting corners and taking shortcuts. You get fat. You get lazy. You want to play it safe. In my business, the business of killing people- the oxygen thieves, the corner cutters, shortcut takers, and professional safety experts are the ones who will get you killed. If you're dead you can't accomplish your mission. And if the mission isn't accomplished, YOU HAVE FUCKING FAILED!"
- Richard Marcinko
Yeah, I know- lifting isn't quite analogous to war, but the quote goes harder than a roomful of teenagers snacking on Viagra while checking out Bonnie Rotten vids, and and quote rings true in the gym- the motherfuckers who cut corners and take shortcuts are fat and lazy. They lift like shit and thus look like shit. Unlike those doughy fucks, inmates train. Think you might be in danger of overtraining? It's far more likely that you're just a fucking pussy. These guys hammer their bodies in every time they lift, then follow their gym sessions up with endless sets of bodyweight circuits and game after game of basketball. For example, the following program was used by one inmate I interviewed in concert with a shitload of food to take him from 150lbs of bones to 235 pounds of pissed off felon in just under a year:
Day 1: Two hours of biceps, triceps, and back, followed by another session consisting of various bodyweight exercises.
Day 2: Two hours of chest and shoulders- incline, decline, and flat bench with a variety of grip widths- followed by shoulder presses and laterals.
Day 3: Two hours of legs- squats, extensions, curls, and calves.
Day 4: Two hours of abs.
Day 5: Repeat.
Obviously, not every prison or jail allows their inmates to train 7 days a week. In many institutions, it's limited to three days a week, so the remainder of their workouts have to be done with bodyweight work. TONS of bodyweight work, Herschel Walker-style.
Greatest metal face ever.
"Sheer pain wrapped in animal willpower."
- Richard MarcinkoThis is where the line between genius (albeit idiot savant- style genius, given the fact that most inmates seem to possess all of the technical strength training and programming knowledge of your average potted plant) and insanity, as necessity is the mother of inventiveness and these guys seem to employ mad-scientist-esque imagination in their bodyweight workouts. Luckily for you, I've gotten you guys the inside scoop for this maniacal training, which will work just as well in a hotel room on a vacation as it does in lockup. For those of you who are worried that your gainz will suffer and your efforts will be "wasted" (by the way, every lazy rat fuck on the Internet who whines about their endless worry that they might be "wasting their time" with the wrong workout while dithering about their program should eat a fucking lead salad, because they're annoying pussies without whom the world would be a better place), hear me: FUCK THAT SHIT. Inmates train, by and large, on around 3000 calories at most, and in many situations on 1600 calories or less, most of which are carbs and fat, and they make gainz in spite of themselves just by going fucking hard.
...so just go fucking nuts.
"It is better to act quickly and err than to hesitate until the time of action is past." - Major General von ClausewitzIn true Chaos and Pain fashion, these weightless workouts are frequent, often lengthy, and almost completely structureless. Instead of painstakingly calculating their volume, employing loading tables, analyzing their form, and generally turning lifting into a series of unnecessary calculations. These motherfuckers just train. Circuits of burpees, pullups, jogging, and pushups are followed by dip and pullup competitions, or challenges to lift random heavy objects, or wheelbarrow races (running on their hands while a partner runs behind them, holding their feet as they would the handles of a wheelbarrow). Zero fucks are given about fatigue and no one ever utters the foul, unspeakable term "overtraining." Nah, these guys "ain't sweet like that." You can't take much from people who have nothing to lose, and inmates make the absolute best out of a seemingly hopeless situation by being tough and adaptable. Given that their exercises are limited only by their surprisingly robust imaginations (dat adaptability!) it'd take too long to cover every possible permutation. The following, then, will just be rather comprehensive highlights to provide you with a jumping off point more badass than tossing yourself off the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The following exercises come in three delicious varieties: traditional bodyweight exercises, TRX-style movements, and makeshift resistance work using odd lifts and unconventional implements.
Bodyweight movements serve as an incredibly strong foundation for strength training, and my recent use of them and careful consideration of my early years of training have caused me to re-prioritize these essential movements, from which I've deviated considerably in the last couple of years (much to my detriment). Not to put too fine a point on it, but high repetition bodyweight movements are the shit. The following are the movements and variations most popular in prison (which is interesting, because the inmates are generally completely ignorant of exercise science and nutrition, but necessity is the ultimate monkey, and these guys are doing exactly the right shit).
- Pullups- Always an excellent mainstay of any workout because a strong posterior chain makes for a strong lifter and barn door lats look awesome on everyone, pullups make up a great deal of inmates' bodyweight routines. These are often done outside of the gym, hanging from anything that's handy, be it the cell door or window, the top bunk of a bed, or the back of an open stair in the common area. Every imaginable grip is used to shift the focus of the exercise and reduce burnout... which of course facilitates more volume. As for rep schemes, they are all over the map, and generally swing between maximum reps for burnouts in short timeframes and total volume over longer periods of time.
- Pushups- Pushups are the mainstay bodyweight exercise of any place o incarceration, as prisoners are obsessed with building huge "hoods" (pecs/chests) and "back arms (triceps), and few things work to that end like a couple thousand pushups per day a couple of times a week. Inmates do these on the floor, on their knuckles, on the tips of their fingers, their wrists, incline, decline, diamond, ballistic, and from a deficit.
- Deck of Death- The Deck of Death is utter brutality, and I've written about it before- this is what I used in high school and college to bring up my bench. It shouldn't shock me, then, that my bench all but stalled out in subsequent years and my chest lagged behind my other body parts until my recent re-entry into the hallowed lands of 5000-7000 pushups a week. Though I typically just do straight sets of 50-100, recording each set to ensure a minimum of 1500 a day, 3 times a week, plus additional days of a few hundred, I will occasionally do the Deck of Death to mix things up. For that, I shuffle a deck of cards and do pushups according to the face value of the card (Jacks=11reps, Queens=12 reps, Kings=13 reps, and Aces=20 reps) and the suit (Diamonds= Diamond pushups, Hearts= Incline, Clubs= Decline, and Spades= Wide grip). I recommend doing all reps but diamonds on your knuckles for more forearm/wrist work, using flip flops or towels for padding, and once you've finished the deck, you'll have done 440 pushups. Although I don't time these, it's best from a workout density standpoint to complete the deck as quickly as possible. Doing so will give your chest and triceps a pump so fucking brutal your balls will ache, you asshole will pucker, and anyone who sees you shirtless will think you shot your pecs full of Synthol.
- Squat- These can be done any number of ways, as you can likely imagine. TYhe prominent method for forcing leg growth in lockup, however, is the Tyson workout, or "Tysons", which is also done using a deck of cards. To do these, take 8 playing cards out of the deck at random and place them on the ground in a straight line about 18" inches apart. Then take one more card from the deck, squat over the 1st card in the line and squat to below parallel, dropping the one you're holding on top of the card on the ground. Then stand up, then squat and pick up the first card, then squat and pick up the second card and move to the second card in the line. Repeat what you did the first time, squatting and dropping the two cards in two movements, then squat down three times to pick up each of the cards. Repeat until you've picked up all of the cards. If you use short rests, your legs will be burning like gonorrhea after a few sets.
The list definitely goes on, and this series is going to be loooooooooong, so get ready for a shitload of new posts in the coming weeks. I realize I've been slacking like crazy with the posting, and that'll be rectified in the coming months. To tide you over until part 2 is posted, however, I'm taking it back to the old school- here's the aforementioned porn goddess Bonnie Rotten to get your day started off right.