Media Coverage of Weight Lifting in Prisons as an Activity : Not as an Issue

This page contains general media clips about weight lifting in prison. Several other pages on this site cover related materials that may be of interest to you.


Four periodicals frequently have article or reports in them about prison lifting. Two of them are publications of the National Correctional Recreation Association. Correctional Recreation Today and The Grapevine II. These two magazines supersede their earlier publication, Grapevine. Powerlifting USA often reports results of prison weight lifting meets in their monthly publication. Prison Life (no longer published) has a monthly column titled "The Iron Pile". Articles from these magazines are grouped below followed by other miscellaneous articles. The articles are first presented as a list of references and then again with some text from the article.

Strength Tech, Inc. would like to take this opportunity to thank the many recreators, writers, editors, journalists, publishers, and producers who have taken the time and space to cover correctional recreation.

If you only read one article on prison lifting, we suggest, Sports Behind the Walls by Rick Telander. Sports Illustrated Vol.69. October 17, 1988 issue. Pgs.82-88. Even many years later, it still provides an excellent overview of correctional recreation.


Media Sources

  • National Correctional Recreation Articles
  • Powerlifting USA Articles
  • Prison Life Magazine Articles
  • Other Articles

    Powerlifting USA Articles

    POWERLIFTING USA is the major USA magazine devoted solely to the sport of Powerlifting. I have known and worked with their editor, Mike Lambert for many years. They have done a great job of covering the sport since the late 1970's.They can be reached at Powerlifting USA, Box 467, Camarillo, CA 93011. The magazine is currently available at many magazine stands.

    The magazine has had only a few articles concerning lifters in prison. I think I remember a couple on the great "Beetle" in PA that I will look for later and post here. The major thing they have done is to post the results of the prison meets. It is a great reward to an inmate to see his name in print for his lifting accomplishments. I salute Mike for his publishing the results of these meets. It means a great deal to the lifters.

    As an example, I just pulled out my July 1995 issue (Vol.18 No.12 Pg. 88) and see the USPF Inside the Walls Meet results. This meet was held 26 March 1995 at Montana State Prison, Deer Lodge. The published results include the best bench press, squat, and deadlift of each participant that successfully completed at least one of each of the 3 attempts at each lift and the resulting total. These results are given for 34 lifters. Two additional lifters came in and lifted in the bench press as exhibition lifters and exceeded state and world records. The write-up says this was the first powerlifting championship sponsored by the MSPF Barbell Club to be sanctioned by the USPF (United States Powerlifting Federation). They go on to thank everybody who helped out, everybody who came, the exhibition lifters, and their sponsors. The magazine thanks them for sending in the results.

    Prison Life Magazine Articles

    Prison Life was a periodical owned and operated by ex-convicts for about 3 years in the 1990's. They said, "we speak for the needs, the concerns and the hopes of America's prisoners.

    They have a monthly column titled, "The Iron Pile" which covers weightlifting in prison.

    Just a censoring note, this is a magazine was written by ex-inmates for reading by inmates. It is not for the faint hearted.

    The Iron Pile Column

  • "Mass Attack" by Chris Cozzone. Prison Life. Vol.2 No.6 June 1994. Pgs.60-63

  • "Training in the Hole" by Sebastian Ventimiglia. Prison Life. Jan 1995. Pgs.70-72.

  • "Iron Pile Q&A" by Chris Cozzone . Prison Life. Jan 1995. Pgs.73-74.


    "Mass Attack" by Chris Cozzone. Prison Life. Vol.2 No.6 June 1994. Pgs.60-63

    Ain't no icing on this cake: the Iron Pile is a hard-core feature of Prison Life dealing with hard-core fitness. It's tough and it's real. You'll find no cutesy pictures. Instead we'll show real prisoners getting' down with real training. We'll be throwing' new routines at ya, focusing on different body parts, and when we find something worth mentioning goin' on in a prison, (like this month's feature on Rahway), we'll tell you that too. So, if you got something goin' on, let us know. We want your questions, your photos, your input.

    Our philosophy is this: you may be in prison to serve time, but you ain't in the gym to waste time. Now pick up that weight and go at it.

    You won't see chrome dumbells in the weight room at Rahway's East Jersey State prison - hell, you won't even see dumbbell racks. Chaos reigns supreme; you have to dance around the discarded dumbbells, bars and weights strewn upon the rubber-matted floor to get where you're going. That's okay, though - this ain't exactly a health club. Besides your here to pump iron.

    Rahway's iron pile only appears scattered. Behind the 10-foot high fence separating the pile from the rest of the gym, underneath the scattered pieces of iron, taped up benches, and frayed cables, is a weightlifting program so well constructed it makes Rahway's max security system look like something designed by Beavis & Butthead. There's some serious lifting goin' on here.

    The article goes on to discuss a 40 year old inmate who has been lifting for 20 years and serving since 1974 that has developed a philosophy of fitness for the weightlifting program. He says that weight are secondary to his main goal of rehabilitation. "Forget boot camps," says Mathews, "Cause with weightlifting you can take those once-uncontrollable desires that got you in trouble and use them in a structured way. You can release aggression and use energy positively. After a year, you might be a different guy."

    A caption under a photo has the inmate lifter quoted as saying, "If I didn't have lifting, I'd be in lock-up every day."


    "Training in the Hole" by Sebastian Ventimiglia. Prison Life. Jan 1995. Pgs.70-72.

    The article recognizes that the public may take the weights away from some institutions or some inmates may not have access to them. It sets up an "In the Hole Exercise Routine" of training without weights.


    "Iron Pile Q&A" by Chris Cozzone. Prison Life. Jan 1995. Pgs.73-74.

    The fitness editor addresses two very specific questions mailed in by inmates. Some muscular chart drawings are used to make points and he tries to help them given the specific equipment they have access to.

    Other Articles

  • "Sports Behind the Walls" by Rick Telander. Sports Illustrated Vol.69. October 17, 1988 issue. Pgs.82-88.
    This article remains a landmark in this field. It is excellent.

  • "Beetle's Challenge"Sports Illustrated 22 November 1988, Letters to the Editor

  • "The Success of Authority in Prison Management" Insight. 13 February 1989. Pgs.8-19.

  • Lee Haney illustrating body weight exercises for inmates. 1996 NCRA National Conference.


    "Beetle's Challenge"Sports Illustrated 22 November 1988, Letters to the Editor

    As the leisure-time services supervisor at the Danville (Ill.) Correctional Center, I noted the challenge to powerlifters in the 242-pound class issued by inmate (Beetle) Lowe of the State Correctional Institution in Graterford, Pa. (Sports Behind the Walls Oct. 17). On behalf of Danville inmate Clay (Photo is shown) I wish to respond. Our Mr. Clay lifted a combined total of 2,039 pounds (39 pounds more than Lowe's total) in a meet sanctioned by the American Drug-Free Powerlifting Association (ADFPA) in Chicago in May. Clay's bench press of 485 pounds, squat of 782.5 pounds and deadlift of 771.5 pounds added up to an ADFPA record that stood until August when it was broken by Stewart of West Point, Miss.

    Nelson of Danville Ill.

    "The Success of Authority in Prison Management" Insight. 13 February 1989. Pgs.8-19.

    I have limited all the media articles to those very specifically dealing with weight lifting in prison. This article does mention weight lifting a few times in passing. It does provide an overall view of some of the general problems in corrections. It discusses conditions at many state and federal prisons thoughout the U.S. For those wishing to get a deeper overall feel of the conditions and situations in correctional institutions, I would suggest you try to find this article at your local library.

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