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.
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.
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.
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|
|Body Weight Squats||10|
|‘Fitness Freak’ Sample Routine 2|
|Shadow Boxing (with or without light dumbbells)||3 minutes|
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 Press||4||15|
|Barbell Incline Bench Press||4||15|
|Dumbbell Incline Flies||3||15|
|Close Grip Bench Press||3||15|
|Bodybuilder Sample Shoulder Workout Routine|
|Seated Military Press||5||15|
|Barbell Lateral Raises||4||15|
|Bodybuilder Sample Back Workout Routine|
|1 Arm Dumbbell Row||3||15|
|Bodybuilder Sample Leg Workout Routine|
|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|
|Barbell Bench Press||5||5|
|Close Grip Bench Press||3||8|
|Weighted Pull Ups||3||8|
|Powerlifter Sample Push Pull Routine 2|
|Light Back Squat||4||5|
|Barbell Military Press||5||5|
|Powerlifter Sample Push Pull Routine 3|
|Barbell Bench Press||5||5|
|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.
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.