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Prison Pushup Workouts

author image Marnie Kunz
Marnie Kunz has been an award-winning writer covering fitness, pets, lifestyle, entertainment and health since 2003. Her articles have been published in "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "Alive," "The Marietta Daily Journal" and other publications. Kunz holds a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from Knox College and is a Road Runners Club of America-certified running coach and a certified pole dance instructor.
Prison Pushup Workouts
Man doing push ups in gym setting. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

“In prison, those things withheld from and denied to the prisoner become precisely what he wants most of all,” author Eldridge Cleaver once said. Prison's restrictions limit every facet of life, but many prisoners find ways to work out with minimal resources and space. Pushups are a favorite among prisoners, as they offer an effective upper body strengthening exercise that can be done anywhere. There are a variety of prison pushup routines you can do to improve your upper body strength.

Alternating Legs Pushups

A popular form of pushups in prison involves alternately bringing your legs forward as you push up. To do the alternating legs pushups, assume the standard pushup position, with your back straight, arms straight and your hands and toes holding you above the ground. Slowly lower your body toward the ground as if you are doing a regular pushup. Push your body back up and bend one knee to bring your leg toward your chest. Return your leg back to the straight position and do another pushup. Bring your other knee up toward your chest then do another pushup. Finish by returning to your beginning position then jumping straight up to a standing position. Repeat the whole cycle a total of 10 to 15 times.

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Incline Pushups

Prisoners often use benches or cinder blocks to do incline pushups, but you can also use a step or other sturdy surface that is elevated. Position yourself with your arms outstretched and palms on the bench. Your body should be stretched out with your toes resting on the floor and your back straight. Slowly lower yourself toward the bench with your arms, inhaling as you go down. Exhale and slowly raise yourself back to your starting position. Repeat for two to three sets of 20 pushups.

Decline Pushups

Decline pushups are also common in prison, requiring just a bench or elevated surface. To perform a decline pushup, place your palms on the floor and hold yourself up with your arms straight. Place your toes on the bench, so your straight body slants from your elevated legs down toward your head and chest. Lower yourself to the ground by bending your elbows. Once you are close to the ground but not touching it, push your chest back up until your arms are straight. Repeat for two or three sets of 20 pushups.


Pushups use your body weight as resistance and help strengthen all the muscles in your upper body, including the forearms, wrists, upper arms, shoulders and chest, as well as the abs. Incline pushups target the lower portion of the chest muscles, and decline pushups target the triceps muscles. You can combine all three forms of pushups for a comprehensive upper body workout, or do different pushups on different days. You may need to adjust the suggested number of reps to suit your fitness level and workout goals.

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