Over the last five years, my life has changed drastically with having three kids. Most people said that I would have to say goodbye to having time to do things that I love, but fortunately for me, those people were dead wrong. Instead, I had to find ways to optimize what I was already doing. The first on that list was my training. Actually, what I soon discovered was better with regards to time management, and the results were better too.
Training while being a parent doesn’t have to eat up multiple hours in your day to be effective. In fact, I train far less now than I used to, and I’ve actually seen even better results. That’s right, better results on all levels—body composition, performance, and recoverability. My resting heart rate, just this year, has gone from the low 60s to low 50s following the advice in this article.
Truth be told, most of the people I personally coach incur better results by doing less. Initially, they are shocked to see that the program I’ve written includes far less training volume and intensity than their previous programs. Of course, if all it took to make gains were training harder, we’d all look like Rich Froning. Clearly, that’s not the case.
Moreover, your lack of time might actually be advantageous and act as the catalyst to helping you train more optimally. Here’s what you need to know.
Anti- Dad Bod Training Template
- Includes three main strength sessions a week: lower, upper, and total-body intensive sessions.
- Includes aerobic conditioning to optimize recovery and build your aerobic system. This will have a noticeable effect on your ability to handle stress.
- Sessions are short, between 45-60 minutes in length.
- You’ll have homework to do outside of the gym in the form of accumulating steps for stress-reduction and mindfulness. Also known as non-exercise thermogenic activity (NEAT).
Using intra-set rest or clusters is hardly a new concept. In fact, Olympic lifters use clusters regularly, some without even knowing it. Put simply, using small bouts of rest (10-20 seconds) between reps to provide recovery and avoid movement deterioration would normally occur during a straight-set with appreciable loading. Although it may seem that using cluster sets may not be necessary for general fitness, much like any other method we use, it's a tool that can spark some new progress.
Here are some reasons why it may be prudent to use clusters:
- Increased time under tension
- Improved movement patterns
- Increased neural drive with heavier loading
Examples of Cluster Sets
As you can imagine, using cluster sets for the squat or other bilateral movements can be quite effective in improving your ability to perform higher amounts of volume with heavier loads. In the case of the squat, we prefer to opt for longer bouts of rest of 15-25 seconds, depending on the objectives of your training session.
Here are a few examples:
- Front Squat: 4 x 2.2.2 (15s) @80%. Rest 3:00
- Back Squat: 4 x 3.2.1 (20s) @85%. Rest 3:00
Cluster work is not only time-efficient but, more importantly, economical for increasing trainability of a given bilateral movement (squat, press, pulls) while simultaneously decreasing the risk of breakdown and thus less chance of overuse injury.
The Repeated Effort Method
The logic of why it’s important to prioritize unilateral assistance exercises is pretty simple. We can effectively dedicate time to improving limitations. The classic lifts like the squat, press, and deadlift will improve by establishing symmetry and strength in lagging muscle groups. Consider too the hypertrophic benefits we know what exists when performing assistance exercises. Because unilateral exercises are less demanding on the nervous system, we can add volume and frequency with the overall objective of improving deficiencies.
Explosive Strength Method
While jumping is an integral part of improving explosive strength for athletics, even people who want to look and feel better and hit new personal records from time to time have a value if you’re considering the physiology and Type 2 fibers. The question comes down to using proper volume prescriptions and plyometric variations for those that don’t have any interest in actual competition in athletes or powerlifting. In terms of programming for general fitness, performing 20-25 jumps twice a week is more than sufficient to prime the sympathetic nervous system before a training session or as a stand-alone movement for explosive strength work.
The benefits span beyond improving power and rate of force development as we know that Type 2 fibers deteriorate as folks age. This can be a powerful catalyst for maintaining those Type 2 fibers, and for a small investment of time, the return on investment is significant (Potach, 2016).
Dynamic Effort Method
The common misconception of lifting heavy in every workout is usually one novice trainees and coaches make, thinking that the effectiveness of their training is judged by how hard it is. Realize, the human body isn’t a gumball machine and doesn’t spit out candy every time you put a quarter in (hard training.) See, there is a point of diminishing returns. If you’re not allowing for proper recovery in between higher threshold sessions (maximal lifting, i.e., these are the sessions that are more demanding on the central nervous system), you’ll eventually overtrain and start going backward with your progress.
Or get injured. The reality is that hard training sessions need to be interspersed with ‘easier’ training sessions. Another component of this is utilizing strength methods that differ bar velocity.
When different methods are utilized, the potential of altering the force-velocity curve is realistic. The force-velocity curve examines the interactions between force and velocity. It suggests an inverse relationship where external resistance increases, the movement velocity decreases (maximal effort work), and where external resistance decreases, movement velocity decreases respectively (Bomba 2009.)
What does this mean to the average trainee that wants to get stronger? It means that there is low-hanging fruit using methods such as the dynamic effort method that aims to improve the rate of force development (RFD). This method of using non-maximal loads with the highest attainable velocity. The primary objective is to improve RFD and increase the corridor of recruited and trained motor units (Zatsiorsky & Kraemer, 2006.)
Dynamic Effort Training Guidelines:
- Utilizes high-threshold motor units and facilitates RFD
- High-intensity method that’s demanding on the nervous system
- There should be zero ‘grinding’ or reps. Each rep should be explosive/smooth with zero hesistation
- Works the force portion of the force-velocity curve
In short, Dynamic Effort Training is a method that bridges the gap between utilizing the velocity component of the force-velocity curve while creating balance within programming to ensure things like overtraining are avoided.
You may stop reading when you hear the words “low-intensity” or “steady-state,” but be open-minded because the cardiac output method is a staple modality for improving the aerobic system. Why do you need to improve your aerobic abilities? The reasoning is simple: without an efficient aerobic system, your ability to recover between sessions and between working sets will not be what it could be. Moreover, improving your aerobic system can literally extend how long you live.
The connection between aerobic fitness and lifespan is pretty well established, with numerous studies to back it up like this one here. In fact, this method was the single most beneficial method for my own training and took my conditioning to a level I didn’t know existed.
The hardest part for most is that it’s too easy (yes, it’s easy to do), and it can be somewhat boring, but how we customize these sessions while still keeping the intent intact is key.
First off, let’s discuss what cardiac output is. Cardiac output is the amount of blood the heart pumps through the circulatory system in one minute. In layman’s terms, it’s a product of heart rate and stroke volume, so this training style influences the heart’s ability to pump blood to the extremities. More importantly, it can increase the cavity volume known as eccentric hypertrophy, particularly the heart's left ventricle.
I know what you’re thinking, "Can’t I arrive at these same adaptations by simply lifting weights!?" No, you cannot! The reason is that eccentric hypertrophy (stretching) of cardiac tissue results from low-intensity conditioning done for longer durations, and the heart rate needs to be in a specific range for this to occur.
On the other hand, weight training results in more concentric hypertrophy of cardiac tissue, which is a thickening of the walls—two very different things. So, improving cardiac output is done in very specific settings with very specific measures.
And no, this type of work will NOT take away from your strength gains when done correctly.
Aerobic Conditioning Guidelines:
- Select 2-3 pieces of cardio equipment
- Perform 10-15 minutes of steady-state conversational-style work on each
- Perform 1-2 sessions a week as their own training session
- Heart-rate of 130-150 BPM or 60-70% of MHR
Now that you understand what the program will consist of, let’s dive into what the Anti- Dad Bod Training Plan looks like.
Day 1: Lower Emphasis
- Seated Dynamic Box Jumps: 5 x 4, to a moderate height box with the goal of being as explosive as possible on each rep. Rest 45s.
- Front Squat Cluster Sets: 4/3 x 3.2.1 (15s). Rest 3:00
*Build to a heavy 3 in 4 sets then perform 3 work sets of 3 reps, 2 reps, 1 rep resting 15s between cluster sets and 3:00 between sets.
- Glute Ham Raise: 4 x 6-8. Rest 90s.
- DB Split Squat: 3 x 8-10 each. Rest 60s.
- Back Raises: 3 x 30. Rest 60s.
Week 2: Back Squat
Week 3: Front Squat with chains
Week 4: Back Squat with chains
Day 2: Aerobic Conditioning
- Air Bike: 10 x 15s hard/45s easy.
- Rower: 10 x 15s hard/45s easy.
- Banded Leg Curls: 2 x 50 each. Rest as needed.
- Ab Wheel: 3 x 8-10. Rest 60s.
Day 3: Upper Intensive
- Explosive Band Assisted Plyo Push-ups: 5 x 4, every 60s.
- Close Grip Bench Press: 4/3 x 3.2.1 (15s). Rest 3:00
*Build to a heavy 3 in 4 sets then perform 3 work sets of 3 reps, 2 reps, 1 rep
- Close Grip C2B Chin-up: Accumulate 25 reps. Rest as needed.
*perform sets of 3-5 - add load if needed.
- Chest Supported T-Bar Row: 4 x 10-12. Rest 60s.
- Rope Pushdowns: 4 x 12-15. Rest 60s.
Week 2: Floor Press
Week 3: Close Grip Bench with a slight incline
Week 4: Pin Bench Press set 4” over your chest using a shoulder-width grip
Day 4: Cardiac Output Method
- 30-40 minutes of low-intensity conditioning eg. bike, rower, stairmaster, treadmill, ect. For optimal heart-rate use 180 - your age +/- 5BPM depending on your ability. Use nasal breathing only.
- Walk: 5 minutes using nasal breathing
Day 5: Total-body Emphasis
1. Trap Bar Jumps: 4 x 3 with an empty, every 60s.
2. Trap Bar Deadlift: 6 x 3 using 60% of 1RM if known, every 60-90s.
*If you do not have a recent max, use a moderate load that you’re able to move explosively with for each rep.
3. Glute Hip Thrust: 4 x 10-12. Rest 90s.
4a. Landmine Push Press: 4 x 6-8 each. Rest 45s.
4b. TRX Rows: 4 x 12-15. Rest 45s.
5. Farmer Carry: AMRAP 8 x 90 ft. Rest as needed.
*Use heaviest load possible - shoot for 5+ rounds.
OFF or Repeat Day 4
Your daily goal is to hit between 7500 and 10k steps. If you’re coming from performing less than 5k steps a day, start with 5k and slowly work your way up. The best strategy for this is to spread this out throughout the day. Although simply walking may not seem like it will have much of an effect, believe me, it will! You can go a step further and make sure you’re only utilizing nasal breathing while you’re walking. Remember, we are using steps for stress reduction, not for an actual training effect. Stress reduction techniques for myself and my clients have been a huge difference-maker.
How To Run This Training Plan
These exercise variations can be run for four weeks. For Dynamic Effort Trap Bar Deadlifts, add three to five percent to your load each subsequent week. For your cluster training, each subsequent week will consist of a new variation. You can increase the load each subsequent week for your assistance exercises but go based on how you’re feeling. If you’re like me, your weeks will vary quite a bit, so it’s not mandatory to increase loading on each exercise. Improving position and range of motion is also important. Furthermore, many will ask, “what can I add to this…?” Instead of thinking about what you can add, remember the goal is to optimize your training and recovery to align with your life outside of the gym. Give this a shot, as is, for the next four weeks and get back to me! You may be surprised at how you respond to doing less!
Jason has been involved with the fitness industry for close to 14 years working with athletes from all walks of life (including soccer moms, professional athletes, and military personnel). The conjugate method is the basis of all his programming. He is the owner of BP Training Systems, an online programming business that provides programming to CrossFit affiliates and strength and conditioning facilities all over the world. In addition to having a BA in Psychology with honors and a Masters of Science in Exercise Physiology, Jason is a CSCS, Westside Barbell Special Strength Coach, CrossFit Level 2 coach, and a Combat Veteran who is passionate about helping other coaches improve their programming.