Prison Workout: Penitentiary Style Training Routine

We’ve all seen or heard about how big and muscular inmates in the penitentiary are. How do these guys get so big and what is this “penitentiary style training?”

What is penitentiary style training?

Penitentiary style training has been popularized lately by a man named CT Fletcher. This style of training has been described as using “poor form, broscience, and partial reps.”

Having men like Fletcher and others coming out looking so massive, you have to wonder what they could possibly be doing.

Like most gyms, most inmates spend their time working their upper bodies. Half squats, partial reps, and arm work seem to be popular amongst the inmates.

There is a misconception that all inmates turn into these massive monsters. Just like at your regular gym, there are the people who train counter productively and never make any progress.

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Types of lifters:

Generally there are 4 types of lifters you find in the penitentiary, they have similarities to the people you find in your own gym.

Fresh Meat

These lifters are new in the ‘system’ and they all want to talk a bunch of crap to the other lifters and inmates. These guys spend more time talking and causing problems than lifting.

‘Fitness Freaks’

For a lack of a better term, these guys focus more on bodyweight exercises and conditioning. Their training includes bodyweight exercises such as dips on their toilets, push-ups, and pull-ups in the door frame.

If they go out to the yard to train, they will do a lot of conditioning work such as wind sprints, sparring, speed bag, heavy bag, jumping rope, and running stairs. These guys would be similar to people who do aerobic classes and other things that rely on conditioning and speed more than strength or aesthetics.

Below are two sample ‘fitness freak’ workout routines. They is done in a circuit with 25-30 second rest between circuits. Usually these circuits are done throughout the day, but I would recommend doing as many circuits as you can for 10 minutes. Once your conditioning improves, you will be able to do more circuits in your 10 minute block.

‘Fitness Freak’ Sample Routine 1
Exercise Reps
Push Ups 10
Jumping Jacks 20
Dips 10
Body Weight Squats 10
Pull Ups 10
Lunges 10
Sprints 2


‘Fitness Freak’ Sample Routine 2
Exercise Reps
Shadow Boxing (with or without light dumbbells) 3 minutes
Sprints 1 Way
Push Ups 10
Sprints 1 Way



Bodybuilders in the penitentiary have to utilize unorthodox training methods to try to get the same results as machines do for people who visit regular gyms. The bodybuilders do mostly utilize a high rep scheme and do high volume routines.

Unorthodox methods and partial reps are used to simulate isolation or help build specific parts of the muscle. The poor form and partial reps could be considered using “broscience” to get the results they are working towards, but if it works it works.

Related: Bodybuilding for Beginners

Below are some sample bodybuilder workout routines.

Bodybuilder Sample Chest Workout Routine
Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Bench Press 4 15
Dumbbell Inline Bench Press 4 15
Dumbbell Incline Flyes 3 15
Close Grip Bench Press 3 15
Dumbbell Curls 3 15
Skull Crushers 3 15


Bodybuilder Sample Shoulder Workout Routine
Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Overhead Press 5 15
Barbell Lateral Raises 4 15
Dumbbell Shrugs 4 15
Skull Crushers 3 15
Cross Body Hammer Curls 3 15


Bodybuilder Sample Back Workout Routine
Exercise Sets Reps
Bent Over Barbell Rows 4 15
Deadlifts 4 15
Pull Ups 4 15
Straight Arm Lat Pull Down 3 15
Dumbbell Curls 3 15


Bodybuilder Sample Leg Workout Routine
Exercise Sets Reps
Back Squats 4 15
Front Squats 4 15
Lunges 3 15
Straight Leg Deadlift 3 15
Standing Calf Raises 3 15



Traditional powerlifters train exactly like you would expect; heavy compound lifts. These guys know the importance of lifting heavy weight and using the big compound lifts. The big compound lifts are squat, deadlift, bench press, barbell row, and overhead press.

Most of these lifters train using heavy weights and only the main compound lifts. They generally don’t do “accessory” lifts or anything other than progressing in the 3 main lifts.

Below are some sample powerlifter routines. Recommended at least 1 day of rest in between each exercise.

Powerlifter Sample Push Pull Routine 1
Exercise Sets Reps
Back Squat 5 5
Barbell Bench Press 5 5
Bent Over Barbell Rows 5 5
Close Grip Bench Press 3 8
Weighted Pull Ups 3 8


Powerlifter Sample Push Pull Routine 2
Exercise Sets Reps
Light Back Squat 4 5
Deadlift 5 5
Dumbbell Overhead Press 5 5
Romanian Deadlifts 3 8
Bent Over Lateral Raises 3 8


Powerlifter Sample Push Pull Routine 3
Exercise Sets Reps
Back Squat 5 5
Barbell Bench Press 5 5
Bent Over Barbell Rows 5 5
Skull Crushers 3 8
Weighted Pull Ups 3 8



Food in the penitentiary is not very nutrient dense for someone trying to gain mass and build strength. Commissary is where inmates can purchase nutrient dense foods such as packs of tuna, sardines, roast beef, green tea, and even protein powder and bars.

Commissary is expensive, so if an inmate does not have a job or anybody who will bring money for commissary, it is hard to buy this food. Commissary also has many calorie dense highly processed foods such as chips, Doritos, Ramen Noodles, and honey buns are available for people who are trying to bulk.

Recommended Supplements

Without a good diet, supplementation is mostly a waste of money. I will be the first to tell you to spend money on some good meats than a jug of protein.

For those who have their diets in check, here are the supplements I would use with this routine.


MTS Nutrition Clash

I personally like apple mango, but all flavors are good.

This is a great blend without too many stimulants.


MTS Machine Whey Protein: 5lbs

This is in my opinion the best tasting protein on the market. Period.

Great blend with no secrets, no amino spiking, and it is some of the best in the industry.

So far I’ve had Red Velvet, Cookies and Cream, and Key Lime. All are A+.

MTS Nutrition Protein


MTS Nutrition Machine Fuel

Marc Lobliner has his sweetening on point with these supplements.

I’ve used mixed berry and grape and I love them both.


Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine

I have a review of Optimum Nutrition’s Creatine and it’s a tried and true supplement. It will help with performance and recovery. I highly recommend this.

Why it Works

How can inmates get so massive with limited resources and equipment?

When you look at people who don’t progress with all of the food and equipment you can ask for, you have to wonder how these guys get so large. It is true that anabolic steroids do make their way into the facilities, but there is more to it than just claiming steroids.

When building muscle or strength, your nervous system is taxed. If you factor in a stressful job, financial hardships, school, and other stressors that can affect weight loss, muscle gain, and strength gain. Your nervous system can only support so much stress before it starts to shut down or take longer to recover. This is where overtraining comes from; not enough sleep, stressed about life, and adding a heavy workout in the mix can overwork your nervous system and make you sick or weaker.

In the penitentiary, you have an environment that encourages training, access to calorie dense foods, endless conditioning possibilities, an endless supply of iron, and virtually no distractions, you have a formula for success. The only stress you have in the penitentiary is making sure you aren’t attacked. There are no comforts in there and you adapt to your situation and environment which makes you tough.

136 thoughts on “Prison Workout: Penitentiary Style Training Routine”

  1. I have no idea how I got here but I am here and glad I read your article. I was wondering if you can point me in the right direction..i guess.
    I am 21 5’5 FEMALE 230 and I am ready to change my life I use to be active but I lost my drive, but I am ready to commit to getting in shape I was wondering if you knew where I could look some thing up to get in shape I want a athletic build but I don’t want look like a guy so I know the body builder and power lifter don’t pertain to me, but I thought maybe if I go by the fitness freaks work out plan I would get some successful results..what should I do? Every where I look is about girl getting “cute” I want to be a athlete again any pointers? sorry this is so long by the way

    • Glad you left a comment!

      I’ve trained a few women and looking to train more. The misconception of looking bulky and like a bodybuilder is widely used and I’d like to tell you that fortunately, the estrogen and low testosterone in your system actually prevents from creating a lot of muscle to look “bulky” no matter how much you train. The women who look bulky are sitting at less than 8% bodyfat or they are on steroids, mostly testosterone.

      Now, to your point of wanting to get in shape and get more of an athletic/performance body, there’s a few options you can go. Do yourself a favor and don’t spend hours on the cardio equipment, it’s not going to do anything or even worse can burn off the little bit of muscle that you do have. In order for someone to look tone, you need to have some muscle and less fat. We call people skinny-fat who are really skinny but have no muscles at all.. Don’t be like them :).

      You can do something like the fitness freaks, or you could do something like this routine which is a weight training and cardio routine with tips on supplementation and diet tips for weight loss. This article is a body-weight only routine you can do at home. There are a lot of options, if you are interested in learning more I’d be happy to help out.


  2. Cutty,
    I’m a powerlifter who is trying to maintain my bodyweight (242) but want to clean up my diet while gaining strength. Approx how many calories should I be consuming each day?

    • Everyone is different man, the calories you’re going to have to mess around with. The calculators online don’t really factor in BMI or athletic level so really you have to try it out. If you’re cleaning up your diet, be sure to get plenty of dietary fats, more people clean up their diet and cut out fats and wonder why they can’t sleep, are tired, and have other problems. Fats help hormone regulation!

      If you have been maintaining bodyweight now, go a few days and write down what you’re eating and calculate the calories. Once you have that you have some numbers to work with. Eating clean helps you get more food in you, so don’t go from eating 3k calories to “eating clean” and snacking on a chicken breast for the day and only getting 1200 cals.

      Let me know if you have specific questions!


  3. I work out until muscle fatigue every time I go to the gym. Then I’ll wait a few minutes and do it again and so on. Is this recommendable as long as I get enough protein in my diet? Also since I weigh about 292 lbs it’s hard for me to get 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. What are some foods with a lot of protein that won’t break my bank account?

    • As long as you are progressing by adding reps or adding weight to the bar you are going to be fine. The 1 gram per lb of body weight isn’t the end all be all of muscle building. It’s really .8 per lb is good, everything else is getting turned into glycogen and essentially not worth eating over that much.

      Someone heavier like you or me isn’t really needing to hit that much protein a day, you will go broke, you’re wasting money, and it’s unnecessary. Stick to 180-220 grams of protein, or if you’re dead set on .8-1g per lb, do it on your lean mass.

      For men I have invited them to try 180-220 grams a day and they have been getting consistent muscle and strength gains.

      Let me know if you have other questions,


  4. cutty,
    would you recommend.any of these workouts for women. if so.which one?
    aiming to build alot of muscle. But seem to lose..weight too fast. any advice,?

    • There are a lot of workouts that would work for a male or female, it just depends if you want to go to the gym to do exercises or stay at home. Check out my other workout routines to see something you might be interested in. An associate of mine is working on opening a female site for lifting, exercise, and nutrition information soon also.

      Email me if you have specific questions @ I would be happy to help you out with your questions.


  5. Great site. Just wondering about the bodybuilding workouts listed above: am I to understand that arms are worked out with every body part?

  6. Hey man it sounds like you know what youre talking about! This is a great post. I have a question though. i have mild scoliosis where i can barely lift any weights because my baxk starts to hurt. Is there anything i can do to get cut up without lifting? If so whats the plan. Im 23 years old 5’8. And weigh 180 lbs. im gettng a belly and im losing self confidence. please help, thank you in advance

    • Brian,

      Give me a bit to get some info together for you, I am not familiar enough with scoliosis to be able to give you much of a meaningful answer yet. Would it be okay to email you at the email you listed?


    • I haven’t forgotten about you, I’m preparing for the UPA Power Weekend this weekend and I haven’t been able to give as much time as I want to for everything.

      Keep strong,


  7. Hi Cutty, I’ve dipped in and out of weightlifting for years and never stuck at it, till recently, I do 3 full body workouts a week doing different exercises every time, along with a cardio session on Saturday i’m about 1-1/2 stone overweight still but my shape is changing gradually, my question is how long do you think I should stick with it? I’m 55 now so I don’t expect to look like an Adonis but I want to improve as much as I can ,thanks for putting your stuff out there it’s a great site

    • Dave,

      You should stick to what are doing if you are noticing changes that support your goals. I would suggest keeping a log and working towards using more weight and progressive overload.

      If you have specific questions, feel free to ask here!


  8. Getting stronger bigger and agile is on my cards… mixing these threes different styles up seems so perfect.. i guess the timing of them is important. doing the powerlifting to start with core power… how long do you recon before moving onto the building stage… and do you think every other weekend do the body weight stuff to keep it all together ??

    • You could do a week per each style to make it more of a periodization technique. This would keep things interesting and help you from getting burned out from doing too much of one thing. Great idea.


  9. hey was wondering if someone was going to do the entire bodybuilding routine mon-wed-fri what should there calorie intake be after food and supplements daily.. height 6’3″ weight 175.. ive never been good at figuring out how much I should or shouldn’t eat and seeing your responses here im hoping you can give me a educated guess.. I want to pack on the muscle and have the energy to do so but I don’t want to risk packing on fat.. thanks

  10. hey i seen other quick respones so decided to ask you a question….. in recent months ive decided to become swole so ive been eating a better protein carb diet and taking my supplements just wondered if you have any workouts that combine body building and powerlifting? im 5’9 190lbs and can bench 40 more pounds then i weight at max if that helps


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