Training For Dad Strength
by Steven M. Ledbetter
5 minute read
In my previous post, I showed off my abstract thinking skills and presented “Coach Stevo’s Real World Model for Strength.” It was such a huge hit that I had literally a person ask me, “hey Coach! How do I train for that?” Well good news, everyone: here’s the follow up! Coach Stevo’s Rules for Training Dad Strength.
This is the simplest rule and therefore the one most people will ignore. If you want to be strong, you need to pick up, move, carry, and throw heavy things. How heavy? Heavy enough that you notice it on the first rep, but no so heavy you can’t do two. I am a big fan of autoregulation for people that can handle being consistently in tune with their bodies, but for those with other, more interesting hobbies, just stick to 10 total reps between all your sets.
Consistently but Infrequently
Training Dad Strength means moving your body every day, but rarely with enough force to produce grunting. How rarely? 3(ish) days a week. You should be going heavy on those “on” days, but listen to your body and lift as heavy as you feel you can. The “off” days? You should still work up a little sweat pushing, pulling, squatting, hinging, thrusting, pressing, or hell, just get-upping. I like doing 3-5 Turkish Get Ups and a set or two of bodyweight exercises. That combined with a long walk with a pretty girl should be good enough for any man looking to train for Dad Strength.
Complex but Simple
The movements you pick to train matter. They should should involve your whole body, the floor, your hands, and something heavy. In “the biz” we call those “complex exercises” because they involve multiple joints, but I personally think they are the simplest exercises. At least to remember anyway. It’s hard to forget a squat. You go down; you come up. It’s when you break that exercise down into the single-plane, single-joint variations that people have grown accustomed to (knee extension, hip adduction, ankle dorsiflexion, bla bla bla) that things get really complex and Dad Strength deteriorates. The reason is that our brains work this way. Our prefrontal cortex tells our reptile brain, “I wanna squat.” It’s up to the reptile brain to do all that multi-planer math that turns the sack of meat we call a body into a tool. So leave the math up to it. Just squat.
Grab It and Stabilize It
I am convinced the single most important factor in Dad Strength is stabilizing weirdly shaped weight and holding it there while the body moves around it. That means two things: 1) you’re gonna have to use your hands and 2) you’re gonna have to prevent it from moving you. Someone told me once that, “there are no strong people without strong hands.” Until I started swinging kettlebells, I didn’t know what that meant. But look around and you’ll see that nearly every human endeavor that involves strength involves grabbing hold of something and applying force to it. So train with stuff in your hands. But it’s moving that stuff in your hands when you’re gonna notice that bowl of jello between your pelvis and your shoulders. Stabilizing weight means holding it there and preventing it from crushing you or folding you in half. A decade ago, trainers called that “core strength,” but now we are getting smart enough realize that it’s really just strength. And Dad Strength is using your whole body as a single tool.
The Dad Strength Pantheon of Movements
Firstly, I should say that all you need to train for Dad Strength is a Squat, a Hinge, a Push, a Pull, and a Loaded Carry that you like. But here are the ones I like, organized by tool.
The Swing: Duh.
The Split Squat: This exercise requires stabilizing your hips, shoulders and spine with an asymmetrical load through most of your range of motion. Nice.
The One-Arm Press: Stay rooted to the ground and press weirdly shaped weight in one hand over your head? Dad Strength, ho!
The Push Me-Pull You: Do a push up with one hand on a bell, then pull it up to your armpit while still in the push up position. Now tell me that doesn’t require strength in just about every way.
The Rack Carry: Heavy weights that make you want to tip over every which way while you hold onto them for dear life. Isn’t that just what your Dad felt like carrying you?
The Overhead Squat: The granddaddy of all strength movements and the inspiration for the term “Dad Strength.” Yeah, it’ll take you a few weeks to build up the shoulder and hip mobility to do it right. But the moment you can, you should. If you have access to a barbell, some rubber plates, and train on the ground floor that is.
The Deadlift: Picking heavy stuff off the floor with your hands? Yeah, you’ve figured this out by now.
The Clean & Jerk: Explosively throwing weight off the floor, catching it with your body, stabilizing it, then split-squating it and stabilizing it over your head? Damn. If Dad had done these, maybe he wouldn’t have needed your help every time he went to the dump.
Why Am I Doing This Again?
A lot of my clients don’t care about being strong… at first. Most of my clients come to me wanting to be hotter, but try to hide their vanity by telling me they want “to be more toned and have more core strength.” But no matter what your goal, even if it’s fat loss, getting stronger is the name of the game. When you are stronger, your posture is better, your body is harder, your booty is shaplier, and you can recruit more muscle into every movement which means that you burn more calories doing stuff that isn’t working. That extra buffer means you can eat a pie every now and then and not freak out. It means more hotness with less work! So go pick up some heavy stuff and throw it around.