At Super Fit Dads we just love strength training and getting stronger.
That’s hands down the best weapon we have to reverse the effects of lower testosterone levels and age-related decline.
The reality is while getting old sucks, we can still be in better shape in our 50s and 60s than we were in our 20s.
How awesome is that?
And get this – even folks in their 80s and 90s respond positively to resistance training!
So it really is never too late to start.
But, like saving for retirement, the sooner we get started, the better.
They may be old school but nothing else comes close for building incredible whole-body strength, fast.
Take it from someone that tried to prove otherwise for years, and ended up wasting a whole bunch of time and money on “cutting edge” stuff that simply couldn’t deliver the desired results.
The bottom line is things like dumbells, kettlebells, exercise bands, and the TRX suspension trainer are fine for displaying strength, but they aren’t effective for building strength.
The “big four” barbell exercises are.
We can actually think of those as our basic ingredients – like the dough, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and basil in a pizza Margherita.
(Is anyone else feeling hungry?)
But just having the best ingredients isn’t enough, we also need a great recipe – and that’s how we can think of our training program.
The exercises are the ingredients and the program is the recipe.
And if our training is going to be as efficient and effective as possible, both need to be on point.
Getting strong is like a pizza Margherita
So let’s assume that you want to get as strong as you can, as fast as you can – you’re still in the game and to hell with Mother Nature.
Now, a good exercise routine will give you some decent initial strength gains, especially if you’re new to exercise.
But a dedicated strength-training program will simply skyrocket your performance, for little extra effort.
The Training Program’s Job
First off, the training program’s job is very simple.
To expose the body to a controlled amount of physical stress that causes it to adapt and become stronger.
This adaptation happens while we’re recovering between workouts, not during the workout itself.
In the next training session, we then apply a slightly greater physical stress, so that successive adaptations get stacked on top of each other.
Each workout builds on the success of the workout before it.
And since we want to get stronger, that means we have to gradually increase the weights we’re using, workout to workout.
It doesn’t mean doing a greater volume of exercise with weights that are easy for us.
Think of it this way.
Usain Bolt won’t run a faster 100-meter sprint by jogging endless laps of the track in training.
And he measures his 100-meter sprint performance by seeing how long he takes to run that distance.
Likewise, we get stronger by using progressively heavier weights, and we measure how strong we’re getting by seeing how much heavier those weights are than before.
So Many Programs
Now, there are more training programs out there than you can shake a stick at.
Starting Strength, GSLP, Stronglifts 5×5, Texas Method, H-L-M, 5-3-1, Reverse Pyramid Training
And they all sound kind of cutting edge and intimidating, right?
But remember, they’re just like pizza Margherita recipes.
Some say pre-cook the tomato sauce, others say bake at a different temperature, or for a longer duration.
And while all these programs have those kind of nuances, they have more things in common than they do differences.
The bottom line is they all work, and they all work for the same reason – there’s no “magic” or “secret” involved.
It basically comes down to delivering a precise amount of training stress that:
1. Is sufficient to make you a little bit stronger, and
2. Can be recovered from in time for the next workout
That’s pretty much all there is to it!
So, what’s the best training program for dads like us?
Well, that ultimately comes down to personal preference – as with diet, the best training program is the one you can actually stick to.
But let’s just keep in mind that we older dudes have:
- A lot less free time than younger guys
- A lot less recovery ability than younger guys
- Probably accumulated a few injuries over the years
- Way better things to do than hang out in the gym
So, we’re after the biggest strength bang for our training buck.
And, while we’re not exactly made of glass, we need to treat our bodies with a little more respect than we did back in the day.
Always keep in mind that the body needs to be coaxed and cajoled into getting stronger, not hammered into submission.
Forget all that silly “no pain, no gain” stuff – we’re not playing that game.
So, taking all that into account, here’s the best training program for dads I’ve found.
This program borrows heavily from that of the late, great “father of modern strength training”, Bill Starr.
It’s time efficient and progressively increases training weights in a way that’s friendly to older knees, hips and shoulders.
It also provides plenty of time to drill in correct form with lighter weights.
I use it with clients all the time, and it’s incredibly effective.
This is the very program Simon used to build back to a 225-lb deadlift in only 24 training sessions after his knee was rebuilt following a skiing accident in the backcountry.
You can be in and out the gym in an hour or less, and you train just two days per week.
How incredible is that?
Almost unbelievable strength gains from only eight hours per month.
That’s less time than a lot of folks would spend on social media in a week.
This is actually the go-to strength training program in the Super Fit Dads book, How To Get Lean, Strong & Bulletproof.
So here it is.
In a nutshell, we have two workouts, A and B.
Chins (or alternatives)
Both workouts are performed just once per week, leaving at least 48 hours between workouts.
So, something like Monday/Thursday or Tuesday/Friday would be ideal.
This is awesome for busy dads as it gives us a little wiggle room for when life gets in the way.
Can’t make your planned Monday session?
Simply push it back to Tuesday, and either keep Thursday as is or move it to Friday.
Then it’s back to normal the following week.
Now, for all except chins, we’ll perform 5 sets of 5 repetitions with increasingly heavier weights.
So here’s what that would look like:
Standing press 5×5
Bench press 5×5
Chins 3x maximum repetitions
The Program Details
How do the 5×5 sets work?
Basically, we’ll be using ramped (progressively heavier) sets for 5 repetitions each.
The set-to-set weight increase being roughly equal to 10 % of the heaviest set’s weight.
Here’s how that could work using the deadlift as an example.
Heaviest set: 215 lbs for 5 repetitions
Now, 10 % of 215 lbs is approximately 20 lbs (rounding helps to keep things easy)
Therefore, your five ramped sets would look like this:
Set 1: 135 lbs x 5 repetitions (135 x 5)
Set 2: 155 x 5
Set 3: 175 x 5
Set 4: 195 x 5
Set 5: 215 x 5
It’s really that simple.
How much rest and weight increase?
Rest as long as you need to get all five repetitions for all sets.
Naturally, the rest interval between sets 4 and 5 will be longer than the rest intervals between sets 1 and 2, or 2 and 3.
Hitting all reps on all sets qualifies you to add a small increment of weight to each set next time you train that exercise.
For squats and deadlifts, that’s typically 5 lbs and 10 lbs, respectively.
For bench presses and standing presses, it’s more like 2.5 lbs.
When you’re starting out, it’s better to lowball the weights – remember, getting strong is a marathon, not a sprint.
In a year’s time it won’t matter if you used 75 lbs or 135 lbs in the first workout.
What matters most is that you get started, build momentum, and keep making measurable progress.
Why sets of 5?
If we want to get strong, we need to be using weights that are heavy enough.
Typically, that means they allow us to get 5 repetitions per set (with maybe a rep or two left in the tank).
Lighter weights that allow 12-15+ repetitions make the body better at lifting light weights a greater number of times.
That isn’t the same thing as getting stronger.
The only variable we’re manipulating is the weight on the bar, everything else – reps/sets/exercises – is kept constant.
Remember that strength is something we develop just a few pounds at a time.
What if I can’t do chins?
If you’re training in a commercial gym, the best option is the lat-pulldown machine.
Perform 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions using a shoulder-width grip, with palms facing towards you.
Alternatively, you can do inverted rows, TRX rows, or assisted chins using an exercise band.
These are the exercises numbered 1, 2 and 8 in the below video.
How strong can dads expect to get?
With this program you’ll be adding 10 lbs per week to your squat and deadlift.
That’s 120 lbs in just 12 weeks!
Now that may sound unbelievable, impossible even – but it’s actually completely normal.
The problem is we’ve been conditioned to believing that our limits are so much lower than they really are.
That’s mostly because the stuff produced by the health & fitness industry doesn’t actually work.
And when the desired results don’t materialize, we tend to interpret that as evidence of our limited physical potential.
That’s just plain wrong – we’ve got a ton of untapped physical potential just waiting to be unleashed.
All we need is the right stimulus, and that’s what this program provides.
Now obviously, this won’t work forever – no program will – as at some point the law of diminishing returns kicks in.
That could take 10 weeks, it could take 6 months.
So just do the program as written and milk those easy strength gains for all you can.
It will be the most exciting and rapid training progress that you will ever experience!
It Starts Right Here
Right now you’ve got way more physical potential than you may realize.
You know the best exercises for getting stronger, and you now know the best training program for dads.
Just two hours per week for life-changing strength gains.
Now that’s the kind of return on investment we like!
It took me decades to find this program, but I’m grateful that I finally did.
All you need to do is to start putting it into action.