The prisoner squat is not really as punishing as you would think. It is called like that because of the “prisoner” arm positioning.
This is where you place your hand behind your head throughout in order to stabilize your core, back and shoulder muscles.
This squat variation prevents you from using your arms to keep balance on the way down or create momentum for going back up.
This restriction also demands more from your legs and makes it a more taxing strength exercise for your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
This calisthenics exercise is a great warm up and great for strengthening your leg muscles. It is easy to learn the correct prisoner squat form with the steps provided below.
Besides, the exercise is fit for anyone with a beginner level of physical fitness and exercise experience.
HOW TO DO PRISONER SQUAT
Here are the steps for properly doing the prisoner squat:
- Start by standing with your legs wider than hip-width apart and your toes pointing slightly out.
- Lift your hands and grasp them behind your head with your elbows pointing out to the sides. Keep them in this position throughout.
- Breath in and tighten your glutes, core and quads.
- With your chest lifted, bend your knees from the hips and slowly lower down into a squat. Ensure your back is straight and look forward as you lower downwards until your thighs are parallel to the ground, or even lower.
- Pause for a second at the bottom of the move and squeeze the glutes.
- Now, explode back up to the initial position.
- Exhale and repeat for the desired number of reps.
MUSCLES ENGAGED DURING PRISONER SQUAT
The exercise mainly targets the lower body, particularly the quads, but generally the hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, abs and core are enhanced as well. Therefore, it also increases mobility of the upper body.
These are the primary muscles responsible for generating force and thrusting the body upwards.
As all squat variations, the glutes are kept tight and strong so as to balance and stabilize the body throughout the movement.
These posterior chain muscles are also activated and strengthened by the movement.
HIP FLEXORS AND OTHER STABILISING MUSCLES
As seen, the exercise prevents using your arms to balance the body throughout the movement. Hence, the other stabilizing muscles, like the hip flexors, must work twice as hard to prevent a loss of stability.
As one of the stabilizing muscles, core strength is very important to provide balance as you perform the movement. It also generates and controls force and thus strengthened by the exercise.
UPPER BACK AND SHOULDERS
So as to lock your arms and hands overhead during the movement, your upper back and shoulders are worked. You will find that the longer the workout, the more tiring this becomes.
PRISONER SQUAT BENEFITS.
BUILD A BETTER SQUAT POSITION
The ”prisoner” positioning of the hands forces you to open up your chest and keeps your torso vertically oriented. This enables you to identify any general sticking points with your mobility when it comes to squatting.
This can improve and enhance your Front Squat and Back Squat, even though it is just a bodyweight movement.
A GREAT CONDITIONING TOOL
In addition to regular Air Squats or other bodyweight variations, you can also use the prisoner squat for any CrossFit and Functional Fitness workouts. You can even switch up the stimulus making it a great conditioning tool.
ENHANCE STABILITY AND BALANCE
Maintaining your arms and hands in an overhead position gets tiring, and it gets harder to balance the body as you move through higher volume sets and reps. This pushes your body to work even harder. On the bright side, as you are forced to stay balanced and tight throughout, your body and balance progress to advanced levels.
The “prisoner positioning” also increases the stability and mobility of your back and shoulders.
BUILD A STRONGER CORE
The exercise is an effective core and abs exercise as they are thoroughly engaged to keep the torso vertical throughout. Additionally, working the full core means that the stabilizer muscles are accessed and improved too.
PREVENT BACK PAIN
Having a strengthened core helps to prevent and alleviate back pain. Also, placing your hands behind the head opens up your chest, forcing you to have a good strong posture during the movement. This counters the bad, slumped forward posture is caused by sitting in front of a screen for long.
Thus, to prevent future back aches, it’s important you strengthen your back and have a great posture.
Like all other squats, the movement effectively builds up your lower body strength.
PRISONER SQUAT ALTERNATIVES
The goblet squat is great for enhancing both upper body and lower body strength. For its execution, you need to grab a dumbbell or kettlebell with both hands and place it in front of your chest. Now, squat while holding the dumbbell or kettlebell until your elbows come between your knees.
BARBELL BACK SQUAT
A barbell back squat, is a compound exercise that activates your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Inhale and unrack a weighted barbell placing it on your upper back. Lift your chest up and keep your back straight as you lower your body into a squat position.
WIDE STANCE SQUAT
For the wide stance squat, place your feet twice the width of the hips with your toes slightly pointed outward. This causes greater activation of the glute and adductor magnus as a result of greater posterior hip displacement.
For the air squat, keep your feet pointed forward and at shoulder width apart. Descend your hips lower than your knees as you squat. Keep your back straight and maintain your feet flat on the floor throughout the exercise.
PRISONER SQUAT TIPS AND MISTAKES TO AVOID
Do not round your upper back during the movement. Keep it straight and tight.
Lift your chest and keep it proud throughout the movement.
As you go back up after squatting, do not tip forwards onto the toes. Ensure you drive through the heels to create power. Also, do not let your heels leave the ground.
Generally, squats are fundamental in workout routines. The calisthenics prisoner squat comes with its own level of intensity, making your workout more interesting and challenging. Be sure to use the correct form to reap maximum benefits from the exercise.