Solitary Fitness: How Charles Bronson Kept Fit In Solitary Confinement

bronson flexed

At 63 years of age with the past 17 years being spent in prison, many of which were in solitary confinement, one would expect Mr. Bronson to sport an aging, decrepit, physique. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

A long time acolyte of the cult of fitness, Bronson has maintained a high level of physical fitness (unfortunately the same cannot be said about his mental fitness) throughout his decades in prison. His main method of choice came down to the pure basics: calisthenics. Calisthenics has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, with early icons such as Hannibal for King setting the scene as “ripped black guys working out in public parks”, to the modern scene featuring people of all races and nationalities starting calisthenics workout groups, calisthenics competitions, not to mention all the calisthenics Youtube videos, some with millions of views!

Solitary Fitness – The Book

solitary fitness

I did not come up with the title of this post; that honour goes to Mr. Broinson himself who in 2007 authored a book called Solitary Fitness, detailing his prison workouts as well as his workout philosophy.  You can get it on Amazon here. I must say that the book makes for an entertaining read, reading it makes me feel that Mr Bronson is right by my side yelling at me to get off my fat lazy arse while simultaneously commenting about how much fat people smell.

His philosophy is simple: you don’t need a fancy gym, supplements, or steroids. All you need is (mostly) your own body, a good work ethic, and basic, simple nutrition. As he rhetorically asks in the book, “Did Hercules and Samson work out in a gym?” He emphasizes that working out should be fun and enjoyable, and strongly, and I do mean strongly, holds vanity in great contempt. He recounts a tale in his book of his buddy bringing him to a gym, and when two guys there (hair done up like tarts, shoes like lunchboxes) asks him how big his biceps are he promptly grabs him by the neck, throws some homophobic slurs at them, and they scamper off like fairies (the book is not the most politically correct).

The main model demonstrating the exercises.
The main model demonstrating the exercises.

When it comes to the exercises, most of the calisthenics ‘big basics’ are there: press ups (Bronson’s personal favorite, he claims to be able to do 132 reps in a minute), dips, pull ups, squats, lunges etc. However, Bronson has some unique exercises and training methods that I have yet to see elsewhere: for example he does biceps concentration curls with resistance supplied by his other hand, and trains his abdominals by blowing vigorously on a piece of paper! In addition many of his exercise are also dynamic stretches and poses very reminiscent of yoga and Pilates. He even throws in a 28-day program at the end, complete with exercises, sets, and reps.

There is definitely some esoteric stuff in the book too; he recommends working out your vocal chords and facial muscles with half hour sessions of laughing, cleansing his stomach by drinking so much water he purges it up, using  a waxed string to clean his sinuses, and cleansing his colon by giving himself an enema (which he does by squatting in a tub of water, sucking up water using his rectal muscles, and then purging it out again). He references a lot of yogic practices here, which makes sense as Bronson seems to be, despite his violent nature, quite in tune with a number of yogic philosophies.

The final section of the book is on his diet and nutrition philosophy. He again denounces most diets as bullshit and noted that in prison, his breakfast typically consisted of porridge, bread and egg; stew, bread and fruit for tea; and pie, cheaps, peas, and sponge with custard for dinner. Of course, he also drinks at least a gallon of water a day.

He then ends the book stating his ambition to knock out a cow with a single blow; a worthy goal if I ever saw one.

Latest News

As per the media, in October 2015, it was reported that Bronson had swelled up to 18 stone (252lbs/115kg) after binging on chocolate bars, and decided to go on a diet, stripping the fat off down to 14 stone (196lbs/89kg). However he decided that he was too scrawny at that weight and bulked back up to 16 stone (224lbs/102kg). His daily routine now consists of 2,000 press ups, 18 egg whites (see how to get good deals on the cheapest whey protein here!), soup, and whatever the prison serves for dinner.


In today’s world of soft and weak bodied people, many of us have lost touch with our animal roots. Of primal urges, of physical strength. While Bronson is certainly no role model, his dedication of fitness in spite of less than ideal conditions should inspire us all.

bronson art