By Jamie Millar
Photographs Oliver Burston

Battling to shake that dad bod? Follow this guide.

The owner of the ubiquitous Dad Bod combines the occasional moderate hour at the gym with more frequent epicurean sensibilities. Unchecked, his Mr Average physique will hinder both his ability to grow new muscle, and to repair injury. And, unless you’re a millionaire film star, it’s a difficult look to pull off.

Benched Benefits
Whether you’re out of the game completely or no longer seeing the fast results you did 10 years ago, lapsed athletes face a triple threat, says “career extension specialist” Mackie Shilstone. Having helped quarterback Peyton Manning lift the Super Bowl trophy last year after his multiple neck surgeries, 65-year-old Shilstone still terrifies clients – such as, ahem, Serena Williams – with his fitness levels. “If we let fitness slide, we face sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss; anabolic resistance, which is the failure of exercise to stimulate growth like it did when you were 20; and a significantly reduced ability to recover,” he says.

If you happen to be a Dad Bod denier, complacency is your enemy. Whether it’s a penchant for partying or a new addition to the family keeping you awake at night, it’s clear your priorities have shifted since those halcyon days when you could pack on muscle and keep off fat while eating whatever, whenever. In your head, you’ve still got it; in reality, you’ve got a burgeoning middle-aged spread and fading muscle memory.

But turning things around doesn’t require Inception levels of complexity. “By far the biggest contributor to the Dad Bod is being too busy or tired to dedicate proper time to progression,” says Shilstone. The answer isn’t more time in the gym, but to rethink what you’re doing while you’re there. “The same short warm-up on the bike followed by those biceps curls you’ve been doing forever won’t solve anything,” says Shilstone. To mix things up, it’s time to embrace a technique beloved of Arnold Schwarzenegger, a.k.a. the True Fitness Daddy.

Growth Spurt
If age or indolence has grounded your gains, high-intensity drop sets will lift things off the ground. Whatever you’re doing, aim for twice as many reps as normal, lifting your usual weight. When you tire, drop the weight by 20% and keep going with this method until you’ve finished all reps. Pushing through fatigue engages dormant muscle fibres, promoting growth and strength to recapture your youthful physique.

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1. Dumbbell Squat

2 sets of 20 reps
A heavy bar on your back isn’t ideal when working towards failure. Hold dumbbells by your sides (A) and slowly lower into a squat with your back straight (B). Explode up and repeat, reducing the weight by 2kg each time you feel like you can’t go on.

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2. Bench Press
2 sets of 20 reps
Lying on a bench, start with a barbell weight you can comfortably lift for 10 reps. Lower the bar to touch your chest (A), then power it back up (B). Once you hit the wall, drop 5kg and continue – with a spotter on hand should your arms give out before your will does.

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3. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

2 sets of 20 reps
A bodybuilder’s favourite, this ropes in the entire upper back, shoulders and triceps. Stand up straight with a medium-weight dumbbell in each hand
(A). Raise your arms to the sides to make a T shape (B). Lower and repeat, working down the rack until all reps are done.

Tackle that skinny fat look or fight off the gym bro look.