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
Push Ups10
Jumping Jacks20
Body Weight Squats10
Pull Ups10


‘Fitness Freak’ Sample Routine 2
Shadow Boxing (with or without light dumbbells)3 minutes
Sprints1 Way
Push Ups10
Sprints1 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
Barbell Bench Press415
Dumbbell Inline Bench Press415
Dumbbell Incline Flyes315
Close Grip Bench Press315
Dumbbell Curls315
Skull Crushers315


Bodybuilder Sample Shoulder Workout Routine
Dumbbell Overhead Press515
Barbell Lateral Raises415
Dumbbell Shrugs415
Skull Crushers315
Cross Body Hammer Curls315


Bodybuilder Sample Back Workout Routine
Bent Over Barbell Rows415
Pull Ups415
Straight Arm Lat Pull Down315
Dumbbell Curls315


Bodybuilder Sample Leg Workout Routine
Back Squats415
Front Squats415
Straight Leg Deadlift315
Standing Calf Raises315



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
Back Squat55
Barbell Bench Press55
Bent Over Barbell Rows55
Close Grip Bench Press38
Weighted Pull Ups38


Powerlifter Sample Push Pull Routine 2
Light Back Squat45
Dumbbell Overhead Press55
Romanian Deadlifts38
Bent Over Lateral Raises38


Powerlifter Sample Push Pull Routine 3
Back Squat55
Barbell Bench Press55
Bent Over Barbell Rows55
Skull Crushers38
Weighted Pull Ups38



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.

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

  1. Hey cutty, I’m 6’1 and 155. I’m pretty broke so I don’t have enough money or a gym or even to buy weights so what would be good muscle building workouts for me? I’m pretty skinny but could cut some fat too. Thanks bro great page!

    1. Hey man, either using something like the workouts listed here would work, or I made one that’s a full body home workout that just uses your body weight. Run it for 12 weeks and tell me how it worked for you!


  2. Hey cutty im 26 standin 6′ and weightin in at
    149lb, very lean and have a hard time putting any weight on, I have been working out for about 5 months now and have a personal trainer I see once a week, I work out 5 times a week so far I have put on 6 lb of lean muscle, im taking creatine, bcaa, carbohydrates, mass weight gain/protein, and eating pretty clean wondering what type workout I can do to help put on more muscle mass, thx in advice

  3. Hey cutty…I’m trying to put more size and weight on…currently weighing 215 with still some athletic build but not like I was when I was playing college football lol. I’m trying to bulk up to a good 240 maybe 250 and really carry size with weight. Any workout routines and nutritional suggestions to help out??

    Really appreciate the help…..

    1. Check out my workouts, all are meant to help bulk and get stronger. Add in some extra conditioning work like you did in Football and start changing diet up so you’re eating the majority of your meals from fresh ingredients.

      Any more questions, hit me up.


  4. Hey cutty, I’m starting the bodybuilding routine I just
    Wanted to know if you think it possible to bring some abs in the routine , if yes , what would you suggest thank you!

  5. Hey there! I found this article because my fiancé is in prison and he’s a bit self conscious because he is pretty much on the skinny and tall side and he has a high metabolism. He’s been trying to bulk up while he’s in there. But I think he’s having a hard time. I’m working to lose weight and he’s working to gain it. So I thought maybe I could help him out with a few workout ideas. So we could both be in top shape (and happier with ourselves) once he comes home. He doesn’t really have access to the benchpress and other equipment but I was wondering if maybe you could help me find some exercises he can do? It would be greatly appreciated on his part (and mine).

    1. Sure,

      I’m about to run to the gym, I’ll toss you some ideas when I get back. He will have to start eating massive amounts of carbs to try to get calories in to bulk. So eating candy, bread, ramen, whatever he can get his hands on will help him start to build muscle. He’ll gain a bit of fat as well but once out of prison he can shift from eating high processed stuff to more healthy things, upping the protein and then dropping calories will help keep the gains he made.


  6. Pretty good article, Cutty. THeonly thing is that, having been in the pen & an avid lifter, I’d argue that the extreme stress of the environment actually ADDS to the body’s ability to build muscle. Elliot Hulse touches on this. Basically, you feel like you HAVE to get jacked as a matter of survival. We had no supps, shitty food, etc just like you said. But the volume of training mixed with hella stress, I think, basically forces your body to process everything in the way you need. Of course that sounds like BS & very well could be, but just my theory. ANyway, thanks for the great article on our style of lifting. And please forgive the shitty typing, my keyboard is all jacked up.

  7. The older Federal prisons and camps had weights. And the majority of people that worked out did not stress over being attacked. The big factor on why were in such good shape was rest. No big secret REST! And the time to READ and absorb information through publications. In the Feds we had pretty decent meals. At our facility we actually ate good and the commissary was expensive, but provided just enough. This is the factors that how some of us did so well.
    1. You have to LOVE exercising and lifting.
    2. You have to know not just what to eat, BUT WHEN
    YOU EAT!
    3. You have to get at least 8 HOURS OF REST and
    Take a 30 minute nap in the afternoon.
    4. You have to change rep schemes and routines every
    6/8 weeks because your body adapts quickly.
    6. Your body in that environment can improve on 2000
    Calories, and go against all practices in the outside
    World. Because when your there ,there is no stress
    To take up Your energy or tax your nervous
    System besides compound lifts.
    7. You had positive encouragement from your workout
    Partners. You worked out the same time everyday.
    8. The environment allows you to be successful.
    9. Again..Rest, no stress, and when and what to eat,
    Be knowledgable, and very important, you must
    LOVE lifting and taking care of yourself . If you don’t
    Love this sport, and treated as just passing time,
    Complain, and looking for the easy way, your body
    WILL NOT CHANGE. The ones you see coming
    From prison built, have a passion for the lifestyle.

  8. Under the first “Fitness Freak” routine, you said the routine includes 2 sprints. What exactly constitutes one sprint? 100 feet? 100 yards? 1-2 minutes?

    1. The reason I didn’t put any on it (I should have specified, I apologize) is because it depends on the space you have.

      I would suggest doing a 40 yard dash or a 100 yard dash. This is going to keep your body producing power without turning into a longer distance run.


  9. Cutty, what cardio is done alongside the powerlifting and body building workouts, if any? could you use the fitness freak routines on off days to get a cardio hit? thanks.

    1. Yeah man, we do this to enjoy life and live a healthier lifestyle. I’m a huge proponent for doing activities you like for cardio.

      Any type of movement to improve your conditioning is important… Do whatever you like bro.


    1. A good general rule of thumb is at least 12 weeks, but if you keep seeing progress, it’s stupid to change.. so give it 12 weeks and run it until you stop making progress.


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