Bodyweight Exercises: Prison Cell Workout

I am not a runner personally but have many friends who are quite accomplished runners and I have identified both in social settings and during functional fitness training with them that running capacity is all in the mind.

This also applies to most other sports and tests of physical capacity. When there’s a will… Fortunately, this magnificent human quality applies not only to performance but in the mental ability to pursue your goals and achieve favorable outcomes no matter what your limitations or confines may be.

Thus, if there’s a will, you could get and remain fit and full of stamina in as little as a prison cell. And if you are those that skeptical on the potential of bodyweight exercise to get you fit and muscular (like I used to think about 6 years ago), then you have certainly never tried to do handstand pushups or pistols.

[Tweet “If there’s a will, you could get and remain fit and full of stamina in as little as a prison cell.”]

Getting and remaining fit in a very little space and with only bodyweight exercise will also be a mental challenge. It will require some variations, both of the staple exercises, and of the time styles and intervals employed. But that´s the easy part.

Bodyweight exercises in the movie "Starred Up"
Pushup in the movie “Starred Up”


Some of the exercises that you’ll be using are below. I would recommend you to go to the FitsitePlus Youtube channel to learn how they’re done.

For Beginners

Squats, Knee Pushups, Dips, Planks, Burpees, Donkey Kicks, Duck Unders, Crunches, Back Extensions, Good Mornings, Alternating Lunges, Hip Raises, Side to Side Hop, Jumping Jacks, Seal Jacks, Mountain Climbers, Wall Pushups, Sprawls, Wall Slides, Step Ups, StickUps

Knee Pushups


For Intermediates:

Bananas to Superman, Burpee Broad Jumps, Deadbugs, Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts, Garhammer Raises, Pike Pushups, Box Jumps, Alternating Reverse Lunges, 3 Way Lunges, Hollow Rocks, Inchworms, Side Planks, halfway or ¾ Pushups Holds, Squat Holds, Tuck Jumps, V-Ups, Leg Raise Holds, Pushups, Body Rows (if you have somewhere to pull yourself towards, a Bar, rope or towel) Pullups and Chinups (if you have something to pull yourself up to, bar, rope or towel)

3-Way Lounges



For the Advanced:

Handstand Pushups, Pistols, Elevated Dips, Incline Pushups, Inchworms with Pushups, Gladiator Hold with leg up, Jumping Squats, Jumping Lunges, Pushups with Shoulder Taps, Pushups with one hand elevation, Clapping Pushups, Hand Release Pushups

Pistol Squat
Pistol Squad


Now imagine the number of new possibilities if you had 1 agility band, or 1 KB or DB, or 1 sandbag. It can go on and on with variations and combinations of the above exercise as well as bringing in many more exercise options. UsDDDeful, but as you have seen with this very broad list, bodyweight can be enough.

Plus, you can always (and should always) end your workouts with some minutes dedicated to stretching and mobility. Some basic Stretches and Holds are:

Arm Bar Stretch, Cat Camel Stretch, Chest Stretch, Cobra Stretch, Couch Stretch, Delt Stretch, Dynamic Bow, Pigeon Stretch, Shoulder Under Reach, Yoga Child, etc

How to Perform?

Thera are many ways you can go about your workouts, and I believe this is key since you will be choosing only bodyweight exercises, in a small space, and probably by yourself. So the challenge and variations are the two key factors that will keep you engaged, enthusiastic and looking forward to tomorrow.

So the challenge and variations are the two key factors that will keep you engaged.


Reps: This is probably the most basic type and can take you as long as the challenge you set for yourself. You could say today I am hitting 300 squats, or 150 pushups, or 100 pistols, or 150 burpees, 200 tuck-jumps, etc etc etc. Not necessarily in 10 minutes or less, but as quick or as slow as you’d like. The muscle will work regardless and usually you will set an amount of reps high enough to challenge you and not allow you to finish without a few recovery breaks. You will try to break thresholds. So, If I usually break my pushups in 20-14-11-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 = 74, then I will try to go for 85, and later 92, and later 100, if I am choosing this type of single modality workout for that day.

Countdown: This would deal with the amount of reps you could perform in a given time. For example you would say As Many Reps (or rounds) as possible in 15 minutes of 12 Jumping Squats, 12 Pike Pushups, 12 V-Ups. You would try to go as fast as possible (with good form) until clock reaches zero. You can repeat this workout a few weeks or months later and try to do it faster than your previous time.

For Time: Lets use the same workout in the previous example. This time we would do a set amount of rounds, lets say 7, of 12 Jumping Squats, 12 Pike Pushups, 12 V-Ups. You would start a clock, and complete as fast as possible for you that day (with good form) those 7 rounds. You can record your time and repeat the same workout a few weeks or months later and notice improvements in muscle and/or cardio capacity.

Tabata: This refers to the classic form of Interval Training. You can choose to do 8 rounds of 5 exercises with a 20:10 split. This means you would work for 20 seconds and rest for 10 second, and either repeat each of the 5 exercises 8 times, or rotate through 8 rounds of the 5 exercises. A very basic combination could be: squats, pushups, sit-ups, back extensions, and burpees. So you can finish your 8 rounds of 20 seconds of squats and 10 seconds of rest before moving over to pushups, or you could run through all 5 exercise with 20 seconds work, 10 second transition, and repeat 8 times. Bear in mind that this looks long, and it will burn as if it was very very long, but you are in fact doing a total workout time of 20 minutes here, and a total working time of only 12 minutes.

Variable Intervals: This is where you can start getting really creative and when the fun begins. The problem with tabatas is that sometimes you have to set fixed intervals for different exercise. For example, it is very possible to do 20 seconds of uninterrupted squats, even up to that 8th round we talked about. But, for some people, 8 rounds of 20 seconds of uninterrupted pushups can become quite challenging to continue in those later rounds, and what you do not want is having to stop and rest while looking at your work interval countdown.
So, you could setup a workout with a variable interval timer this way:

1 minute of planks, 60 seconds of squats, 45 seconds of reverse lunges, 20 seconds of pushups
1 minute of planks, 50 seconds of squats, 35 seconds of reverse lunges, 16 seconds of pushups
1 minute of planks, 40 seconds of squats, 30 seconds of reverse lunges, 12 seconds of pushups
1 minute of planks, 30 seconds of squats, 25 seconds of reverse lunges, 10 seconds of pushups
1 minute of planks, 20 seconds of squats, 20 seconds of reverse lunges, 8 seconds of pushups
1 minute of planks, 10 seconds of squats, 15 seconds of reverse lunges, 5 seconds of pushups

This way, you are certain that you could finish each round, and will push yourself to make sure you don’t break during the work sets. You could also setup variable transition times within the round. For example rest 10 second between round 1 and round 2, and increase each rest period by 10 seconds. So a variable interval timer can make your workouts more realistic, more achievable, more fun, and much more engaging. Once again, the exercise combinations and the time intervals you could use as well as the rounds with a variable interval timer could be endless, always engaging, variable and fun. We like “The VIT” App available for Iphone, iwatch, Android, and Android Wear at Hallpasswatches.

This time we talked about limited space and no equipment, I never said this couldn’t be done also in a small space, but outdoors! So there you have it. Many options for each physical fitness level, and many ways you can setup your workouts. Creativity and will are the only limiting factors here. I am positive you will share my opinion on the effectiveness of bodyweight exercise when you realize you will often be picking from the beginner list for the bulk of your workouts. Enjoy!