During incarceration, one is deprived of the basic comforts and necessities of life. His activities are restricted and his access to supplies is limited. Truth is, not all prison or county jails have gyms that feature a complete set of workout equipment. Prisoners also don’t have access to nutritious foods and supplements. They are mostly confined at small spaces behind bars.
Despite the fact that prisons or jails are not an ideal training environment, some prisoners still want to defy and shred, doing effective routines to improve their fitness. Some prisoners believe that being strong isn’t just about physical development, but rather a necessity for their survival. They do not let those circumstances be an excuse on not knowing the ways on how to exercise while inside a prison or county jail.
According to the constitution, an inmate who isn’t taking part in outdoor work should then engage in exercises that could be done in open air—as long as the weather calls for it.
Those of strong physique, as well as young, agile prisoners, should exercise, as well as try recreational training. Equipment and proper installations would then be provided by the facility.
Compulsory Exercises are asked from the inmates because it’s a way of giving them the semblance of a normal life, and physical activity. This stimulates their brain and makes them think like a regular person. Medical and Security Officers are also asked to be on ground while the inmates are doing their exercises, for safety and security purposes—after all, some of the exercises are done in open fields, and the inmates may be tempted to run, or escape from the facility. Reports of the exercises are then given to the Commissioner—and as seen as a positive form of growth, and of keeping inmates together to avoid conflict.
Some prisoners use nothing but only their bodyweight to get physically fit. They focus on practicality when it comes to defining ways on how to exercise while inside a prison or county jail. Bodyweight workouts are beneficial because they can be done anywhere: in the prison ground, inside cells or solitary confinement. Prisoners can do several bodyweight exercises that work for the entire body.
Ex-Prisoners recount how they are led to the vast open yards of prisons for them to do exercises that are expected of them. There are home-welded equipment made out of iron arranged in the yard. There, they do various exercises that have been approved by the Prison Regulatory Board—and everyone in the yard is required to participate.
The first one is by doing push-ups on the floor. Prisoners may start doing 10 push-ups a day then add 5 more each day. There are variations of push-up movements depending as to where they are more convenient to execute. There’s the Hindu push-up (an upside down human “V”), handstand push-up (inverted body towards the ground), one-arm push up (one-handed push-up), regular, elevated and diamond push-ups.
The second bodyweight exercise would be doing pull-up variations. This can be done anywhere since there is a lot of vertical and horizontal bars inside the prison or jail. In addition, a stairway is also an ideal area to perform this exercise. Pull-ups are somewhat similar to push-ups that can also be modified to work different muscle groups and grip strength.
Squat variations are also effective. Squats are mostly known as a leg exercise, because they actually improve knee stability. This exercise should be done properly; otherwise, it may damage the knees. Squatting exercises should be part of every prisoner’s comprehensive fitness routine. They may perform this exercise even inside their cells that has limited spaces.
Dip exercises are usually performed by hanging from dip bars or from a set of rings. But in the case of a person locked up behind bars, he doesn’t need a fancy dip rig to do this exercise since there are none. The alternative way of doing this is to put hands on a chair with either feet on the floor or propped up on the bed.
Burpees are also known as squat thrusts. These require the full body to perform the one-movement exercise which known as a four-count burpee. In type of workout, prisoners may test both their strength and aerobatic capabilities. In doing so, they may exercise on the prison ground while combining to perform variations of jumps, push-ups, pull-ups, squats and parkour burpees.
Prisoners got a lot of choices even if they focus on bodyweight workouts. In addition to these, they can perform walking – the easiest way to stay fit and healthy. Running exercises are also a good form of aerobatic exercise. Prisoners can run or walk at the length of their cells for one to two hours a day. Prison or jails grounds are best place to enjoy this kind of physical activity.
Aside from weightlifting, leatherworking was also prevalent from the 70s to the 90s in a lot of prison facilities in the United States. Basically, prisoners were allowed to create their own exercise belts for $50, provided that their families could pay for it. It would then reflect the personality of the inmate as a weightlifter.
A great example of facilities that allow this is the yard in Green Haven Correctional Facility in New Haven. According to an ex-prisoner, there are at least 15 courts in the area that has been converted into a gym of sorts, with concrete paddies, rusty cable machines, and iron weights. The thing about this is that in some cases, inmates are given the chance to choose their own groups—so they could all exercise together. There are times when various nationalities could come together (i.e., the Italians, Irish, Americans, etc.) but it all depends on how the prison authorities would allow it to happen.
However, there was a time in the 90s when a number of Prison Commissions in the United States seemed to be in fear of the increasing capacity of inmates as weightlifters, fearing they may use their knowledge to escape from prison. States such as California, Florida, Wisconsin, North and South Carolina, Georgia, together with Mississippi removed a number of weightlifting equipment in prison yards for several years, especially those that are made out of steel.
In recent years, though, states have managed to provide inmates with the right kind of weightlifting equipment—those that would be safe for them to use, and that would be safe for the facility itself, and its people, too.
Instead of interacting much on card games which usually causes fights, prisoners may better engage themselves on bodyweight workouts. Despite the lack in recreation time and nutritious foods, prisoners still adapt to their environment, knowing the ways how to exercise while inside a prison or county jail. Getting in better shape is one way to survive prison.