He had been a father for about five years and poured himself into his kids. Here’s a case study of how I took a 35-year-old male from dad bod to beach bod status.
I did a full assessment on the guy to get started. Got his medical history and all relevant information, as well as a doctor’s okay. I didn’t require the doctor’s okay, but he mentioned when he signed up that he was going to the doctor soon and I asked him to run it by the doctor and get a written “Okay to undergo an exercise program – no restrictions.” from the doc.
He drank about 3 times a week and would have a cigarette or two while he drank. Over the past several years his sleep wasn’t amazing. Currently got just under 7 hours. The office he worked for bought his food and he just ate what was available.
He was a very fit baseball player in high school, and he did maintain his fitness for several years in college and after. When his wife had the baby was when he stopped everything.
The First Workouts
He could only commit to three days at first.
I did the usual personal trainer thing and got him walking on the treadmill and continued getting him to talk about himself. We are trained to do this. It’s called the “talk test” and it gives you an idea of how fast someone can get out of breath. If he’s walking and finds it hard to talk, go easy on the guy. He did better than most.
We started with basic exercises: squats, pushups, lunges, etc.
This is a period where I observe and see if his hips are tight and pulling a knee one way or the other. Or sometimes a simple move will cause pain and we figure out what is causing it. It is important to do these things before you start increasing intensity.
This period is not to be rushed. Just going through these basic moves will make any inactive person sore, so you’ll still be making progress. You’ll also be able to see if pain shows up from doing these basic movements by asking them about it.
I find that it is best to assume nothing with any of my clients. The guy looked like he could run. I don’t believe anything until I see it. And even then, I get him outside and have him jog once around the building. Then watch. Does he favor one side? Does he land heavily on his heels? Does he have decent shoes or are they worn out and exacerbating an existing problem?
It takes any good trainer a couple of weeks with a client before they can safely ramp up the intensity on someone. Plus, it takes about two weeks for your neurological system to get into gear and adjust to the exercises as well. The gains at first are great and you really don’t have to punish the guy with heavy weights and debilitating muscle soreness.
So for the first two or three weeks, just chill. Focus on working out the schedule and building daily habits. Get into the groove of going to the gym, sweating and going home. Let yourself have a win.
It is a bigger step to go from not exercising to exercising than it is to go from exercise to very intense exercise.
Lots of boys and girls try to get started and hit it hard. The correct sequence is:
- Get started at low intensity
- Increase intensity
The Main Priority
Once we got through that initial stage, building strength and building an ability to do intense workouts without injuring himself was all I was focused on for this guy. This is obviously in addition to hammering in perfect form on every move.
A note on form: You can’t keep adding weight and progressing if you have bad form. I heard one coach say, “Adding weight on top of poor form is like painting a dirty car.” Also, as you ramp up the weight on a move, you’ll find more things to fix.
I was basically training him up to a basic level of strength so that he could do some of the harder workouts that we had coming. You aren’t going to get a beach body by just doing a few chest presses on a machine. If you want extreme results, you have to do extreme workouts.
For example, I need him to be able to do 25 minutes of continuous work, such as:
5 rounds, 1 minute each of the following:
- Box jumps
- Jump Rope
- Wall Ball Shots
- Clapping Pushups
He also needs to be able to get close to 2X his body weight on a back squat and a deadlift. I would expect a max bench press to be about 1.5X his body weight. He needs to be able to sprint.
If he can lift that heavy and also have a 5K run in the low 20’s, he’ll be at or close to his goal.
To really hone in on the looks part (that everyone is obsessed with), we had to get some grip on the nutrition.
Now, this is a moving target and always will be.
The good thing is that this guy didn’t really care what he ate. He wasn’t necessarily addicted to anything, he would just eat whatever is available.
His planning was completely out and that was the biggest thing to fix. So, we planned out an ideal dinner because his wife was on board and happy to spend a little time putting a healthy meal on the table at least once a day. I told him that, for now, it didn’t matter what he ate the other two meals, just get that dinner meal on the rails.
The dinner was simple: Lots of salad or steamed broccoli or other low-glycemic, low-carb vegetables. Salad dressing was oil and vinegar. Then there was about 6 ounces of meat. Then, there was also an avocado or other fat option.
All low glycemic.
Eventually I put him on a form of the Zone diet, which basically balances your macronutrients (proteins, carbs and fat) for every meal. It was simple. He could easily pack and eat a snack of 12 almonds, 20 grams of protein in protein powder and a handful of carrots.
Personal trainer trade secret: Losing weight, gaining weight and doing just about anything to a body through diet is all about getting control of and planning out macronutrients for each meal.
As the Workouts Progressed
The weeks went by, and he was getting stronger at the big lifts: squats, bench press and deadlift. We also played with front squats and overhead squats, but these weren’t the main focus.
He was also able to do more intense work for longer periods of time.
And this is where the fun and the yelling start. This is where the guy goes into beast mode.
At this point he’s seen several pounds of fat get replaced with several pounds of fat. He’s able to lift more and run faster. When he leaves, he’s usually covered in sweat. With all points of safety and correct gradients followed all in order. Hit the go button.
The Intense Workouts
You’ve got to have the right gym to do this. Lots of space, able to drop a weight on the ground and run around – that sort of stuff.
Here are some examples of workouts that he was doing (after a warmup, of course):
As many rounds in 20 minutes as possible:
- 400m run
- 20 body weight deadlifts
- 20 hanging knees to elbows
- 20 ring dips
- 20 pull ups
Maximum back squat
Maximum bench press and weighted pull ups
4 rounds of:
- Row 500m
- Lunge 100m
As well as a various assortment of the CrossFit benchmark workouts.
I got lucky and this ended up being a very good client. Everything you would want as a fitness trainer looking to train a sane person. He listened and he didn’t do stupid things like get drunk on the weekend and get injured.
He generally kept to his diet and made a ton of visible progress in his physique. He could have made more and made all of his abs pop out, but he got to where he had four-pack abs and on a good day (or a dehydrated day) he had his six pack.
He was standing taller, feeling better, he said he was able to be a better father and produce more for his family. He inspired others to get started in the gym and ended up referring several of his friends. That’s what I like about this game of fitness. No one loses. You pay me to to spend time to make you better. It’s a great profession.
And the world was rid of one more dad bod.
Not all cases go this smooth.
We can run into old injuries, the wife or baby can get sick and throw the routine off, the wife could just be against him spending time on himself, or any other combination of things can just throw it off.
The most common denominator is whether or not you are surrounded by people who support you. If you’ve got a lock on those you interact with and they are with you, then you’re set.
If you’re hanging out with buddies who are a bad influence on you or if your close group doesn’t really want you to be fit (because usually they’re fat and you’re alienating them), then it is an uphill climb and you’ve got to do a bit more than just get yourself in the gym. Rearrange your life.
I personally want to see everyone be able to reach the goals they set for themselves.
The program described above is not the only route to a beach bod, but it is a workable route and one that worked really well for that specific dad.
I hope this helps.