The Squat Variation That's Great For Your Upper Body

Squats are a great bodyweight exercise with seemingly endless variations, and the prisoner squat is one you'll want to try. The prisoner squat works your lower body and core just like other squat variations, but this one gets your upper body into the game, too, making it a whole-body exercise. This exercise will target your glutes, hamstrings, quads, abs, back, and shoulders. While it's a beginner to intermediate exercise, take it slow and steady the first time to get your form down. 

Start with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your hands behind your head, the reason for the name of this squat. Keep elbows pointed out to your sides, not in or out. Engage your core by contracting your ab muscles. During this exercise, keep most of your weight on your heels. Bend your knees and slowly lower your body, pretending you are sitting in a chair. Inhale on the way down. Keep your upper body straight, and avoid curving your back. The only thing that's bending is your knees. Your body is simply moving down and back up. Pause for one second in the lowered squat position, and then slowly push your body back up into the starting position while exhaling. Your feet stay on the floor, and your elbows remain pointed outward (via LivestrongMuscle and FitnessWomen's Health, and ClassPass). 

Prisoner squat variations

If you're looking for some added difficulty or need more support, you can try variations of the exercise. Take it slow and steady until you get used to the new variations, and make sure your form is always good to avoid any possible injuries. 

The best way to make it easier is to use an exercise ball. Find a wall where you'll have enough space to do the prisoner squats. Get into the starting position while placing the ball in between you and the wall at your lower back. Allow the ball to roll up and down as you perform the prisoner squats. Doing it this way is a bit more supportive and gentle (via ClassPass). 

The easiest way to make prisoner squats more difficult, like most exercises, is by adding weight. With this exercise, a weighted vest works best because you can still have the proper form of the prisoner squat and the added weight. 

If you really want to turn things up a notch, you can also add a jump in the mix. Perform the exercise as directed, and when you get to the part where you'd normally pause and push back up into starting position, you're instead going to explode into a jump. Once you hit the ground, lower your body into another prisoner squat. Adding the jump makes is an easy way to make the prisoner squat more difficult without any equipment (via StackHealthy).