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7 Effective Strength Exercises to Avoid 'Dad Bod' Forever

Fight the dad bod with these stellar strength exercises.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

We get it — parenthood can take its toll on your body. Life gets busier, and often your fitness takes a back seat. If this resonates with you, you're not alone. According to research published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, dads engage in significantly less physical activity and are less likely to meet recommended physical activity guidelines compared to men without kids.

As dads, we often put our family's needs first, leaving little time for ourselves. But maintaining a healthy and strong physique is essential not just for our own well-being but also to be the best role model for our kids. That's why we've tailored these strength exercises to fit into your busy schedule while helping you reclaim your fitness, physique, and health.

We spoke with fitness expert TJ Mentus, CPT, a certified personal trainer at Garage Gym Reviews, who serves up seven of the best strength exercises for you to add to your workout routine for fast results. So if you're ready to transform your body back to its pre-dad shape, keep reading. Then, discover how to Banish Your 'Dad Belly' for Good With This Free Weights Workout.

Deadlifts: 4 sets of 8-12 reps

illustration of barbell deadlift

Deadlifts are the G.O.A.T. of strength exercises, building up your glutes, hamstrings, and back. "Deadlifts are one of the best strength movements for building strength and muscle mass when done correctly," says Mentus. "With good form, they will also help improve posture and grip strength, which can be just as helpful when improving your body's appearance. The whole body's posterior chain is worked while deadlifting, helping to create stronger backs and hips and a more muscular physique."

Grab a bar with plates on the ground with your hands shoulder-width apart. Before lifting the bar, pull your shoulders back and set your hips down so they are just above knee height. Your torso should be at about a 45-degree angle with a flat back. Push through your legs and drive your hips forward to lift the weight and stand tall. Lower the bar by keeping your back flat and push your hips back until the bar is at your knees, then drop your hips until the bar touches the ground again. Perform four sets of eight to 12 reps.

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Kettlebell Swings: 4 sets of 25 swings

kettlebell swings

This dynamic exercise targets your entire posterior chain (backside) while boosting fat loss and cardiovascular fitness. "The kettlebell swing is an explosive movement that builds a strong core, back, and hips. These can be done at a high intensity which will help with burning fat and creating a lean physique. Performing swings multiple times a week will help regain that leaner pre-dad body," says Mentus.

Hold a kettlebell's handle with both hands in front of you. Pull your shoulders back to create a good posture that you'll maintain throughout the movement. Push your hips back and reach the kettlebell through the legs. Then, in one explosive movement, thrust your hips forward and extend your legs, allowing your arms to guide the kettlebell to shoulder height. Allow your arms to guide the kettlebell back between your legs as you push your hips back to start the next rep. Aim for four sets of 25 swings.

Kettlebell Clean & Presses: 4 sets of 15-20 reps

Kettlebell Clean swing and Press exercise

This compound exercise engages your shoulders, back, and arms for a shredded and toned upper body. "Clean and presses are another movement that can be done at a higher intensity to burn more calories," says Mentus. "The clean press works the whole body, with the lower half generating most of the power and the upper body guiding the weight and punching it overhead. Using the kettlebell in one arm is also great for building the core."

Hold a kettlebell in one hand and simultaneously pop your hips, and pull the handle to your shoulder with the bell resting against your upper arm and front of your shoulder with your elbow up. Then, dip your hips and aggressively extend them while punching the weight overhead. Do four sets of 15 to 20 reps.

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Pull-ups: 4 sets of max effort

illustration of reverse grip pull-ups

Pull-ups are among the most challenging bodyweight exercises. But on the plus side, conquering them will add strength and size to your lats and biceps while improving grip strength and upper-body strength. "Building up strong and wide lats helps to create a proportional and muscular physique as they create the V-shape of the upper body, making the waist look smaller," explains Mentus. "Pull-ups are one of the best exercises for working the lats. They'll also build up the shoulders, biceps, and forearms."

Hang from a pull-up bar with your hands just outside your shoulders. Pull your shoulder blades down your back, then bend your elbows, pulling them into your sides until your chin is over the bar. Lower yourself back down until your arms are straight. Aim for four sets of as many reps as possible.

Ab Rollouts: 4 sets of 12-15 reps

Ab Rollouts

This killer core exercise activates your entire abdominal region, including your deep core muscles, for enhanced stability and a toned midsection. Mentus tells us, "Rollouts are one of the more challenging ab movements and help to create a more defined six-pack. As you perform a rollout, the entire core has to brace hard to protect the spine and stabilize the midsection. Maintaining this tension is very tough but will lead to big results."

Start in a straight-arm plank from your knees with your hands on the roller. Keep your hips extended and back flat with tight abs as you roll out in front of you with your arms allowing your torso to get closer to the ground. The farther you go, the harder it will be. Keep your arms and back straight as you pull the roller back in. Perform four sets of 12 to 15 reps.

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Sled Pushes: 10 rounds of 50-yard pushes

sled push illustration exercise

Sled pushes are a functional full-body exercise that also taxes your cardiovascular system, making it an excellent addition to your dad-bod transformation. "Sled pushes will help improve conditioning which burns lots of calories and improve lower body strength and muscle," states Mentus. "Moving a heavy sled requires leg and hip drive, creating tension throughout the body. This fatigues the muscles quickly and will increase the heart rate rapidly. Sled sprints are one of the most effective ways to get leaner and stronger simultaneously.

Grab onto the poles of the sled and straighten your arms fully while flattening your back. Start with short choppy steps to get the momentum going, then fully extend your legs as you get it moving. Try to reach a full sprint speed. Perform 10 rounds of 50-yard pushes.

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Walking Lunges: 4 sets of 12-15 reps per leg

reverse lunges exercise

Walking lunges enhance balance and coordination for a stronger and more defined lower body. "Lunges are underrated for building strength and a lean body. They primarily work the lower body, but if you add dumbbells in each hand, the shoulders and upper back will also be challenged. When done for longer distances, lunges will also get the heart rate up and increase calorie and fat burn," says Mentus.

Step forward and lower your back knee to the ground so that both knees create 90-degree angles. Once your back knee lightly touches the ground, press through your front foot and drive your hips forward until you stand tall and both feet are together. Aim for four sets of 12 to 15 reps per leg.

Adam Meyer, RHN
Adam is a health writer, certified holistic nutritionist, and 100% plant-based athlete. Read more about Adam
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