Why are inmates so muscular?

When I first came to prison back in 2001, I knew that I would be entering a treacherous environment. Instinctively, I felt the Darwinistic importance of staying in shape in order to survive. I was actually looking forward to ‘hitting the weight pile’ and ‘driving iron’ in order to put on some muscular size. However, when I finally made it to the yard, I learned that the California Department of Corrections had removed all of the weights in 1998. Administration claims this was due to the potential of them being used as weapons. Personally, I think it was because California’s ‘tough on crime’ policy had almost doubled the size of the prison population. The end result being more and more muscle-bound felons being released back into society. Whatever the reason, guys in prison could no longer get as big, except for the dedicated few who used their creative ingenuity to achieve muscular size and definition.

Every yard I’ve been on has workout bars where men can do a variety of exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, dips, and leg-lifts. To add weight to their routines, I’ve seen guys use each other’s body weight to add resistance to their workouts. Push-ups are done with someone leaning against your back and squats can be done with somebody sitting on your shoulders. I’ve also seen guys fill pillowcases with sand to use as dumb­ bells. In the cell, trash bags are filled with water and placed inside a bucket with a handle for shoulder shrugs and lateral raises. My favorite method is stacking forty to fifty National Geographic magazines and tying them up in a laundry bag for bicep curls and tricep extensions.

This question actually gave me the courage to ask one of the more muscular guys on the yard, ‘Curly Joe’, how he still managed to stay so buff. Here’s the inside scoop. Curly told me the secret is lots of reps with shorter a smaller range of motion. He explained, “You got to pump those muscles up like a balloon until they feel like their going to explode.” I told him it sounded somewhat painful. He just laughed and went to do another set. I’ve always been more of a tennis/running kind of guy anyway, so if I can ‘tout-muscle, at least I’ll be able to out run them.

All communications between inmates and external channels are facilitated by approved volunteers since inmates do not have access to the internet. 

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