Exercise Profile
  • Target Muscle Group
  • Exercise TypeStrength
  • Equipment RequiredBodyweight
  • MechanicsCompound
  • Force TypePush (Bilateral)
  • Experience LevelBeginner
  • Secondary Muscles
    Abs, Adductors, Calves, Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower Back
Target Muscle Group


Quads Muscle Anatomy Diagram

Prisoner Squat Overview

The prisoner squat is a bodyweight variation of the squat that strengthens the muscles of the legs.

It is the perfect beginner exercise for those learning how to perform the squat movement pattern and can be used as a stepping stone to any of the many weighted squat variations.

It can also be used as a warm up or finisher on your leg days to really pump up the muscles of your leg.

Prisoner Squat Instructions

  1. Set up in a standing position with your feet roughly shoulder width apart and your toes slightly turned out.
  2. Interlace your fingers on the back of your head and focus on looking straight ahead.
  3. Take a deep breath and descend by simultaneously pushing the hips back and bending the knees.
  4. Once your thighs reach parallel with the floor, reverse the movement by bracing your abs and driving your feet into the floor.
  5. Drive back to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Prisoner Squat Tips

  1. If you struggle with squatting with a barbell then this is the best version for learning how to squat in a vertical fashion.
  2. Toe angle is highly individual - experiment to see what feels best for you. Some may need a larger toe flare than others but if your toe flare exceeds 15-20 degrees then there may be an ankle mobility issue which needs to be addressed.
  3. If you can’t seem to keep your torso upright when you squat with your hands behind your head then it may be a limb length issue which you can’t correct but it may also be a thoracic extension issue.
  4. Drive through the whole foot - you want 3 points of contact: big toe, little toe, and heel.
  5. Imagine you’re trying to drop your back pockets straight towards your heels. Down, not back.
  6. Some forward translation of the knees over the toes is alright provided that the knees don’t deviate excessively inward or outward. Those with longer femurs will have to allow their knees to come farther forward if they want to remain upright.
  7. Don’t push the knees out excessively but ensure they track roughly over or slightly outside the 2nd toe.
Dr Carolyn Benion
Posted on: Thu, 05/21/2020 - 16:00

The name of this exercise can be offensive. I suggested to my scholars that they use this workout for distance learning. Many of them have family members who are incarcerated. Please consider changing the name,


Posted on: Fri, 09/06/2013 - 07:14

im doing this workout and its fantastic, but is there something else I can do other than the squats Im having a lot of trouble with my knee and this particular exercise aggravates it

Posted on: Sun, 03/01/2015 - 03:21

It means you are placing alot of tension on your knees and your form isn't quite right.if your knees are edging past your toes all your weight is smack down on them.

Erma Bellamy
Posted on: Fri, 08/21/2020 - 11:23

Looking for a intermediate exercises with weight anf diet pjan

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 09/22/2020 - 09:45

Hi Erma - we have a huge selection of free workout programs available on our Workouts tab (https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workout-routines). Depending on your goals, possibly our 12 Week Fat Destroyer: Complete Fat Loss Workout & Diet Program (https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/12-week-fat-destroyer) or our 10 Week Mass Building Program (https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/10-week-mass-building-program...) might work for you.