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->''"Well I'm goin to the place where the tough guys go\\
And come out even tougher."''
-->-- '''Social Distortion''', "Prison Bound"

This trope is when people use time in prison as a way to get in shape, or even TakeALevelInBadass.

Prison is a brutal environment, where [[SocialDarwinism "survival of the fittest"]] is in full effect. The generally violent nature of prison life also gives inmates a major incentive to stay in as good a shape as possible; their lives might very well depend on it. In Real Life, Prisons, even the Maximum Security ones, feature gymnasiums, and sports fields such as basketball courts. However, this trope usually involves the prisoners working out in their own cells, often in secret - ''especially'' if it's preparing for busting out.

Since feeding prisoners costs money and prisoners are considered the scum of society, they are often given a diet which is barely enough to sustain life, especially in stories set in ancient times or in societies with a harsh government. This means it can sometimes require WillingSuspensionOfDisbelief if a character actually manages to physically bulk up in prison. Though as some prison reality shows and documentaries will point out, inmates often trade and bargain with other inmates to get more food to get around this, and even if that's not shown to be the case, it's believable if all they're doing is cutting the flab, exercising the muscles they've already got, and getting some very interactive lessons in [[TookALevelInBadass learning how]] to [[TryingToCatchMeFightingDirty fight dirty]].

Characters who're already tough as nails might use the time to read a lot of books. So the lesson is, however you go in, fictional prison is a BadassBookworm factory.

Compare/Contrast TrainingMontage and PrisonRiot.


[[folder: Advertising ]]

* One Direct TV commercial has a lawyer going into work, and failing to defend his client. The client has a long time to think on his hatred of the lawyer and can be seen working out. Later, he blows the lawyer's house up.


[[folder: Anime and Manga ]]

* ''Manga/{{Oldboy}}'' features a main character who manages to work out in the hotel room he's imprisoned in.
* Marco Owen from ''Manga/KingOfThorn''. {{Lampshaded}} numerous times [[http://mangafox.me/manga/king_of_thorn/v04/c021/5.html in the manga]] , where several people are unable to believe he was the same computer nerd hacker from before. He definitely beefed up a ''lot'' while in prison.
* Ryo from ''Manga/{{Shamo}}'' learned karate and got in shape during his time in a high security juvenile detention center.
* A Gamespot article about one of the Franchise/DragonBall games once noted that in the franchise "Death is like prison" because "You go there, you get really buff, and sometimes you get out early for good behavior."
* Seen in the first episode of ''LightNovel/RokkaBravesOfTheSixFlowers'' for Adlet, who's stuck in a solitary cell. However, Nashetania busts him out using her blades.


[[folder: Comic Books ]]

* ''ComicBook/ThePunisher'' has wound up in prison on occasion. Inevitably, he spent half his time working out to keep in shape, and the other half killing other inmates with his bare hands.
* Franchise/{{Batman}} villain ComicBook/{{Bane}} got himself deliberately placed in solitary confinement in Blackgate prison so he could kick his drug habit. He spent his time exercising and emerged with natural strength equal to what his drug-fueled strength used to be.
** His ''origin'' is this. Born and raised in prison, Bane took the opportunity to develop himself both physically and mentally, before he ended up hooked on super-steroids. Blackgate was a chance to get back to basics.
** [[KnifeNut Mr Zsasz]] is a particularly odd example. While in Arkham Asylum he's kept completely immobilised, except when he's sleeping. Despite this he manages to spend his time practicing isometrics, surprising Batman with his newfound strength (and resultant speed) when they finally fight.
* Creator/KurtBusiek's ''ComicBook/PowerCompany'' featured Carl Bork, a guy who messed with tribal magic before he was put away and came out looking like the Hulk and lifting tons with one hand.
** Although that was largely the result of a delayed effect of the magic.
* ''Realworlds: Comicbook/{{Superman}}'' featured a scrawny nobody with a Superman tattoo on his chest who bulked up ridiculously big after just two years in the joint.
%% * ''Comicbook/KickAss'' Big Daddy does that during his stay. [[spoiler:However, in the comics it turns out that it was all a lie.]]
* ''ComicBook/JustImagineStanLeeCreatingTheDCUniverse'' has this as part of Batman's backstory. Before he became Batman, he was Wayne Williams, a nobody who ran afoul of a local mob boss and was framed for a crime he didn't commit. Once in prison, an older inmate advised him to make the most of his time there by building his body in the exercise yard and his mind in the library. By the time he got out, he was practically twice his original size.
* Subverted in ''Hard Time''. Ethan Harrow spends a lot of his sentence exercising, but not in a way that turns him into a bodybuilder or a power lifter -- more like a triathlete. He's in excellent shape when he's released [[spoiler:at age 65]]. This is partially because he petitioned for, and got, treadmills and elliptical machines in the exercise yard.
* Travis Clevenger in ''Bloodhound'' is an example of the fairly rare "fat man loses a lot of weight" type. He was obese before his sentence, and by the events of the comic (about two and a half years later) he's lost nearly 150 pounds (68 kilos) while also building his muscles.
* There's an exercise room in ''ComicBook/{{Kaijumax}}'', with {{Kaiju}}-scale equipment: a treadmill with cars and people to stomp, weigh machines with skyscrapers that can be pushed over, etc.


[[folder: Film ]]

* Sarah Connor in ''Film/Terminator2JudgmentDay''. She was in an asylum, not a prison, but it ended up the same. She may have done the bulking-up before she was arrested, and only had to maintain her muscle mass while incarcerated rather than build it. {{Lampshaded}} by Dr. Silverman, who tells the orderly to bolt her bed to the floor so she couldn't over turn it and use it as a pull-up bar: as she is one of the more violent patients, the last thing he wants is for her to get any stronger.
* ''Film/CapeFear'' has Robert De Niro's character spend his time working out to get revenge.
* The film ''Film/ConAir'' featured Nicolas Cage's character doing this while in prison, although being a US Army Ranger he would have been in good shape already.
* Oh Dae-su in ''Film/{{Oldboy 2003}}'' keeps himself in shape and grows some impressive extra skin on his knuckles by ''boxing against the wall''. It pays off.
* [[LeParkour David Belle's]] character in ''Film/{{Banlieue 13}}'' has nothing in his cell except iron bars. So he mostly does vertical situps on those.
* Billy Costigan in ''Film/TheDeparted'' spends his prison sentence working out. Granted, he's an undercover cop, so he was probably in good shape to start with.
* ''Film/{{Hancock}}'': Random inmates are seeing doing this. [[FlyingBrick Hancock himself]] is beyond that.
* In ''Film/ConanTheBarbarian1982'', Conan is taken as a young boy and tied to [[WheelOfPain a grist mill]] along with several other slaves. Time passes. Eventually, all the other slaves have died while, as a result of many years of toil, effort, and hard work, the boy Conan has turned into "Ahnold"!!
* In ''Film/{{Bronson}}'', early shots of Bronson show him to be fairly muscular, but after a few years in prison he becomes a behemoth of muscle.
* In ''Film/TheDarkKnightRises'', Bruce Wayne hasn't been Batman in eight years and is out of shape. Bane easily defeats him and traps him in a HellholePrison. By the time Bruce escapes, he's back in fighting shape.
* The first film of the ''Franchise/{{Rambo}}'' franchise, ''Film/FirstBlood'', ends with John Rambo going to prison after embarking on a RoaringRampageOfRevenge against a small town sheriff who pushed him too far. At the beginning of the sequel, ''Film/RamboFirstBloodPartII'', John Rambo is released from prison and he's even more muscular than he was in the first film.
* ''Film/RomeoMustDie'' had a variation. Han was a badass before going to prison. When he gets out, his friend Kai spars with him to test his skills, and says "I was worried prison would make you soft". Han reveals that he managed to pick Kai's pocket during the fight, and replies "people don't get ''soft'' in prison."
* In the scene in ''Film/MalcolmX'' where a prison Chaplain talks to Malcolm in solitary, a prisoner can be spotted in the background doing sit-ups in his cell.
* ''Film/LesMiserables'' has the prisoners of the galleys stronger than average men, because they are given physical labor punishments like pulling large ships into port.
* ''Film/{{Zoolander 2}}'': Parodied. Mugatu appears to have turned into a muscle-bound, tattooed hulk during his time in prison, but [[FakeMuscles it's just a bodysuit]].


[[folder: Literature ]]

* In ''Literature/ThePendragonAdventure'', Bobby spends about a month in a festering underground prison cell. He does a whole lot of exercise to keep in relatively good shape, but it's a bit more realistic than other examples - he only gets rotten food that he has to share with the other prisoners, and remarks when he gets out that although he looks more muscular than he ever has, he feels like shit.
* In ''Literature/AmericanGods'', Shadow was pretty buff ''before'' going to prison, and came out even fitter. His best friend owned an actual gymnasium and planned to hire Shadow to work there when he got out, figuring it would be good for the gym's image.
* ''Literature/{{Porno}}'' (the sequel to ''Literature/{{Trainspotting}}''): Begbie comes out of prison after doing 8 years for manslaughter looking "like he'd been at a health farm".
* ''Solitary Fitness'' by Charles Bronson (not to be confused with ''that'' Creator/CharlesBronson) is just how to work out in a cell.
* The Creator/GordonRDickson short story [[http://www.baen.com/Chapters/0743471741/0743471741___1.htm "Danger—Human"]] is built around this trope. The protagonist's captors make an explicit effort to improve his strength and well-being because they don't want him to die before they've got what they want from him; after he escapes from the supposedly inescapable prison, one of them immediately goes off to get drunk after realizing that their own efforts are going to contribute to their downfall.
* In Creator/VictorHugo's ''Literature/LesMiserables'', Jean Valjean spends about nineteen years in prison, much of it at hard labor in the galleys. The superhuman strength he gains there becomes an enormous asset for him the rest of the novel. So does the agility he learns there - in particular, being able to scale six stories of sheer wall ''freehand''.
* The RealLife biography ''Monster'' follows the eponymous gang member's life. A major part of prison for him was pumping iron and learning how to fight so that he could survive without his gun.
* ''Literature/{{Montmorency}}'': His doctor in prison puts him on hard labor to strengthen his weakened muscles after his accident. Montmorency takes it further because he needs to be stronger to go to the better life of crime he has planned after he gets out.
* Both averted and played straight in ''Literature/TheLastChancers'' trilogy. Since all the prisons seen are used as recruiting grounds for the Penal Legions, they tend to have good if spartan gyms that the inmates are encouraged to make use of. Badass protagonist Kage, who has a history of jailbreaks and murdering people, is specifically barred from using them in the hopes that muscular atrophy will make him more controllable.
* In the Creator/PGWodehouse story "The Come-back of Battling Billson", the eponymous boxer, while starting in top physical condition, is unable to ''stay'' in shape for an upcoming bout until he gets tossed into prison for two weeks.
* ''Literature/TheCountOfMonteCristo'': Rather confusingly, Edmond Dantes is said to have gained unusual strength due to spending 14 years of imprisonment in a small cell. It's not from exercising, but simply the rough conditions that made him stronger.
* ''Convict Conditioning'' is both a guide to calisthenics workout derived from real prison conditioning and an examination of some myths surrounding the physical culture inside the American penal system. It explains why old school exercises work for everybody while pumping iron doesn't create bigger and meaner criminals, despite media or political outrcries.
* Prince Peter of Creator/{{Stephen King}}'s ''Literature/TheEyesOfTheDragon'' splits his time in prison between working out and fashioning a rope from napkin threads with which to escape.
* Alluded to in ''[[Literature/CiaphasCain For The Emperor]]''. When Cain collects the five soldiers he'd sentenced to the penal legions a few chapters earlier, he notes that they aren't as out of shape as he'd expected.
--> ... but then, I don't suppose they'd had much to do except exercise, anyway.
* In A. Merritt's ''The Ship Of Ishtar'', AdventurerArchaeologist John Kenton was already pretty tough when he was pulled into the alternative universe where the Ship is -- the nasty tricks he learned as a UsefulNotes/WorldWarI veteran serve him well in hand-to-hand combat. So when he's MadeASlave and set to rowing in the SlaveGalley, it's good exercise, and the food is okay, so he TookALevelInBadass and ends up even stronger -- although he's so busy with his escape plan he doesn't really notice until he's magicked back to his own room for a bit and sees himself in a mirror.
* In ''Literature/TheSiranthaJaxSeries'', Sirantha is imprisoned while undergoing CourtMartial for [[spoiler:bringing down the beacon network used for FasterThanLightTravel, sending the invading Morgut and friendly forces alike irretrievably into the depths of grimspace]]. She passes the time working out, and by the time she's finally acquitted she's in better shape than she's been in for years.

[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* The main character in ''Series/{{Pointman}}'' did this in the pilot.
* Most of the convicts in ''Series/{{Oz}}'' are already pretty tough before being locked up. Beecher, however, goes from being a milksop lawyer to someone tough enough to hold his own is a prison brawl.
* ''Series/{{Wiseguy}}''. An opening montage (set to the reading of a letter) shows a youth being sent to prison on a trumped-up charge, where it's implied that he's raped. The letter ends with him saying that he's got to "pull himself up". When he's released several years later he's visibly bulked up, but a Mexican gangster points out that it's brains, not muscle, that's needed in the outside world. He responds by twisting the gangster's head so it's on backwards.
* ''Series/HowIMetYourMother'' gives us this reaction when one of the main characters is tricked into thinking he might go to jail:
-->'''Ted''': I can't go to prison! Although I could get a lot of reading done, finally write some short stories, work out all the time... Seriously, if I don't come out of there totally ripped...
* The 70's TV show ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sword_of_Justice_%28TV_series%29 Sword of Justice]]'' had this as key backstory for the main character.
* Parodied on an episode of ''Series/JustShootMe''. One of Maya's old boyfriends comes out of prison looking buff, which he explains was to [[PrisonRape fend off advances from the other prisoners]]. When she asks if it worked, he replies, "Oh, you win some [[BlackComedyRape you lose some]]."
* ''Series/{{Alcatraz}}'': In "Sonny Burnett'', Sonny uses his time in solitary to toughen up.
* ''Series/{{Dexter}}'': Dexter in season 2 contemplated turning himself in as The Bay Harbour Butcher, however, at the end he gladly embraces his freedom. These are lines of his inner monologue: "This is ''so'' much better than a prison cell. I can squeeze fresh orange juice, savor a fine French roast, grab a morning workout... ok, working out I could have done in prison."
* ''Series/TheXFiles'', "Paper Hearts": John Lee Roche, a SerialKiller and [[{{Paedohunt}} child molester]], is seen playing basketball in a huge sports hall. His other privileges include access to the internet and library. He did manage to get out with Agent Mulder's unfortunate help, and he tried to get loose.
* Played with in ''Series/{{Angel}}''. Faith was already super strong due to her slayer powers when she was sent to prison, but while in prison she's shown working out to stay that way. It also provides her with a handy ImprovisedWeapon, as well as a reminder to casual viewers of what she can do, when she gets attacked and casually knocks her attacker out with a set of barbells most people would struggle to even move.
* In ''Series/SamAndCat'', Nora worked out in prison. Unfortunately for her, when she tried to get revenge on Sam, she simply pushed her into a well instead of fighting her.
* In ''Series/OrangeIsTheNewBlack'', before Piper goes to prison, she and Larry joke to each other that she'll be in better shape when she gets out.
* Parodied on ''Series/{{Community}}'' when Troy said he didn't want go to prison because he'd have to kill time by working out and he's very comfortable with his upper body at the moment.
* {{Downplayed}} in ''Series/BurnNotice''. The season 3 premiere has Michael spend a couple weeks or so in jail (the length of his stay isn't clear), and he's shown doing push-ups and pull-ups. Difference with the normal way the trope is played, Michael is already in very good shape, he's just working on staying that way. He explains it in narration as a way to deal with boredom.
* Jenny Mills on ''Series/SleepyHollow'' is first seen doing chin-ups in a mental institution, very much like Sarah Connor in ''Film/Terminator2JudgmentDay''. ([[ShoutOut Also like Sarah Connor, she was institutionalized because nobody believed her when she told the truth about what happened to her, and escaped shortly thereafter...]])
* Grant Ward on ''Series/AgentsOfSHIELD'' was plenty tough before being imprisoned, but he has a whole exercise routine that he runs through in his cell starting at 5:30 every morning. This has apparently been going on for a while, but the first the audience sees of it is at the beginning of the episode which ends with him breaking out.
* Discussed in ''Series/AngieTribeca''. Geils convinces a disgruntled ex-gym teacher to surrender by noting that he can teach gym in prison.
-->"Every great gym teacher has spent time in prison."
* ''Series/{{Daredevil}}'': In the second season, Kingpin is shown bench-pressing large amounts of weight in between his plotting.
* ''Series/FatherBrown'': When [[spoiler:Sid Carter]] gets out of prison in "The Sins of Others", Mrs [=McCarthy=] remarks that she expected him to be a bag of bones, but instead he is in very good physical shape. He replies that there was nothing else to occupy his time inside, so he did a lot of push-ups.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* An... unusual example of this trope was seen in the cover of the ''Magazine/{{Dragon}} Magazine'' issue which featured an Underdark Prison Riot. [[{{Cthulhumanoid}} Mind Flayers]] are normally depicted as rakishly thin, {{Squishy Wizard}}s, as seen in the Cthulhumanoid page picture. [[https://33.media.tumblr.com/f05c24a85701e30e343f0ac4217af80b/tumblr_inline_n25ihpflVY1r0zz7o.png The Mind Flayer on the cover, depicted during said prison riot]], however, is incredibly well-built, leading to the FanNickname of this nameless Mind Flayer as the "Illithid Beefcake".

[[folder: Theatre ]]
* In ''Theatre/TheLaramieProject: Ten Years Later'', (and, indeed, in the RealLife interviews that were adapted into the script), Aaron [=McKinney=], a convicted murderer and hate criminal, mentions he spends most of his time in prison working out.

[[folder: Video Games ]]
* In ''VideoGame/TheSims3'', if a Sim is in the Criminal career track, they can be briefly sent to prison, and you get a set of options as to how they should spend their time. Working out is one of them.
* ''VideoGame/SpaceRangers'' has a recurring text quest that plays when you are arrested by a planet's military. In the quest you get sent to prison and have survive through your sentence. Among the activities you can partake in is working out.
* In the ''VideoGame/FightNightChampion'' story mode the boxer you control puts on 50 pounds of muscle during his prision stint.
* One mission in ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoSanAndreas'' has CJ picking up his old friend Jeffrey (who now goes by "OG Loc") from prison. When they get a chance to talk, CJ compliments him on his new muscular physique. OG Loc is quite proud of it himself, and touts prison as a great place to get into shape. CJ notes he could have done that without going to jail, but OG Loc thinks doing it while imprisoned is important for street cred.
* Danny Evanger in the ''{{VideoGame/Doom}}'' total conversion ''{{VideoGame/Hacx}}''.
--> ''So they send you packing… to the federal pen. For the rest of your natural life. No computer, no gear, nothing. Total drag. Cement and bars, and the other guys inside aren't exactly your average beefcakes. They catch a glance at your cyber-jockey derrière and get a wet gleam in their eye. So what you do for the next twelve months is hit the weight room--hard and fast! You pump iron like your life depended on it--and it does. You learn to sleep with one eye open. Punching the heavy bag becomes your breakfast; tae-kwon-do your lunch, and for dinner… well, you gotta eat sometime. And practice? Plenty. 'Cause these boys got a gleam in their eyes that won't go away. But how you've changed! Over once scarecrow arms, muscles wrap tight and heavy, and you've got a fu-kick that makes the boys call you "Sir". Before you were just an average pencil-necked geek, now you could grace the front of Muscle and Guns Magazine. And just in time, too.''


[[folder: Webcomics ]]

* In ''Webcomic/AntiHeroForHire'', Baron Diamond elects to forego the weight training and instead improves his running speed by taking up [[https://web.archive.org/web/20160620084010/http://antihero.keenspot.com/d/20050119.html jogging]].
** The second joke there is that Baron Diamond has no arms. Well, he has robot arms, but they took those away while he was in prison.


[[folder: Web Original ]]

* Chell, in the short ''Portal: No Escape'', works out in her cell before making her escape attempt.
* [[WebVideo/TheSpoonyExperiment Spoony]] says this would have been awesome to see Snow White doing this while imprisoned in ''Film/SnowWhiteAndTheHuntsman''


[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* Ex-General Iroh of ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'' worked out in prison in preparation for an escape attempt. The contrast between his figure in seasons one and three helped lead to his MemeticBadass status -- by the end of his stay he was ripped and needed a pillow under his shirt to "maintain" his figure. By the time [[spoiler:Zuko]] came to rescue him, he had already escaped single-handedly, leaving a wrecked cell and a heap of trounced guards gibbering about he was "like a OneManArmy". The nutrition part of this trope is PlayedWith too -- a sympathetic guard, Ming, gave extra food to Iroh while he pretended to be an insane prisoner who could barely eat his normal rations.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheLegendOfKorra'', SequelSeries to ''Avatar: The Last Airbender'', we have Ghazan who is an earthbender imprisoned on a floating wooden fort with his cell in the middle. When we first see him, he's doing pull-ups from the top of his cage.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheVentureBrothers'', the Monarch is particularly proud of his "prison-sculpted abs." He was only in prison for a few months but managed to get some impressive definition on his otherwise incredibly gaunt frame.
* In ''WesternAnimation/BatmanBeyond'', scrawny uber-loser Willy Watt spent all his time in juvenile hall in the weight room, partially to pass the time, but mainly to be big and strong so he could push people around even without his psychic powers. However, when he breaks out and tries to take on his former tormentor, a typical high school jock, in a straight fight without powers, the jock still ends up stronger (or, at least, a better fighter), so Willy just goes back to using telekinesis.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons''
** Marge bulks up to the point of being able to pin Homer while doing 30 days for shoplifting in the episode "Marge in Chains."
** Ruth Powers (who had stolen her ex-husband's car a few seasons back) evidently spent time bulking up while in prison, and encouraged Marge to do the same (and to use [[PsychoSerum steroids]] to do so).
** Invoked in another episode. Homer is being sent to jail, claiming that he will become even more out of shape due to his imprisonment. A police officer states that most people actually get into shape while in prison, but Homer immediately cuts him off with his previous statement.
** Sideshow Bob does this one episode, in a ShoutOut to ''Film/CapeFear''.
* On ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'', Meg Griffin became capable of beating up her own family after spending only three months in prison.
* In the 1990s Fox ''WesternAnimation/SpiderManTheAnimatedSeries'' cartoon, "Willie" Fisk underwent the physical and [[HadToComeToPrisonToBeACrook mental]] transformation needed to become Kingpin while in prison. When he went in, he was a tagalong butter-ball who got caught because he couldn't lift his own bulk onto a fire escape ladder. When he came out, he was a sumo wrestler in a good suit.
* Parodied on ''[[WesternAnimation/ScoobyDooMysteryIncorporated Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated]]'' when grade-school-age Mary Anne Gleardan is incarcerated and learns to lift enormous barbells and kill with her braids.

[[folder: Real Life ]]

* Bernard Hopkins learned to box in prison and bulked up significantly. When he came out, he went on to become one of most highly regarded middleweight champions of all time.
* The RealLife person on whom the title character of ''Film/{{Bronson}}'' was based claims to do about 3000 press-ups a day. He even wrote a book called ''Solitary Fitness''.
* During the 1800s there existed such a thing as [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penal_treadmill "Penal treadmills"]], which were large human-powered wheels similar to water wheels, that were used for punishment. These treadwheels were the precursor to our modern treadmill.