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Prisons Are Gymnasiums

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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 Take a Level in Badass.

In most countries, prison is a brutal environment, where "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. There's also the fact that a prisoner often spends most of his time locked in a small room with minimal furnishings (so that they cannot be turned into weapons or escape tools), so they might spend a lot of time working out for lack of anything else to do. 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.

Truth in Television, if a bit more complex. 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 Willing Suspension of Disbelief if a character actually manages to physically bulk up in prison. However, 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 learning how to 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 Badass Bookworm factory.

Compare/Contrast Training Montage and Prison Riot.


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  • 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.

    Anime & Manga 
  • A Gamespot article about one of the Dragon Ball 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."
  • Marco Owen from King of Thorn. Lampshaded numerous times 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.
  • In the Wano Arc of One Piece, Luffy takes advantage of his time in Udon Prison to train, first by doing manual labor while wearing sea prism cuffs, then by using Queen's execution sumo tournament to develop his Armament Haki to the point that he can deflect attacks without touching his opponent like Rayleigh.
  • Oldboy features a main character who manages to work out in the hotel room he's imprisoned in.
  • Power Antoinette: Marie-Antoinette and her family are portrayed as bodybuilders and warriors. When she, her daughter Therese, and her son Louis XVII are locked up, they work out in their cells to maintain their bodies and build up strength to escape. However, in Louis' case, his captors starved him, causing his body to wither and leaving him barely able to move when he is rescued.
  • Seen in the first episode of Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers for Adlet, who's stuck in a solitary cell. However, Nashetania busts him out using her blades.
  • Ryo from Shamo learned karate and got in shape during his time in a high security juvenile detention center.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • Bane's 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. He 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.
    • Victor Zsasz is a particularly odd example. While in Arkham Asylum he's kept completely immobilized, 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.
  • Batman: Black and White: In "Monster Maker", Batman encounters a trio of muscly gangsters who his internal monologue describes as having "bodies by Leavenworth".
  • Bloodhound: Travis Clevenger 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.
  • Hard Time: Subverted. 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 at age 65. This is partially because he petitioned for, and got, treadmills and elliptical machines in the exercise yard.
  • Just Imagine... Stan Lee Creating the DC Universe: 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.
  • Kaijumax: There's an exercise room with Kaiju-scale equipment: a treadmill with cars and people to stomp, weigh machines with skyscrapers that can be pushed over, etc.
  • Power Company: Kurt Busiek's comic 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.
  • The Punisher: Frank Castle 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.
  • Spider-Man: Played straight with the character Sundown from Untold Tales of Spider-Man. The accident that gave him his solar radiation-manipulating powers drove him a little crazy, and he fought several heroes while they attempted to calm him down. Accidentally wounding a little girl shocked him back to sanity, and he willingly pleaded guilty to his crimes and went to prison as penance. While in prison he bulked up considerably, using exercise to pass the time. He didn't have to do it to survive in prison; on his first day two inmates made the mistake of attacking him and he used his powers to flatten them both. All the other prisoners gave him a wide berth after that.
  • Superman: Realworlds: Superman featured a scrawny nobody with a Superman tattoo on his chest who bulked up ridiculously big after just two years in the joint.
  • Wonder Woman Vol. 1: In the Golden Age the Amazon prisoners on Reformation Island spent a lot of time doing physical training under Mala's watchful eye, making them all stronger than they'd been when they entered and meaning that prisoners who'd been there long enough to test out as reformed were often nearly as strong and fast as an Amazon.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Bill & Ted Face the Music: When the heroes travel to the future to steal a song from their future selves, their future selves are in prison and extremely muscular.
  • In Bronson, early shots of Bronson show him to be fairly muscular, but after a few years in prison he becomes a behemoth of muscle.
  • Mentioned in A Bronx Tale. When recalling the ten years he spent in the joint, Sonny says that there are very few things to do there, and lifting weights is one of them. Downplayed in that that wasn't what he did.
  • Cape Fear has Robert De Niro's character spend his time working out to get revenge.
  • The film Con Air featured Nicolas Cage's character doing this while in prison, although being a US Army Ranger he would have been in good shape already.
  • Creed III: Antagonist Damian says that he spent 18 years in prison getting in shape, which makes him a ferocious professional boxer.
  • In Conan the Barbarian (1982), Conan is taken as a young boy and tied to 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 a strong, determined muscular warrior.
  • Discussed out-of-universe in Daredevil, where the Kingpin was played by the famously huge Michael Clarke Duncan, who apparently had to gain more weight in order to do the character justice, worked hard to lose it again and had no desire to gain it back. At the end of the movie, he is arrested, but (especially in the ominous director's cut) plans to make it out; that said, the actor playing him suggested that if there was a sequel, while he joked about getting himself that big again for enough of a pay raise, the movie could work his losing the excess weight into the script and say he had gone to work and shed it it while in prison.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce Wayne hasn't been Batman in eight years and is out of shape. Bane easily defeats him and traps him in a Hellhole Prison. By the time Bruce escapes, he's back in fighting shape.
  • The Divine Move starts with professional Go player Tae-seok getting locked up after being framed for his brother's murder. While in prison; he makes a deal with a prison gang boss to teach him Go and help him bribe the warden (who is a gambling addict and really bad at Go) in exchange for free time to exercise and learn how to fight. Once he gets out, Tae-seok is well prepared for his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Billy Costigan in The Departed spends his prison sentence working out. Granted, he's an undercover cop, so he was probably in good shape to start with.
  • David Belle's character in District 13 has nothing in his cell except iron bars. So he mostly does vertical situps on those.
  • Hancock: Random inmates are seeing doing this. Hancock himself is beyond that.
  • In the scene in Malcolm X where a prison Chaplain talks to Malcolm in solitary, a prisoner can be spotted in the background doing sit-ups in his cell.
  • Les Misérables (2012) has the prisoners of the galleys stronger than average men, because they are given physical labor punishments like pulling large ships into port.
  • Not shown explicitly, but Ethan Hunt is noticeably more muscular in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol as he spent some time in the prison, prior to the events of the film.
  • Zoolander 2: Parodied. Mugatu appears to have turned into a muscle-bound, tattooed hulk during his time in prison, but it's just a bodysuit.
  • Brazilian movie O Candidato Honesto 2, to Hand Wave how star Leandro Hassum slimmed down between movies due to a gastric bypass, his character was arrested for corruption and lost weight in prison, in a Shout-Out to the above mentioned Cape Fear.
  • Oh Dae-su in Oldboy (2003) keeps himself in shape and grows some impressive extra skin on his knuckles by boxing against the wall. It pays off.
  • Averted in Papillon: The titular character when first committed to solitary confinement indeed tries to keep himself in shape, but soon (after being given half-rations for refusing to tattle on a friend) weakens, and emerges 5 years later a prematurely aged & physically broken man.
  • Rambo: First Blood ends with John Rambo going to prison after embarking on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against a small town sheriff who pushed him too far. At the beginning of the sequel, Rambo: First Blood Part II, John Rambo is released from prison and he's even more muscular than he was in the first film. The inmates work in a rock quarry, breaking up rocks with sledgehammers. This constant exercise allowed Rambo to both bulk up and cut body fat.
  • Romeo Must Die 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."
  • RRR (2022): While already an incredibly athletic officer to begin with, Ram spends his time in prison in the second half working out. This is despite being fed only the bare minimum to stay alive and having a busted-up leg. He's a lean, mean fighting machine by the time he is broken out.
  • In Starred Up, many of the prisoners are showing working out to break the monotony of prison life. Eric's morning exercise routine includes doing push-ups on his knuckles.
  • Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. 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.

  • In American Gods, 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.
  • One Anita Blake novel had Anita figure out that one of the villain's men was an ex-con because he had strongly developed arm and chest muscles but rather flabby legs, stating that that's the kind of workout you focus on when locked up.
  • In the P. G. Wodehouse 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.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo: 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, as well as the tunneling for his escape.
  • 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.
  • Cradle Series: Played for laughs. When Lindon is imprisoned for something that technically isn't a crime, Eithan has the personal power and political clout to easily get him out, one way or another. Instead, Eithan repeatedly breaks into the prison in order to make sure Lindon can continue his training. The police move Lindon several times to more secure and secret cells, but Eithan keeps finding them, bringing Lindon's fellow disciple, Lindon's soulsmithing teacher, and a turtle the size of a car.
  • The Gordon R. Dickson short story "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.
  • Prince Peter of Stephen King's The Eyes of The Dragon splits his time in prison between working out and fashioning a rope from napkin threads with which to escape.
  • Alluded to in 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 The Licanius Trilogy, Davian spends his year inside the prison in Ilshan Gathdel Teth working out. He's considerably more muscular and physically strong by the time he leaves.
  • Both averted and played straight in The Last Chancers 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 Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, 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 Real Life 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.
  • 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.
  • In The Pendragon Adventure, 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.
  • Porno (the sequel to Trainspotting): Begbie comes out of prison after doing 8 years for manslaughter looking "like he'd been at a health farm".
  • In A. Merritt's The Ship Of Ishtar, Adventurer Archaeologist 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 World War I veteran serve him well in hand-to-hand combat. So when he's Made a Slave and set to rowing in the Slave Galley, it's good exercise, and the food is okay, so he Took a Level in Badass 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 The Sirantha Jax Series, Sirantha is imprisoned while undergoing Court Martial for bringing down the beacon network used for Faster-Than-Light Travel, 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.
  • Solitary Fitness by Charles Bronson (not to be confused with that Charles Bronson) is just how to work out in a cell.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Adam Ruins Everything, Emily is seen furiously lifting weights, with full fake tattoo sleeves, convinced that her life is now over because she's been to prison (after being Mistaken for Junkie). She's actually only been there for a few hours, and hasn't even been to trial yet.
  • Grant Ward on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 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.
  • Alcatraz: In "Sonny Burnett'', Sonny uses his time in solitary to toughen up.
  • Played with in 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 Improvised Weapon, 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.
  • Discussed in Angie Tribeca. 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."
  • Banshee, This is what Hood does in prison after getting put in solitary confinement in order to be strong enough to fight The Albino.
  • Big Mouth (2022):
    • The members of Chairman Yang's gang are shown building their muscles in Gucheon Prison.
    • A non-serious example includes Changho seemingly doing pull ups till the camera pans to someone carrying him on his shoulders. Changho tells him it's a great workout for him.
  • Downplayed in Burn Notice. 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.
  • Parodied on 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.
  • Daredevil (2015): While in prison, Wilson Fisk is shown bench-pressing large amounts of weight in between his plotting. He's introduced this way in season 2 to Frank Castle, after having convinced Frank via proxies to sabotage his own trial and get himself locked up. In the second episode of season 3, Fisk is bench pressing weights when he is shanked by Jasper Evans, seemingly as payback for snitching to the FBI on the Albanians. In actuality, it's because Fisk has paid Jasper to shank him to manipulate the FBI into letting him out of prison.
  • 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."
  • Father Brown: When 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.
  • How I Met Your Mother 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...
  • Parodied on an episode of Just Shoot Me! One of Maya's old boyfriends comes out of prison looking buff, which he explains was to fend off advances from the other prisoners. When she asks if it worked, he replies, "Oh, you win some you lose some."
  • In Legends of Tomorrow, Nate's mom asks Mick how he got such big muscles. He bluntly answers, "Prison." She assumes he's kidding.
  • Parodied in M.I. High. In one episode, a trio of past villains are recruited from prison to form a new teen spy team. The episode opens with a montage of them being taken out of their cells: one is practicing martial arts, one is doing situps; but the nerdy hacker is playing video games on a handheld and doesn't even look up when the guard comes in.
  • In Orange Is the New Black, before Piper goes to prison, she and Larry joke to each other that she'll be in better shape when she gets out.
  • Most of the convicts in 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.
  • The main character in Pointman did this in the pilot.
  • In Sam & Cat, Nora worked out in prison. Unfortunately for her, when she tried to get revenge on Sam, Sam simply pushed her into a well instead of fighting her.
  • Saturday Night Live: The season 43 finale starts with a sketch about Donald Trump meeting up with several other people caught up in his scandals, like Michael Cohen contemplating the prospect of going to jail, whereupon Trump says "they have a free gym, you are going to get so jacked".
  • Jenny Mills on Sleepy Hollow is first seen doing chin-ups in a mental institution, very much like Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. (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...)
  • The 70's TV show Sword Of Justice had this as key backstory for the main character.
  • 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.
  • The X-Files, "Paper Hearts": John Lee Roche, a Serial Killer and 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.

    Tabletop Games 

  • In The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, (and, indeed, in the Real Life 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.

    Video Games 
  • In the Fight Night Champion story mode the boxer you control puts on 50 pounds of muscle during his prison stint.
  • One mission in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas 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 Doom total conversion 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.
  • In Hades, Sisyphus has been sentenced in Tartarus to roll a boulder up a hill, then doing it all over again once it inevitably falls, for all eternity. As a result of this nonstop workout, he is one of the most ripped and muscular characters in the entire game, despite not being a god.
  • In The Sims 3, 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. Though they're only there for a very brief time (not even a full in-game day) and thus can't get anything out of it unless they were already pretty close to leveling fitness, so it makes more sense than most examples.
  • Space Rangers 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 River City Girls 2 this is how Marian ended up Promoted to Playable; all the times she spent waiting in a cell with nothing to do but exercise turned her into an Amazonian Beauty who could break herself out.
  • Referenced in Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley: After freeing Moomintroll from the Park Keeper's prison cell, Snufkin hurts his leg, so Moomintroll has to carry him through the final level. Snufkin asks him if he's been exercising in prison, even though the cell is just an empty metal cage.

  • In Anti Hero For Hire, Baron Diamond elects to forego the weight training and instead improves his running speed by taking up 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.
  • In Lookism, it's forbidden to work out inside a juvenile detention cell. Some prisoners still try to get some exercise in by filling up water bottles for weightlifting and keeping lookouts to watch for guards.

    Web Original 
  • Chell, in the short Portal: No Escape, works out in her cell before making her escape attempt.
  • Spoony says this would have been awesome to see Snow White doing this while imprisoned in Snow White & the Huntsman
  • Invoked in an internet meme which jokes that kangaroos are actually deer that have been to prison.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In the episode "I Heard You Wanna Buy Some Speakers", Barry attacks Roger after the latter repeatedly stalks and harasses him. This gets Barry sent to jail. At the end of his sentence, the normally obese Barry became muscular. He uses his new strength to get revenge on Roger.
  • Arcane: Downplayed to a degree since Vi was already fairly muscular as a teenager and capable of beating up a small army of goons by herself. But in a Hellhole Prison she becomes even more muscular, capable of punching holes into concrete walls.
  • Ex-General Iroh of Avatar: The Last Airbender worked out in prison in preparation for an escape attempt. The contrast between his figure in seasons one and three helped lead to his Memetic Badass status — by the end of his stay he was ripped and needed a pillow under his shirt to "maintain" his figure. By the time 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 One-Man Army". The nutrition part of this trope is Played With 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 Batman Beyond, 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.
  • Drawn Together does this for a quick gag in "Toots Goes Bollywood", where Foxxy goes to jail. When she's released, she is shown lifting weights and has bulked up significantly, although by the next scene she is back to her normal look.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Dial Meg for Murder", Meg Griffin became capable of beating up her own family after spending only three months in prison.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Sequel Series 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.
  • Parodied on Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated when grade-school-age Mary Anne Gleardan is incarcerated and learns to lift enormous barbells and kill with her braids.
  • The Simpsons
    • 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 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 Shout-Out to Cape Fear.
  • In the 1990s Fox Spider-Man: The Animated Series cartoon, "Willie" Fisk underwent the physical and 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.
  • In The Venture Brothers, 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.

     Real Life  
  • Downplayed in high-security prisons, which prohibit barbells and other training equipment, as they could be misused as weapons or escape tools, although they still usually allow working out without them. Some prison authorities offer counter-aggressive workout programs such as Yoga. However, many inmates find ingenious ways to jury-rig training equipment — for example, fill a plastic garbage bag partly with water and hang it from the ceiling, and it makes a serviceable punching bag. Inmates can also do weight training by lifting each other.
  • 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 Real Life person on whom the title character of 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 "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.
  • Crips co-founder Stanley Tookie Williams III was introduced to weightlifting during a stint in juvie. By the time of his release at seventeen, he was considerably bigger and stronger.


Video Example(s):


RRR Pitch Meeting

The video points out that (a) Raju shouldn't be getting that buff in prison if he's on a shoestring diet (b) carrying someone on your shoulders should make you bigger and slower (c) healing a busted leg doesn't work like that. But Rule of Cool perseveres.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / ArtisticLicenseBiology

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