The Anti-dad Bod Training Plan

Oct 26, 2021

Originally Written For Elitefts

Over the last 5 years, my life has changed drastically with having 3 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 and the first on that list was my training - actually what I soon discovered was not only better with regards to time management, but the results were 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 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 in a year's time following the advice in this article. 

Truth be told, most of the people I personally coach incur better results by doing less albeit initially they may be shocked to see that the program I’ve written them includes far less training volume and intensity than their previous programs. Of course, if all it took to make gains was training harder we’d all look like Rich Froning, but clearly, that’s not the case. 

Moreover, your lack of time might actually be an advantage and act as the catalyst to helping you train more optimally. Here’s what you need to know. 

 

Anti-Dad Training Template

  • Includes 3 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 - non-exercise thermogenic activity (NEAT) - this will also assist in recovery.

 

The Methods

Cluster Training

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) in between reps to provide recovery and avoid movement deterioration which 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
  • Time-efficient

Examples of Cluster Sets

As you can imagine using cluster sets for the squat or other bilateral movements can be quite effective to improve 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 and the classic lifts squat as the squat, press, and deadlift will improve by way of establishing symmetry and strength in lagging muscle groups as well the hypertrophic benefits we know what exist performing assistance exercises. Because unilateral exercises are less demanding on the nervous system we are able to 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 that simply want to look and feel better and hit new personal records from time to time there is 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 prior to 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 but 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 and if you’re not allowing for proper recovery in between higher threshold sessions (maximal lifting) - 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 with regard to bar velocity.

When different methods have utilized the potential of altering the force-velocity curve is realistic. The force-velocity curve examines the interactions between force and velocity and suggests there is 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 with 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 hesitation
  • 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.

Aerobic Conditioning

You may stop reading when you hear the words “low-intensity” or “steady-state,” but, be open-minded because the cardiac output method a staple modality when it comes to 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 of 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 being, eccentric hypertrophy (stretching) of cardiac tissue is a result of 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. Let’s dive right into programming.

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

The Program

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Glute Ham Raise: 4 x 6-8. Rest 90s.
  4. DB Split Squat: 3 x 8-10 each. Rest 60s.
  5. Back Raises: 3 x 30. Rest 60s.

*Cluster Training:
Week 2: Back Squat
Week 3: Front Squat with chains
Week 4: Back Squat with chains

 

Day 2: Aerobic Conditioning

  1. Air Bike: 10 x 15s hard/45s easy.
  2. Rower: 10 x 15s hard/45s easy.
  3. Banded Leg Curls: 2 x 50 each. Rest as needed.
  4. Ab Wheel: 3 x 8-10. Rest 60s.

 

Day 3: Upper Intensive

  1. Explosive Band Assisted Plyo Push-ups: 5 x 4, every 60s.
  2. 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 
  3. Close Grip C2B Chin-up: Accumulate 25 reps. Rest as needed.
    *perform sets of 3-5 - add load if needed.
  4. Chest Supported T-Bar Row: 4 x 10-12. Rest 60s.
  5. Rope Pushdowns: 4 x 12-15. Rest 60s.

 

*Cluster Training:
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

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Farmer Carry: AMRAP 8 x 90 ft. Rest as needed.

*Use the heaviest load possible - shoot for 5+ rounds.

Day 6/7 

OFF or Repeat Day 4

Steps

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 much affect believe me it will! You can go a step further and make sure you’re only utilizing nasal breathing while you’re walking.

How To Run This Training Plan

These exercise variations can be run for 4-weeks. For Dynamic Effort Trap Bar Deadlifts add 3-5% to your load each subsequent week. For your cluster training, each subsequent week will consist of a new variation - this our provided each day. For your assistance exercises, you can increase the load each subsequent week 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, range of motion is also important too. 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, the recovery so it aligns with your life outside of the gym. Give this a shot, as is, for the next 4-weeks and get back to me! You may be surprised at how you respond to doing less!