CT Fletcher Workout: How to Train Penitentiary Style

CT Fletcher, dubbed “the strongest man you never heard of” started lifting weights at the age of 22. He’s originally from Little Rock, Arkansas but has been in Southern California for 50 years.

Powerlifter turned bodybuilder, CT is a 6 time world champion; 3 time drug tested world bench champion and 3 time world strict curl champion. He’s a top over-50 competitor in bodybuilding and strives to be the undisputed number one champion.

CT feels his greatest accomplishment is his 705lb shirtless bench press attempt at the baddest bench press in America contest because he did it drug free against the best powerlifters in the world. His motivation comes from his mother for all of her support and his cousin for being such a badass. Fletcher touts a 705lb bench press in the gym, 650lb bench press at competition, a 725 pound squat, and more muscle than you can shake a stick at.

CT describes the Penitentiary Style Workout as not worrying about set and rep numbers, but putting the most focus and energy into every last rep. Give it all you have and act like it’s the last rep you will ever complete. Penitentiary Style form is admittedly not going to satisfy the form sticklers and some may wave a bullcrap flag, but they are some of the biggest guys you will ever see.

Half of CT’s workout still consists of a powerlifter training model to increase strength. Couple that with bodybuilding parameters and you have an amazing physique that is extremely strong. He said he has no intentions to compete again; he has accomplished everything he has set out to do.

Supplements that Fletcher suggests:

Ripped Abs
Related: How to get ripped abs

A sample arm workout would include:

5 to 6 sets of a minimum of 10 reps

  • Single Arm Dumbbell Preacher Curls
  • EZ Bar Preacher Curls
  • Incline Bench Hammer Curls
  • Concentration or Cable Curls

Other exercises that CT Fletcher uses:


  • Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press
  • Standing Barbell Lateral Raise
  • Seated Smith Overhead Press


  • Flat Barbell Bench
  • Flat Dumbbell Bench
  • Flat Barbell Pyramid Bench
  • Smith Bench
  • Incline Barbell Bench
  • Pushups


  • Incline Bench Hammer Curls
  • Dumbbell Preacher Curls
  • EZ Curl Bar Preacher Curls
  • Barbell Preacher Curls
  • Straight Bar Cable Curls
  • Concentration Curls


  • W Bar Tricep Extensions
  • Straight Bar Tricep Extensions


  • Dumbbell Rows
  • Lying Machine Rows
  • Deadlifts
  • Lat Pulldowns
  • T-Bar Rows
  • Pullups


  • Squats
  • Hack Squats
  • Box Squat
  • Leg Press

Check out this article for a workout routine.

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If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave a message below!

83 thoughts on “CT Fletcher Workout: How to Train Penitentiary Style”

    1. I would be able to better tailor a program to your needs if you would like. I would invite you to take a look at this 3 day split for a great routine. For ectomorphs, any routine will work, but you must eat a lot of food to build muscle.

    1. Workout partners are only good if you have someone with the same intent and goals as you. If you do not have a partner that is like-minded and going for the same goals you are, you are better off working out alone. I’ve been working out alone for the better part of 2 years and I’ve been doing great. Keep working hard man!

  1. Finally – a CT Fletcher post with his routine! Cutty – is it detrimental to muscle growth if I workout arms everyday like CT recommends? Keep up the awesome work on the site, love it.

    1. The secret to training any muscle is to eat and recover enough to support the growth. A lot of studies say that it takes 48 hours for muscles to fully recover, but if you eat enough and give your nervous system enough sleep to recover and stay healthy, training arms is possible daily.

      Thanks for the compliments 🙂

  2. I love his philosphy and approach to training: no BS, no excuses. I don’t have a gym membership and wonder how to supplement some machine exercise to do at home. That way I can hit all muscle likes its suppose to, and command them to grow! LOL

    1. Invest in some bands from EliteFTS and you can simulate some machines with these. I’m a fan of home gyms, so getting a simple squat rack and a bench will yield you a lot of options for ways to command those muscles to grow. Let me know if you have any more questions.

  3. Great website! Got it saved as a bookmark on my homepage. Really motivated by CT and his story. I’m wanting to try one of his routines. Was curious if the one you have posted above is what I should try or the bodybuilder one on the other page? Thanks!

  4. Great article. What about those of us that like “bar” and bodyweight workouts, ie, dips, pull-ups, push ups? Advice and/or routine would be greatly appreciated!

    1. I’ll get an article out soon on a routine that could be done at home with a pullup/dip bar and bodyweight exercises. Great idea!

      Be sure to follow us on Facebook or subscribe to the blog so you get an update on when I get the article out.

    1. Your arms are small muscles, so in theory you could work them every day. You would need to eat lots of food and get plenty of rest for your arms to recover. You should stick to 2-3 times a week max for now.

  5. hell yeah!!! someone who finally says that arms can be destroys every mutha f’n day instead of once or twice a week my guns are never loaded thanks to ct fletch’ and yourself cutty i’m now gonna beast the shit outta them sick of them looking crap now is it 5-6 sets per exercise and does that include chest etc. and can i train chest and shoulders everyday aswell or would you recommend only arms like this also how can i train back with just a 5’3′ barbell set of dumbbells and 44kg of weight

    thanks cutty

    1. Doing arms multiple times a week is ok, and I’ve trained about a year doing chest on Monday and Friday. Chest is a fairly large muscle and it doesn’t pay to beat it up more than twice a week like Monday and Friday.

      If you do any more, you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough on your sets.

      Just be consistent and learn what your body responds to best.

      Hope this helps, get swole.

  6. thanks bro gonna go beast mode now keep up the hard work this site already is becoming my number 1 source and less of that bodybuilding.com shit what would you recommend for delts man using only dumbbells

    1. Check out this delt workout I wrote. Just change to using dumbbells instead of a barbell. The reverse flies you can do the bent over reverse flies and the face pulls you can do them bent over instead of on a machine. This workout hits all of three heads so you have massive shoulders and traps. The benefit to working all three heads is to ensure shoulder health too.

      A lot of people have shoulder pain from overdeveloping the front delt and not developing the smaller rear delt. You can do face pulls and reverse flies every day you workout. I train 3 times a week and I add them in at the end of the workout and I’m finding it to be pretty helpful to my development.

  7. HI Cutty…I’m planning on increasing muscle mass…please recommend me any programme by which i can increase my muscle mass as much as possible

    1. Sorry it took a minute to reply, I have been working a lot lately. I think you would do well with this routine or this routine. Eat about 200-300 calories over your BMR and progress and you will see noticeable gains in a few months!

  8. Hey, Cutty I read a few of you stories and am blown away. Man you are motivation in itself! When you said you workout arms everyday I didn’t think that were posssible because of all the talk about how the body needs rest. Results speak louder than words for you. You have given me a new goal, thank you.

  9. Hey cutty me again with probably another pointless question but I need as much knowledge on building muscle as I can get I need a lot of help to be honest this question is kicking around quite a bit and I wanted to get your thoughts can you build muscles with “light weight”. On the penitentiary workout you wrote that by doing 4 sets of 15 reps each time you could then move on to the next weight as you were becoming stronger but should I stick with this system to gain muscle or should I just bomb the heavy stuff for really low reps or stick to light weights for high reps or to failure

    Thanks again man

    1. Regardless of whichever way you decide to go, good quality work is going to be needed period. In a very broad look, a high rep type routine is going to build bigger muscle because it is forcing more blood into the muscle and stretching the fascia. You will gain some strength due to more muscle, but the main idea in this is to build the biggest possible muscle.

      Building strength is actually straining your CNS and forcing your body to produce more power by using more muscle fibers. Building strength is going to build muscle like a high rep scheme does, but it will be more dense.

      So whether you train like a powerlifter and train for strength with something like 3 sets of 5 or train like a bodybuilder with 3 or 4 sets of 12, both are going to increase lean muscle and strength.

      I personally train high weight low reps, but I get burned out about every 4 or 5 weeks which doesn’t happen with a bodybuilding routine as often. A lot of the workouts I create have a heavy weight low reps for the main compound lifts and then the 12-15 rep sets for the accessory work.

      Just progressively overload, eat, and get rest and you will grow muscle. It is a process, trust it.


    1. If you are using heavy compounds to build your chest and shoulders, you may want to lighten the load and run something like a 12 reps for 3 or 4 sets. You could do chest/shoulders on like a Monday/Friday setup and would work well. Back you could barbell row or some other row every time you bench. Deadlift on another day.

      If you are able to get enough recovery, working a big muscle 2 times a week is ok and working smaller muscles up to 3 times a week works well.

  11. I’m 15 and I’m a beginner and I’m 5’7 146 pounds I just want to know how long it would take to see really noticeable results

    1. If you start doing a reasonable training program like the ones I’ve listed here and you eat good whole foods and do your best, you will see noticeable results relatively fast. 6 months you should be doing some heavy weights and getting bigger muscles.

      It’s a life journey, you have to trust the process and if you listen to my advice and the good advice of others you will be able to change your body.

    1. He’s pretty booked, try to message him through YouTube. I know a lot of people so I was fortunate.

      Good luck!

  12. Im lookkng for a routine to start from scratch. Im an endomorph whats best to start with and are there any good meal plans to follow?

    1. Check out any of the workout routines I’ve written here. They all would be great for you to run. As to meal plans, I do not have any since people are so vastly different. I have quite a few articles on weight loss and foods to eat.

      The basics are eat less to lose weight, eat a little more to start gaining lean mass. Stack up the protein, have dietary fats and fill in the rest with carbs. Eat whole foods that you have to cook like chicken, beef, fish and eat lots of vegetables, brown rice and potatoes.

      Small changes in diet can make a difference, so stop drinking soda if you drink it, eat whole foods, and lift weights and your body will adapt.

  13. Hello Cutty, im 16 years old and have been lifting for two years now and have gotten good gains in both size and strength and I am a mesomorph. My friend and I saw CT’s overtraining video with Mike Rashid and i absolutely loved it because when i first started out lifting, i over trained with just the basic lifts. Bench, Incline, Squats, etc. I know that in that video, Mike said to overtrain the chest, but what about the other body parts? does he over train every body part with his dropset routine? It would be much appreciated if this could be answered!! Thanks!

  14. Hey cutty thanks again. I’ve been getting gains due to ct fletcher and you. But how and what should I do for cardio. I try so hard to lose weight but I can’t. I eat veggies chicken eggs protein powder from gnc wheybolic 60. I do aleast an hour of cardio 2-3 Times a week. …one thing that might hinder me is lack of sleep. 4-6 hours. Or could it be the protein I’m using? Im 27 years old. Any ideas. I used to be a Muay Thai fighter so any grueling routine I will be willing to adapt to

    1. I’m glad to hear you are making gains, keep up the good work. I would recommend you keeping a log if you don’t already of everything you eat so you can see where you are going wrong. Some people have slower metabolisms than others, so using a generalized “eat 2000 calories” may not work well.. I am the same way. Sleep is a huge factor in weight loss and muscle gains, I don’t have the scientific answer, but there are different hormones that are released during sleep to help control leptin and other hormones that cause weight gain or lack of weight loss.

      I would invite you to start logging every piece of food and drink that goes into your mouth so we can see if there is a problem somewhere that you may not be aware of. I’m working on an e-book right now about mistakes made when trying to lose weight which won’t be out for a little bit. Log everything for a week and get back with me and I’ll see if we can come up with a plan to start losing weight. What is your current weight and what is your goal weight?

    2. Okay wowv thanks again. You really do appreciate the traffic flow on here thanks. I’m 220 looking to get to 160. That’s the weight I fought at 6-7 years ago. Would you recommend thermogenics? Or anything else? I would prefer to stay as natural as possible but if you recommend anything ill consider it. Im just really sensitive to caffeine. So I tend to avoid it. But if it’ll help me ill listen. Ya that weight I got fat as f. But I want to get in shape by next summer. Thanks again man. Rock on

    3. Honestly a pad and paper is what I recommend logging with. I find that a lot of people get too distracted when they use their phones or pads at the gym. If you don’t want to use pen and paper, using memo or something very lightweight will help keep the distractions down. I will look into different programs and apps and if I have to I’ll get one made.

      But honestly, go buy a little book of paper and a pen and carry it.

    4. There really isn’t any supplement that necessarily “helps” you lose weight. I’ve tried many different supplements, all I’ve reviewed I’ve used and I have more to review. I would not recommend any supplements until you can get your diet dialed in.

      Check out the healthy living section on how to eat healthier, muscle building foods, etc and try to see where you are going wrong. Log your food intake so you can see what’s going wrong. The only time I would recommend any type of supplement for weight loss is if you’re experiencing a loss of energy from being on a caloric deficit.

      As always, watch your carbs, the more you eat the more water you will hold. Cut the soda and juices out and start drinking a lot of water to help flush everything out and keep you hydrated. I don’t know how you eat, but the more meals you cook and prepare from fresh foods the better. You can either go to taco bell and get a couple burritos and a soda or you can eat a couple pounds of chicken and broccoli.. You make the choice 🙂

      So, log what you eat, cut soda/juice, cook fresh foods. No need for supplements, save that money for the fresh foods.

  15. Hi, Cutty?
    I have not got it yet. Does it matter how many sets and reps you do? Because I want to get big, ripped and strong. So I really need some help, I’am a noob at this. It would be much appreciated if this could be answered!! Thanks!

    1. Welcome to the site! I did this article to explain who CT was and his philosophies and exercises he does. I recommend to check out my workout routines section to find a routine you would be able to do. All routines are going to help you build muscle and build strength. I have plenty of articles on how to eat for weight loss and building muscle so I invite you to check those out as well.

      If you have specific questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll get to them as soon as I can!

  16. Is this workout CT’s full workout or just part? Also which workout is the best to build muscle this one or the bodybuilding penitentiary routine one?

    1. This is CT’s philosophy and some of the exercises he uses to build his physique. Any workout when using progression will help you build muscle if you eat enough and get enough sleep. Check out some of the routines I’ve written.


    2. Hello,

      You are fortunate in that you are starting at a young age and your testosterone is high. Any of the routines I’ve written here will work the best.

      I specialize in strength training but I will start adding in specialized bodybuilding type workouts. Build a strong base and reap the benefits.

      As long as you get in the gym, lift some weights and progress in lifting heavier or more weight you are going to grow lots of muscle.

      Good luck,


    3. Thanks and sorry to keep asking questions but would you recommend creatine and shoudl i take protein shakes if so what brands do you recommend? Also if i stop taking creatine will the gains I’ve benefited form taking it be gone?

    4. Edwin, ask all of the questions you want. It actually gives me some more article ideas to write on.

      Creatine is a well tested supplement that is proven to work. Although you can get plenty of creatine in the meat you eat, supplementing with a creatine monohydrate is fine. It is relatively cheap and goes a long way.

      If you stop, you will just lose some water weight. The only reason you may look more muscular or feel stronger is because cells in your muscles retain extra water which gives you a fuller look and technically more muscle mass to move the weight. I’ve missed taking creatine off and on and I haven’t seen any significant difference.

      If you are picking eating healthy foods versus supplements I would recommend healthy foods. Check out some of the product reviews I’ve written on protein, pretty much anything is good, I personally prefer Optimum Nutrition but all of my friends and athletes I talk to all use different brands so it’s not so much of an issue. Once again, if you have to give up healthy foods to get protein, get the healthy foods.


  17. I’m 18 fresh out of high school and wanted to start lifting. I’ve lifted prior, playing sports in high school like football wrestling and swimming but never gained nothing out of this world. I know it takes time hard work and dedication. I’ve seen quite a few CT films and couldn’t get enough. I just don’t know where to start. How many days out the week should I workout & what do I do on each day.

    1. Check out any of my routines here and find one that can fit your schedule. I’m writing new ones all of the time so keep checking back.

  18. Cutty,
    I’m very interested in this workout but I don’t know what days or what workouts to pair together. What do you reccommend?

  19. Hey Cutty, I used to workout but I stopped for about 2 years and i gained some weight,i started trainingagain a few days ago and now I need a workout plan that can help me build muscle, loose the fat or do both at the same time,can you help?

    1. Check out any of my routines here and find one that fits your schedule and something you can stick with for at least 12 weeks. Some include conditioning, some do not, I would invite you to add in some conditioning whether it’s walking, playing your favorite sport, or hitting up some cardio equipment. Something to keep your heart rate elevated will help burn extra calories.

      Eat good whole foods, get plenty of protein intake and train hard and you’re going to be happy with your results. You will burn fat and maintain as much muscle as you can, but when you lose the weight you are going to look like you have bigger muscles.

      Stick with it and let me know if you have any other questions.


  20. ct, you know you have some of the bad ass work-outs. you know i got your back partner. avery since we introduce our selfs. in long beach. we lost contact.god put us together back in the80 and the spirit led me to on your sites. contact me at my e-mail [email protected] love you brother. big john(smith)

    1. This article is mostly talking who CT is and things he does and uses. If you’re looking for a workout plan, check out the workouts.


  21. Hey cutty, I’ve been working out since I was 17. I was pretty scrawny but at the age of 30 now I’m a bit larger, 6 foot, 200 LBS and have been obsessed with my bench since. I’m pushing up around 405lb on bench on a good day for 1 but that’s it. I’ve been at tbis plato for years. I can’t get bigger or stronger. I eat like crap but not over weight whatever. I’m in the coast guard and scared to take supliments due to so many of them are band from us and hard to say which I can or can’t take. I’m convinced what I have is genetics and my work outs are crap. Any advice?
    I don’t have set work out, I just go in there and lose my mind for a couple hours.

    1. Try to program a workout plan that you have a heavy bench day, like you normally have, then have a day where it’s lighter work like 60% of your max weight you did on the heavy day and do those for a few sets of higher reps. I think you’re just getting to the point of needing to do more specialized training, without logging and keeping track exactly what you’ve done it will be hard to really progress. Getting a stronger back always helps with bench. My goal for clients is that they can bent over barbell row as much as they can bench, or as close as possible.

      Any more questions, let me know!


  22. I have been a complainer my entire life even when I was in the military. I blamed others for my weigh gain and failure due to lack of confidence. I really want to start thinking about my health. The other main reason my mother passed away from a massive cardiac arrest while I was in combat zone. I have since loath her death for nearly 7 years. I needed this push no limits no excuse. I currently reside in Savannah Georgia

  23. Hey there,
    Just wanted to share that weightlifting has been a life long passion of mine as I’ve had my shares of up’s and down’s ! as right now at this point of my life I’m still lifting while enjoying being a grandfather to some God’s given precious grandchildren they are my motivation and my inspiration !!let me share my routine today or rather these days, I do every Monday’s Wednesday’s and Fridays on my Wednesday’s I go full body only once out of a week! I’m 5’11” tall and I am at about 235lbs and I can handle 225’s for reps some times I go at 325’s I use a supplement of protein power to get my machine in motion…..well that’s all I have for now and by the way I’ll be 61 years old this upcoming June 7th !!!

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