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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lifting in Captivity

Lifting is part of the prison culture, but it's no picnic.

I owe a great deal of credit for my start in weight training to our prison system. No, I was never an inmate and I don't plan to be, but I got my some of my first real weights from the local prison. My father was the foreman for a masonry company that was doing some work at the county jail. One day as he was conferring with the warden about the work they were doing, the warden mentioned that some prisoners had attempted a break out the night before and they were using some of the weightlifting bars to pry apart some bars. He said that he was going to get rid of the equipment. My dad offered to haul it away knowing that his son would be excited to have the stuff. I remember that he brought home a couple of the old style 1 inch exercise bars and a bunch of plates, the largest being a set of 75 pounders that York Barbell used to make. With that huge contribution, our home gym was off and running.
Later, as I lifted in local meets with the Allegheny Mountain Team, it was interesting that a lot of policemen would train and lift with ex-cons and from time to time even inmates were permitted to enter open meets out of the prison. One in particular, Don Blue, was an amazing powerlifting legend in the late 60's early 70's. Heavy lifting is a culture of it's own that spans a wide cut across society. At meets some lifters would show up on their big bikes with long hair and chains around their waists and compete with law officers who came in uniform and sported crew cuts. They would all cheer for and encourage each other, then go their separate ways until the next meet. We had a lot of fun.
There is a myth that prisoners have nothing to do but train and that they come out of prison jacked. The reality is that generally they have very limited time a few times a week to use equipment, although bodyweight stuff can be done in cells. The food is in no way conducive to muscular gains, although in the survival of the strongest atmosphere, the strong find ways to take from weak. The equipment is generally crude and not well maintained unless you are in a white collar crime facility, but you don't see jacked lifters coming out of those anyway. It is hard core and basic training. Most guys in that situation are not the best and brightest so programming is generally lacking. They just go as hard and heavy as they can anytime they can. The truth is, there are some amazing specimens that may never see the light of day outside of prison and there are few who are actually rehabilitated by lifting. As they get control over their bodies, they find they can control their minds as well. Below is an interesting video that gives an inside look at the prison lifting culture. Be glad that we can lift when, where, and how we want.




Bodyweight training is big in the prison yards.

Here is a link to an updated article on prison lifting......
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2011/05/do_prisoners_really_spend_all_their_time_lifting_weights.html

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