The logic of the ubiquitous dad bod is that the owner combines the occasional hard hour at the gym with slightly more epicurean sensibilities. However, unless you’re a millionaire film star, it’s a difficult look to pull off.
And while those Yale academics released research last year to suggest that piling on the pounds post-fatherhood can actually boost your immune system and help you live longer, we're not quite convinced. After all, surrounding your organs with the dangerous visceral fat that comes with middle-age spread comes with known health risks. So, leaning on the expertise of our body beautiful buddies at Men’s Health, we detail how you can reverse the fattening effects of fatherhood and build your fittest ever body.
Lapsed athletes face a triple threat, says career extension specialist Mackie Shilstone, who helped broken-necked quarterback Peyton Manning lift the Super Bowl this year and, at 65, still terrifies clients such as Serena Williams with his fitness levels. “The three most pressing issues we face if we let fitness slide are sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss; anabolic resistance, which is the failure of exercise to stimulate growth like it did when you were 20; and reduced ability to recover,” he says.
And whether it’s partying or a new addition to the family keeping you awake at night, it’s clear your priorities have shifted since those halcyon days when you could pack on muscle and keep off fat while eating whatever, whenever. In your head, you’ve still got it; in reality, you’ve got a rapidly burgeoning middle-aged spread and fading muscle memory. Now’s the time to shake off premature old age before it’s too late.
“By far the biggest contributor to the dad bod is simply not training, because you’re tired, busy or injured,” says Shilstone. The solution, then, is to get back in the game, but thinking you can literally pick up where you left off is foolhardy. “Warming-up is critical, especially after a period away from regular training. As is understanding that you can no longer produce what you did when you were 20,” says Shilstone.
“Crucially, if you’ve been spending more time on the sofa than the air bike, you’ll need to focus on flexibility in order to elongate your tightening muscles.” To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, “You don’t stop playing because you get old; you get old because you stop playing.”
Age, injury or indolence means you can no longer rely on the big lifts to turn back the clock. Focus on form over heavy loads and these low-impact substitutes from Shilstone will help you recapture your youth in no time.
Dumbbell Squat: 3 sets of 10
A heavy bar on your back isn’t a good idea when you’re out of shape. Instead, hold light dumbbells by your sides to challenge mobility and grip. Slowly lower yourself down, bending your knees and keeping your back straight. Then explode up and repeat.
Romanian Deadlift: 3 sets of 10
This variation increases hamstring flexibility while bolstering your back. With legs slightly bent, back flat, hinge at the hips to grab the bar. Lift, then lower under control.
Towel Pulldown: 3 sets of 10
Grip strength attenuates as you age. So wrap a towel around a straight bar on the lat pull-down machine to assist. Pull down with a straight back, shoulders back, aiming for a low weight until you’ve perfected the posture.
If all of that seems a bit too much Mike Tyson for you, here are a couple of stats that might inspire you. Firstly, the fear factor: testosterone levels in new dads can plummet by up to 34%. Why let the dad bod drag you down physically too? Furthermore, it takes only eight weeks of omega-3 supplements to reboot muscle protein synthesis, which significantly reduces anabolic resistance. In other words, in less than two months, you’ll be back in the game.
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