Jailhouse Strong — by Josh Bryant & Adam Benshea

Title: Jailhouse Strong
Author: Josh Bryant and Adam Benshea
Year: 2013
Publisher: Back Arms Publications


Focuses on Training Methods & Techniques of Prisoners with Minimum to Zero Equipment

If you’re looking for a training book that’s something a little different from the rest, “Jailhouse Strong” could well be for you. Written by strength and conditioning coach Josh Bryant and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Adam Benshea, this book looks at the training techniques and methods of prisoners, often with access to zero or minimal training equipment.

Building a Body that’s Strong & Functional is the Name of the Game here

Building a body that’s strong and functional, not one that’s just for looking good on the beach, is the name of the game here.

“Jailhouse Strong” has three large chapters about bodyweight training that are definitely one of the book’s highlights. Early in the book there’s a list of basic bodyweight exercises (with explanations and pictures) and a good selection of variations.

Push-ups, pull-ups, planks and squats are some examples of the exercises used. Of course, there’s no escaping the dreaded burpee and this torturous exercise gets a chapter all to itself. Bryant and Benshea show you how to progress the exercises, using techniques like paused-reps and controlled-rep tempos. If you want to step into more advanced territory, there are some progressions to help you achieve pistol squats and handstand push-ups.

The Bodyweight Routines such as the “20-minute Limited Yard Time Extreme Circuit” are Superb

The bodyweight routines provided in “Jailhouse Strong” are superb. For people with busy lifestyles, the 20-minute Limited Yard Time extreme circuit will be of great use. There’s a five-days-a-week programme made up of challenging circuits to get you conditioned.

The Juarez Valley Method

The Juarez Valley Method, a system of alternating high-rep and low-rep sets, is a creative method to spice up your training. For your upper body, the Deck of Pain Pushup workout, where you pick a card from a deck and perform just that number of reps, is a demanding 380-rep challenge which will punish your pecs and triceps.

Barbell & Dumbbell Basics 

If lifting weights is more your style, you’ll find more than enough material in here to satisfy you. Your favourite arm machine will have no use here, barbells and dumbbells rule in “Jailhouse Strong”. Just like in the bodyweight chapters it’s all about hard work on basics to build your strength and muscle.

Josh brings his extensive powerlifting and strongman knowledge to the book and sets out some routines centred on the squat, deadlift, bench press and overhead press. The brutally hard but incredibly productive Rest-Pause method is often utilised to make maximum use of your time.

“Your Neck is Your Shield” – Absorbing Head Strikes

One chapter that particularly stands out in “Jailhouse Strong” is the one that is all about one commonly neglected body part: the neck. Bryant and Benshea refer to the neck as your “shield” meaning that it is an important part of your defence (absorbing head strikes) in a fight.

Walking Tall

This section features neck bridges, isometric exercises, and an interesting resistance band exercise named “Walk Talls” which the authors say was made popular by martial arts (specifically Brazilian Jiu-jitsu) legend Rickson Gracie. Reading this section was a wake up call for me as I realised that I’m guilty of paying little attention to these crucial muscles.

As you work your way through the book, you’ll find lots more ideas to try. There are routines that specialise in bringing up your lagging body parts, and a rather short but detailed section about unarmed combat.

Interesting Contributions from 6 x Mr Olympia: Dorian Yates & Martial Artist: Geoff Thompson

Just as interesting as the book itself is the list of people who made their contribution to it. Six times Mr. Olympia, Dorian Yates is perhaps the most famous one, along with successful British writer and martial artist Geoff Thompson.


I’m going to be brutally honest here, “Jailhouse Strong” isn’t for excuse-makers or the weak-minded. Its tough-as-nails workouts will demand the most from you, but the reward is a stronger body and a resilient mind. There’s something in here for any person who wants to up their game (and a gym membership won’t be necessary to do it).

Soon after reading “Jailhouse Strong” it entered the ranks as one of my favourite training books of all time, therefore I feel justified in giving it a perfect ten.

Favourite Chapter: “Your Shield, Your Neck” (Chapter 8)
Favourite Quote: Always challenge yourself to set personal records and outdo others!

Book Rating: 10/10

We hope you found this review as riveting as we did writing it! What are your views on this type of next-level bodyweight training – what noteworthy physical training feats have you achieved? Let us know in the comments below, and join in the conversation on FacebookTwitter Instagram and remember, after you’re done reading…to KEEP Your own Fit ON too!

Alan Riseborough

Alan is a strength and physique enthusiast and has 28 years' of training experience behind him. He has competed in powerlifting, arm wrestling, bodybuilding and grip strength competitions. He also includes rigorous bodyweight, sprinting and kettlebell training regularly in his routines. He believes in the transformative power of the squat which is (believe it or not) his favourite exercise!

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