Below is a video from a prison weightlifting competition. I’ve always been impressed by these lifts (though I can’t say the same for their singing).
But I’d like you to consider some of the lessons we can learn from these guys. Here are a few that come to mind:
1. Supplements aren’t important
We can safely assume these lifts were done without any help from bodybuilding supplements (unless you think they can order them in prison). This reinforces something I learned a long time ago–you don’t need them to get big and strong. Yes, there are a few supplements that work, but they are definitely not necessary.
2. You don’t need massive amounts of protein to build muscle
I’m sure inmates do their best to get extra protein (buying extra food, etc). But ultimately they have to eat whatever meals are provided to them–I doubt any of them are getting the “1.5 grams of protein per lb of body weight” you hear so much about (see also How Much Protein?).
3. Optimize your testosterone
Here’s where I’m not sure about cause vs effect. Some speculate that prisoners are so strong because they already had elevated tesoterone levels, even before their incarceration.
This is certainly possible, but I also wonder if the conditions in prison cause elevations in testosterone. Perhaps being in a highly competitive environment (understatement) is a factor. We also know that prisoners tend to get plenty of sleep, which is important for the manly hormone (see Sleep for Muscle).
Regardless, it makes sense to do everything you can to optimize your testosterone levels. Getting enough rest, limiting your beer consumption, and eating broccoli are just a few things you can do for this.
4. Keep things simple
Prisoners have a reputation for using anything at their disposal for training. There’s nothing wrong with training at a well-equipped gym, but you don’t need fancy equipment to build muscle and strength. You can do plenty with just basic equipment, like barbells, dumbbells, a pull-up bar, etc. Your best bet on building a great, powerful physique is to get strong in the basic lifts: squat, deadlift, etc. This is one reason I’m such a fan of Jason Ferruggia’s Minimalist Training.
Watch the video and compare this to what you see a lot of guys doing at your local gym: