While we’d never advise you to go see for yourself, prisons no longer have weights, but still house scores of jailhouse denizens that could easily win a natural bodybuilding show – built with nothing more than bodyweight. Josh Bryant is the guy to take you through this jailhouse workout for some serious power, size and strength.

“The Great Gama”, the legendary Indian wrestler, built a 56in chest during his 50-year, undefeated wrestling career and was considered to be one of the strongest men in the world in his prime.

He trained solely with his bodyweight. Point is, you are never too strong for this kind of training. The following five strategies are aimed at how advanced strength trainees can make bodyweight movements more challenging.

Trainer: Josh Bryant of JoshStrength.com – strength coach and powerlifting champion, famous for the Jailhouse Workout


The Josh Bryant Bodyweight Jailhouse Workout

Focus on the negative

Slowly lowering yourself increases intensity with prolonged tension and ups the mind-muscle link.


(3×5 reps)


A) Hang in an overhand grip, arms extended.

B) Bend your elbows to pull yourself up until your chin crosses the plane of the bar. Pause then take five seconds to lower yourself.



Move from the midline

More distance between muscles and what you are trying to lift lowers mechanical advantage.

Leg deadlifts

(3×10 reps)


A) Stand on one leg and straighten your arms as far away from your body as possible for the whole move.

B) Lower yourself until your back is parallel to the floor, then return.



Use paused reps

Pauses eliminate nearly half of all assisting elastic-like energy stored on the negative.

Paused BW Squats

(4×12 reps)


A) Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

B) Bend your hips and knees simultaneously to lower yourself towards the ground. Wait in the bottom position for five seconds, then rise to the top.



Increase range of motion

This forces you to do more work while it emphasizes the stretch.

Box lunges

(3×10 reps)


A) Stand, feet hip-width apart on a 24in box.

B) Step with your foot off the box, knee at 90 degrees, thigh parallel to the floor. Your back should remain straight throughout the exercise. Reverse the motion.



Go single limbed

This builds better balance and core stability, and it exploits the bilateral deficit.

Single arm pushups

(3×5 reps)


A) Put your hands shoulder-width apart. Spread your legs wide, then rest your weight on your one arm.

B) Bend your elbow to lower yourself, then straighten to push up.



Try this workout starting with 3 x per week and progress in frequency from there. Other variables you can adjust include adding more reps, and then adding more sets.

Following this jailhouse workout by Josh Bryant will have people second-guessing whether you went away for a long stretch and dedicated yourself to getting big, strong and powerful.

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