I can remember the first time I heard the phrase, “Dad Bod,” and thinking to myself, “What the heck is that? Is that a good or bad thing?” So, I did a quick Google search, which led me to a bunch of photos of men with biceps and beer guts and this definition from the Urban Dictionary: “Dad Bod: A guy who has kids and was once in shape and still has guns that can crush beer cans but also with a belly that says I drank those beers and I can eat 6 slices of pizza in one seating.”
So, here is my assessment after my research: a “Dad Bod” is not something men strive for necessarily, it’s something that “happens” to guys who have simply let themselves go and have accepted this new look with the justifications that go along with it.
I have probably either personally trained or consulted with at least 500 men classified as having Dad Bods and typically I hear the same excuse, which goes something like this: “I used to look just like you, then I got married and had kids” (as if they were the ones who went through pregnancy). In each of the men who expressed an interest in improving their physiques, I’ve seen some tendencies that have given me keen insight on how to help them. Here are some tips if you want better than a Dad Bod but aren't looking to be Mr. Olympia.
My first recommendation is to be realistic with where you are today and plan your program accordingly. I appreciate the fact that you were once a college athlete or won your state wrestling championships, but today you have a beer gut and don’t eat right. Maybe your mind is still telling you that you can get out there and bust your butt just like you did 20 years ago. Well, as a fitness professional, my job is to tell you the truth. If you embark on your fitness program with that mindset, you will either injure yourself or be so sore for the next week or two that you won’t want to go back to the gym.
Secondly, don’t compare yourself to where you were when you were at your best. You must set realistic expectations and plot your course accordingly. I’ve seen too many men, who have massive potential, only frustrate their progress by placing too much emphasis on achieving a certain look as opposed to a healthier existence. Let becoming a better functioning and more healthy human be your first priorities, and if your body snaps back, consider that a bonus. Too many men put the cart before the horse and never see the finish line.
Lastly, don’t let this be a source of stress because, in most cases, it was the stress of life, family, and your profession that caused some of your current weight gain. Cortisol in men can be the one thing that keeps your body holding on to fat, so you must regulate that hormone through stress management. Therefore, it stands to reason that stressing over your fitness program is not only counterproductive, but also damaging in many cases.
Plan of Attack
So, you’re ready to get back in the game, get rid of that spare tire around your waist, and get healthy again. Here is one plan of attack in going from Dad Bod to Fit Dad. As a result, you will have a highly functioning existence as a father who can show your kids that, yes, you still have it.
1. Assess your food intake by writing down everything that goes in your mouth for the next two days. Doing this should help you actually see what you might be doing nutritionally that is hindering you. If you cannot make the proper adjustments yourself, it would make sense to seek out qualified help or follow a meal plan that Max Muscle Nutrition makes available through its nationwide stores.
2. Determine your “fitness level” by being honest with where you CURRENTLY are. If you haven’t been in a gym or ran for more than 5 years, I would say you need to start from scratch and go slow and easy. Maybe do a full body workout one to two times per week. If you are currently working out but not seeing the desired results, then you may need to switch things up or step it up a notch or two.
I’ll do my best here to give you some general direction and a program. However, it’s important that a “one-size-fits-all” model might not be what you need. However, it could quite possibly be just what the doctor ordered. (Speaking of doctors, as with beginning any new exercise regimen, please check with your physician to make sure you are healthy to do so.)
A great beginner program would consist of a full body, 1-2 set model, with 8-12 reps per set being the benchmark for how much volume. Step it up for intermediate, and if you want to go advanced, do one body part per day, five days a week. See below for an example workout program.
BEGINNER: Full Body Circuit
- Leg Press OR Squats
- Lat Pulls OR Pull Ups
- Bench Press OR Bar Dips
- Shoulder Presses OR Lat Raises
- Triceps Press Downs OR Close-Grip Bench
- Biceps Curls OR Reverse Curls
- Swiss Ball Crunches OR 30-sec Planks Standing Calf Raises OR Seated Calf Raises
INTERMEDIATE: Full Body Circuit
Same as beginner, but
do both exercises, not one.
Do one body part per day for a five day routine.
- Flat Bench
- Incline Bench
- Pec Flys
- Bar Dips
- Lat Pulls
- Mid Rows
- Bent Over Rows
- Hyper Extensions
- Leg Press
- Leg Extensions
- Leg Curls
- Calf Raises
- Military Press (to front)
- Lateral Raises
- Bent Over Laterals
- Front Raises
- Triceps Press Downs
- Biceps Curls
- Reverse Triceps Press Downs
- Machine Curls
- Kick Backs
- Reverse Curls
Note: Do abs (swiss ball crunches, leg raises, etc.) twice a week after your regular workout.
*Photo by Michael Neveux