Any strength and conditioning training outside of your bodyweight is a luxury. Thankfully, in today’s world, we can generally gain access to the luxury of training with equipment in a gym or weight room. Nevertheless, we should not lose sight of the benefits that bodyweight training provides. It’s customizable, flexible, and effective in helping to build and maintain lean muscle mass. Not to mention, you don’t have to have a pricey gym membership in order to see results.

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In this training series inspired by Jailhouse Strong, I demonstrate key bodyweight exercises that you can do anytime, anywhere – all you need is yourself. This particular segment focuses on building upper-body strength and explosive power. Let’s make some gains!

Miguel Pull-Ups

When it comes to Miguel Pull-Ups on the bar, the objective is to do them as explosively as possible. This is because if you start to do multiple reps, you’re naturally going to lose some of that explosiveness. In terms of form, place your hands shoulder-width apart on the bar, starting with your arms in an extended position. Then, pull yourself up and your chin over the bar. It helps to think about pulling your elbows down to the floor while you execute this movement, thereby forcing you to lead with your chest. As you improve, you can eventually add weight to this exercise (if you have access to it) to create additional resistance.


Progressing into dips: position yourself between two bars (or another surface). Grab the bars on either side of your body with your arms to raise your feet off of the ground. To start, lower your body down between the bars with a nice, controlled tempo. Then, come up out of the movement explosively. Your feet should remain off of the floor during the entire exercise, as dips aim to isolate and strengthen your arm muscles specifically. As you make progress and start to train this way more regularly, you will either have to add weight or potentially wear a Dip Belt to create more resistance for yourself in this exercise.

Hercules Chin-Ups

The Hercules Chin-Up is actually a creation of the Jailhouse Strong system, as outlined in the books available for purchase on our website. This involves setting up under the bar for underhanded chin-ups with a supinated grip. From here, bring yourself all the way up to the bar, lower down halfway, return to the top, lower all the way down, and finally, return to the top. Combined, these two movements form one repetition.

Bodyweight Triceps Extensions

When done correctly, this is a relatively difficult movement to execute. Start in a standing plank with your arms supporting your body weight on a bar, or whatever surface you’re using for support. The lower you are to the ground for this exercise, the harder it’s going to be. Conversely, the closer your feet are to the bar, the greater your mechanical advantage. As such, try to move your feet farther back on the ground as you position yourself over the bar and prepare to lower down using your triceps. You can continue to execute this exercise using a bar or another surface, or eventually transition down to the ground. In my opinion, if you’re able to do this movement just using your body weight – and your form is staying tight throughout – then you’re a bad dude!

Head Nods

The Head Nod is a very popular warm-up in the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. To execute, lay down on a bench or other elevated surface that allows you to move your head freely. Position your head off of the edge of the surface, as the goal is to strengthen your neck muscles using the weight of your head. Slowly move your chin to your chest, stretch back, then move your head from one side to the other. Twist your chin to your shoulder on both sides.

To start off, just do 10 reps. Then, each time you train, add one rep as part of your warm-up, working your way up to 50 or so reps in all of these different directions. If you do these movements, I guarantee that you will see neck development, especially if you’ve never trained your neck before. And the best part is, you can do this anytime, anywhere – whether you’re training at the Ritz-Carlton, or in a jail cell.

Handstand Push-Ups

The Handstand Push-up is one of the quintessential movements in a Jailhouse Strong bodyweight training program. They’re a great way to improve shoulder development and core stability. Not to mention, this kind of strength training has great transference to any type of athletic ring, playing field, or cage.

Begin with your arms straight, body upside-down, and legs fully extended against a wall. The goal is to keep your whole body as straight as possible when executing the movement. Given the fact that you’re positioned upside-down for this exercise, it is best to have a spotter help you if you’re doing this for the first time. As outlined in Jailhouse Strong, you can build up to a Handstand Push-Up by working first from a Downward-Facing Dog yoga position, then moving to elevate your knees, and so on from there. However, most athletes are typically able to jump right in – even if you’re not perfectly straight in your handstand, we can live with that. You’re still going to get a hell of a workout, especially if you haven’t trained in this way before.

Hindu Push-Ups

Proven in its effectiveness over time, the Hindu Push-Up was the main training tool for the Great Gama, a world champion wrestler in the Punjab region of India nearly 100 years ago. Since then, this exercise was picked up by Karl Gotch and later popularized by Matt Furey for combat conditioning work.

To execute, start in a Downward-Facing Dog yoga position, with arms and legs extended. Then lower yourself down, leading with your head, which creates a scooping motion as the rest of your body follows to end up in a push-up position. On the way back up, reverse the movement, again leading with your head. This exercise is a great training tool that works a lot of different things at once. From a bodybuilding perspective, you can really feel the muscles working in your upper-chest by the end of the push-up.

Be Jailhouse Strong

In conclusion, I look forward to helping you build upper-body strength and power. With Jailhouse Strong, there is no excuse for you to be at the bottom of the inmate pecking order – follow these exercises and join me at the top!

By the Minute

  • (0:30) – Miguel Pull-Ups
  • (0:56) – Dips
  • (1:21) – Hercules Chin-Ups
  • (1:52) – Body Weight Triceps Extensions
  • (2:25) – Head Nods
  • (3:02) – Handstand Push-Ups
  • (3:55) – Hindu Push-Ups