This prison-based back workout is dedicated to the guys that can’t get into the yard to train or had the weights removed from the facilities; they have to use their bunks, cell walls and bars to get a workout in.

You might think that bodyweight exercises won’t build muscle, but these exercises are pretty challenging. With proper progression and eating calorie dense foods, the ability to build muscle is there.

In prison they would do the exercises in order like you would a regular weight training routine:

  • Pull Ups – 4 Sets of 10 Reps
  • Side Pull Ups – 4 Sets of 10 Reps
  • Muscle Ups – 4 Sets of 10 Reps

These exercises are great compound movements and are very challenging. This workout intense and will really add some slabs of beef to your back.

Below is a circuit style routine; 1 set 10 reps of each exercise. Doing the circuit style training will add some more intensity to the routine and also help give you a way to progress.

Back Circuit
Exercise Sets Reps
Pull Ups 1 10
Side Pull Ups 1 10
Muscle Ups 1 10

 

People have a hard time doing pull ups, so below I list suggestions on making these exercises easier until you are able to do the circuits unassisted.

Variations for Training at Home

Tips for Making Pull Ups Easier

  • If you have a home gym with a power rack or a pull up bar, set a chair by the the pull up bar, place your feet straight out onto the chair and use your legs as much as you need to so you can complete your pull ups.
  • If you have resistance bands like the ones from EliteFTS, you can hang them wrapped around the pull up bar and put your foot or knee into the loop. This will give you added assistance to complete your pull ups.
  • If you do not have a pull up bar, but have a squat rack, load your barbell and walk your legs as far forward as you can. You will now be hanging there and you can do a reverse row and pull the bar to your chest. This is a good pulling motion that simulates the same muscles as a pull up. A lot of trainers use this exercise for people who cannot do pull ups. Use caution with this exercise if you do not have your squat rack mounted to the floor.

Side pull ups are the same as a regular pull up, except you have a close grip and your head goes on the side of the bar, focusing on one side more than the other. Please check out the YouTube video above if you have not so you can see what I am describing.

Tips for Making Side Pull Ups Easier

If you have the room to do the chair trick stated above, do this, except go to one side.

If you only have room to do pull ups facing one direction, do a pull up and then pull your body over to one side and lower slowly. This will simulate pulling to one side.

Tips for Making Muscle Ups Easier

A true muscle up is extremely impressive; a kipping pull up is not the same. I am not putting down kipping pull ups, but for this routine, they are not the same exercise as a muscle up.

If you can’t do a muscle up, the best way to simulate this exercise is to super-set a pull up and then a dip.

Variations for Training at a Gym

Tips for Making Side Pull Ups Easier

  • Use an assisted pull up machine; these are great for building your strength to perform a pull up.
  • Use bands and the same method as you would at an at-home pull up bar.
  • If all else fails, seated lat pull downs would work.

Tips for Making Side Pull Ups Easier

There aren’t many ways to get assistance in a side pull up, so coming up with inventive ways will be necessary until you can do them with no assistance.

The only true assisted exercise that could create a side pull up is to use a hammer machine lat pull down that you load weights to both sides; load one side heavier.

Tips for Making Muscle Ups Easier

Muscle ups at the gym are hard to assist and once again the closest thing would be to superset a pull up and a dip. Most machines that offer assisted pull ups are an assisted dip machine as well. Do this as fast as you can safely and you have yourself a decent alternative.

Tips for Progression

The trick to building muscle and strength is progression. Whether you need to use assistance for these exercises or not, progression is going to be key here. The first thing you want to do is be able to work up to 4 circuits.

Once you are able to do 4 circuits, start reducing the amount of assistance. A sample progression scheme is below.

Below is a Sample Progression Chart

Week 1

Circuit 1

10 Assisted Pull Ups
10 Assisted Side Pull Ups
10 Assisted Muscle Ups

Circuit 2

10 Assisted Pull Ups
10 Assisted Side Pull Ups
10 Assisted Muscle Ups

Circuit 3

10 Assisted Pull Ups
10 Assisted Side Pull Ups
10 Assisted Muscle Ups

Circuit 4

10 Assisted Pull Ups
10 Assisted Side Pull Ups
10 Assisted Muscle Ups

Week 2

Circuit 1

2 Unassisted Pull Ups
8 Assisted Pull Ups Assisted Pull Ups
2 Unassisted Side Pull Ups
8 Assisted Side Pull Ups
2 Unassisted Muscle Ups
8 Assisted Muscle Ups

Circuit 2

10 Assisted Pull Ups
10 Assisted Side Pull Ups
10 Assisted Muscle Ups

Circuit 3

10 Assisted Pull Ups
10 Assisted Side Pull Ups
10 Assisted Muscle Ups

Circuit 4

10 Assisted Pull Ups
10 Assisted Side Pull Ups
10 Assisted Muscle Ups

Week 3

Circuit 1

4 Unassisted Pull Ups
6 Assisted Pull Ups Assisted Pull Ups
4 Unassisted Side Pull Ups
6 Assisted Side Pull Ups
4 Unassisted Muscle Ups
6 Assisted Muscle Ups

Circuit 2

10 Assisted Pull Ups
10 Assisted Side Pull Ups
10 Assisted Muscle Ups

Circuit 3

10 Assisted Pull Ups
10 Assisted Side Pull Ups
10 Assisted Muscle Ups

Circuit 4

10 Assisted Pull Ups
10 Assisted Side Pull Ups
10 Assisted Muscle Ups

Week 4

Circuit 1

6 Unassisted Pull Ups
4 Assisted Pull Ups Assisted Pull Ups
6 Unassisted Side Pull Ups
4 Assisted Side Pull Ups
6 Unassisted Muscle Ups
4 Assisted Muscle Ups

Circuit 2

10 Assisted Pull Ups
10 Assisted Side Pull Ups
10 Assisted Muscle Ups

Circuit 3

10 Assisted Pull Ups
10 Assisted Side Pull Ups
10 Assisted Muscle Ups

Circuit 4

10 Assisted Pull Ups
10 Assisted Side Pull Ups
10 Assisted Muscle Ups

Increasing the amount of unassisted work each time ensures you are progressing, even if it is just 1 more rep of an exercise. The goal here is to progress.

Adding Weight

Once you are able to do all 4 circuits unassisted, you are ready to start adding weight.

A weight vest is one of the easiest ways to add weight to your pull ups. Some weight vests allow you to add and remove weight from the vest which will give you more flexibility on the amount used.

A dip belt is a great alternative to a weighted vest because you have more flexibility in the amount of weight you can put on the belt. The drawback to the dip belt is the weight can and will swing on you.

Conclusion

Overall this is a very intense back workout for having only 3 different exercises; compound movements hit multiple muscles every rep and this is going to be a mass maker. Be prepared to be pushed to your limits.

 

If you have no fear and want try this workout, leave a comment below and let us know how much you love it or hate it!