Building Muscle in Prison: How Do They Do It?

I picked three gentleman who have damn good physiques and interviewed them, to give you guys some perspective on what you can do when you put your mind to something even in dire circumstances.

By PJ Braun

As I sit here typing this out at the end of November, I am currently 265 pounds, sore as hell and fatter than I should be but feeling strong and grateful to be able to train every morning. There are no weights in prison, but I get by with things I find in nature as well as making bodyweight exercises a lot more complicated. Now, hypothetically I could take pillowcases and fill them up with rocks and use them like a kettlebell or dumbbells, but that would be considered contraband. And that could cause an incident report, which I don’t want.

A lot of people have approached me about weight training in here and I have been very impressed when I see some of these guys who have showed me their “before and after” pictures. So, I picked three gentleman who have damn good physiques and interviewed them, to give you guys some perspective on what you can do when you put your mind to something even in dire circumstances.

The three men I interviewed are Mr. Campos, age 31; Mr. Holloway, age 30 and Mr. Anderson, age 41. Campos looks very lean and athletic. Anderson is built like a middleweight bodybuilder and Holloway looks like he could be playing fullback for a Division 1 school.

Hey guys, thank you for letting me interview you, you are all very inspiring. My first question is, were you working out prior to coming to prison?

Mr. Anderson: I powerlifted for seven years but stopped five years before coming to prison and did nothing.

Mr. Holloway: No

Mr. Campos: On and off but nothing serious.

OK, so then what got you to start?

Mr. Anderson: It was a decision I made with my wife so I could be in the best shape when I came home for my children.

Mr. Holloway: I knew I needed to make a positive change so I could be healthy for my children.

Mr. Campos: I wanted to make a change. I was way too heavy and wanted to be healthy.

Wow, so you guys all had similar stories coming into prison. Can you tell me your starting bodyweight and your current bodyweight?

Mr. Holloway: I started out at 345 and I am now 225.

Mr. Anderson: I started out 265 and I am now 180.

Mr. Campos: I started at 240 and am now 160.

Holy crap, you guys have come so far! How did you do it?

Mr. Campos: Mine took three years. I did it slow and steady with portion control. I did not eat any red meat or pork and focused on fish and chicken, and the no-flesh entrees they serve us at chow. I also supplemented with protein bars when they were available.

Mr. Holloway and Mr. Anderson: Nine months total transformation.

Hold on, you guys lost all that weight in nine months!?

Mr. Anderson: Well to be honest, I was down to 200 within six months and the transformation to 180 was where I slowed down and started gaining some muscle.

OK, so Holloway, how did you do it so fast?

Mr. Holloway: Intermittent fasting. I started eating when they serve lunch at 12:30 and stopped myself at the dinner meal at 4:30. I kept my calories around 2,200 a day. I had a workout that I came up with where I did chest, biceps and triceps on Mondays, legs on Tuesdays, 250 burpees on Wednesdays then I repeated the cycle with rest on Sunday!

Mr. Anderson: I trained one or two body parts a day like a bodybuilder. (Note Mr. Anderson is one of the guys I worked out with every day, he has since been released from prison). I trained fasted each morning and I did a lot of walking; usually at least 5 miles a day but up to 10 and I run four days a week. I like to get a 5-mile run in daily but on the weekend I will do a long 18-mile run and I like to do HIIT on the exercise bike as well.

Mr. Campos: I had weights at my first prison. We would read the Muscular Development magazines and we even had Dust in there for pre-workout!

Oh man, I would kill for some Dust or Hype in here, haha. OK, kill is the wrong word. It would be beneficial to have some pre-workout in here, though, haha. Shout-out to my RDAP peeps with the “change language,” lol.

OK, tell me about your workout routines, Campos?

Mr. Campos: Well, it was great until Covid locked us down 24/7 and we couldn’t have any contact, so I learned to do everything with just bodyweight in my cell. Push-ups, squats, lunges and once I got to camp, I just started walking 3 miles in the morning and 3 miles at night every day.

Man, you guys have all found a way to make the most of so little! I am curious when it comes to lifting weights versus just cardio or doing nothing at all, what did you notice when you started resistance training?

Mr. Anderson and Mr. Campos: I got hungry all the time!!

Haha, what about you, Holloway?

Mr. Holloway: Well, I got hungrier but I noticed I just kept getting stronger and stronger fast and while that was happening, my muscles became harder.

What about you, Campos and Anderson?

Mr. Campos: I was very surprised by how strong I got.

Mr. Anderson: Yeah, the stronger I got the harder my muscles felt, and I am always hungry but I can eat more.


Guys, I love these answers because building muscle helps boost your basal metabolic rate and improve your metabolism, meaning you’re going to need more food just to sustain your lean body mass, which is so cool!

Guys, I want to thank you for letting me interview you like this. Sometimes people make excuses, like they don’t have a gym membership or they can’t get to their gym. You guys show that you can dramatically transform with next to nothing and you are inspirations to me and many other guys in here. I hope you continue this fitness journey that you started in prison when you get home!

At the time of writing this, Mr. Campos and Mr. Anderson are back home and have both spoken with my fiancée Marissa, and she let me know they are going strong. Both of those guys meant so much to me in here. Mr. Campos recognized me the first day I was working out, from the magazines. I will never forget that moment when he came over and asked if I was PJ Braun. He became like a little brother to me, and Mr. Anderson was my mentor in the RDAP program. Now Mr. Holloway is only a few months to the door, and I am excited to see just how far he goes with this. Losing over 120 pounds is a tremendous accomplishment but he says he is not done.

As for me, guys, I am going hard but not focused on losing weight just yet. Until next time, I will leave you with this. Wherever you are, whatever your level of this iron game that you are at, never take it for granted. Practice gratitude. You could have a little gym in your garage, or you could have a membership to the best gym in the country, but where there is a will there is a way, and we do this because we love it no matter where we are!

I love you all, peace out, bye.

Instagram @pjbraunfitness

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