Fast and Free Home Fitness The Prison Workout

Obstacles to exercise are everywhere. Gyms are expensive and can be far away. Personal trainers are even more expensive and their regimes are difficult to follow. Home exercise equipment is expensive, an eyesore around the house, and typically takes a lot of time. Simply jogging takes a while, and results are slow. With so many reasons not to work out, how can anyone expect to ever get fit? But before there were so many gyms, before “personal trainer” was a career choice, before home exercises machines were invented or jogging became so popular, people were healthy and strong. What was their secret? Here’s a hint: it’s prisoners’ secret, too.

Health Benefits of Exercise

Previous fitness programs didn’t work? Decide exercising isn’t worth it? Think again. Evidence for the health benefits of exercise is mounting. Practically every day, a study is published revealing yet another health benefit of regular exercise. For example:

  • A study from 2007, the results of which were published in the New York Times, found that regular physical exercise improves, more than mental exercise does, basic brain functions like processing speed, response speed, and memory.
  • NASA recently discovered that employees who exercised during the workday actually accomplished more during the day, despite the time they spent exercising, because exercise boosts productivity.
  • Researchers at SMU found that regular exercise was as good or better than prescription treatments at relieving depression and anxiety.
  • The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published a study showing that men and women who exercise have stronger libidos and better-functioning sexual organs than men and women who don’t. For more on the sexual benefits of exercise, see here and here.

The verdict is clear: exercise makes people stronger, smarter, and happier.

Get Fitness for Free with Home Exercises

Unfortunately, for many people, exercise is a luxury. They can’t afford the fees of a gym membership, or they can’t spare the time for a thorough workout regime into their busy days. How are they supposed to get in shape with so many mouths to feed, with so much work to do? Where can they find an exercise routine that is inexpensive, effective, and quick? Home exercise equipment is expensive; home fitness exercises are not.

The Prison Workout

Enter the “Prison Workout.” This home exercise program is called a “prison workout” because it’s a full-body bodyweight exercise regime that could be (and often is) performed in a small, cramped prison cell. It requires only a few square feet of space, and no extra weights. Better yet, like most home exercises workouts, it is absolutely free (though a yoga or exercise mat is probably a good idea) and can be completed in a few minutes. These are the exercises:

  • The burpee. Burpees exercise the body’s most important muscle groups, including the heart (the cardio muscle), which is why it is the key to the bodyweight workout, and its most difficult exercise. To do a burpee, first squat with palms on the ground. Shifting weight to the palms, kick the legs out until the body is flat and suspended over the ground at arm’s length, as in the push-up position. Then brings the legs back under the body (this movement should restore the squat position). Now spring into the air as high as possible, landing back in the squat position. That’s one burpee. Do burpee exercises for one minute. (To see a demonstration of this exercise, look here.)
  • The push-up. Push-ups have been so popular for so long for a reason: they work. Good push-ups exercise the deltoids, the abdominals, pectorals, and lats. Everyone knows how to do a push-up: keep the body level, butt down, and abs tensed. Place the hands wide to work the outer chest muscles; place them narrowly – shoulder-width apart – to hit the triceps and inner chest. One hundred push ups is a good resource for push-up regime schedules.
  • Theplank. The plank exercise is easy and hard. Hold the body flat, almost parallel to the ground (like a plank) supporting the body on elbows and toes. Keep the body rigid and flat by pulling the belly button close to the spine with the stomach and back muscles. Most people begin shaking after 20 seconds or so.
  • The hip bridge. The hip-bridge is for the glutes (the butt) and the lower back. First, lay down face up with both arms stretched straight out to the side. Next, walk back the heels until the knees are bent at about forty-five degrees. Now, with the toes pointed off the ground, use the lower back and butt to push the body up as far as it can go, as if trying to touch the ceiling with the belly button. That’s a hip bridge. Now hold it for five minutes.

Home Fitness, Fast

All four exercises can be performed to exhaustion in about ten minutes – the duration of a few commercial breaks – and works out the entire body. Do it every other day, and these home fitness exercises will only take only 30 minutes – the length of a television show – per week. A good body doesn’t take time or money. Just work.


“Exercise on the Brain.” The New York Times, November 8, 2007. By Sandra Aamodt, editor in chief of Nature Neuroscience, and Sam Wang, associate professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton.

“The Influence of Exercise on Mental Health.” Research Digest, series 2, number 12. By Daniel M. Landers, Arizona State University.

“Basic Anatomy/Physiology and the Training Effect.” Fitness the Complete Guide, Third Edition, 1 – 42. Magruder, J.; Hatfield, H.; & Hughes, R. (1996).

“Sexual Dysfunction in the United States: Prevalence and Predictors.” Journal of the American Medical Association, Feb. 1999, pps. 537-544. By Edward O. Laumann, PhD; Anthony Paik, MA; Raymond C. Rosen, PhD.

“’Workout’ Your Anxiety: Exercise ‘Magic Drug’ for Depression.” AOLHealth.com. (Accessed April 7, 2010).


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