Stop me if this sounds familiar.
You’re up early with the kids. It’s breakfast and chaos then out the door — daycare, school — and off to work for you, where you’ll be all day.
You come home. It’s right into dinner, bath time, winddown time (more chaos), and bed time.
Congratulations, it is now at least 9pm, and you’re exhausted.
Somewhere in there, you were supposed to find the time to get in amazing shape. Didn’t you get in the memo?
From one dad to another, I know it’s really, really hard. But I’ve got some tips and ideas that’ll help. (Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty of workout tips for working moms, too!)
But before we dive into the best workouts for busy dads, let’s talk about why being a dad cranks fitness up to hard-mode.
And if you’re in a hurry, which you probably are, here’s what I recommend:
If you can slip away from the office or kids for about an hour, twice a week, and want to burn as many calories as possible in a short time:
Join ClassPass (click my link to get a FREE MONTH) and hop around between spin, yoga, bootcamp, and HIIT classes at your convenience.
Group fitness classes for dads are really fun, keep you motivated, and can scorch over 400 calories in a session.
If you want a comprehensive workout program you can follow from home with little to no equipment (great for stay-at-home dads or dads who workout in the morning or evening):
Check out my Beachbody on Demand review.
Choose a cardio, strength, or other program that’s as short as a few days or as long as a few months, and follow it to the T for amazing results. (BOD includes a pretty helpful nutrition guide for each program, too)
If you can make it to the gym about 3 times per week and want to shed the dad-bod in favor of a lean, chiseled physique:
Check out the Kinobody Warrior Shredding Program.
This is the exact lifting and eating program I used to shed 15+ pounds of fat and finally get lean and strong.
If you want a little less commitment and structure, and you’d rather just pull-up a one-off workout when it’s convenient:
Try Aaptiv (hit my link for a free weeklong trial).
It’ll build a custom workout schedule for dads based on how many days per week you want to exercise and what style of workouts you like, but it’s great to pull up an audio-guided workout whenever you want for:
- The elliptical
- And more
Whenever you get 20-30 minutes of downtime.
Now keep going for some tips on how tired and busy dads can squeeze workouts into their schedules (and hopefully, make some smart eating choices along the way).
Why it’s so hard getting fit as a dad (according to science)
We dads don’t exactly have the market cornered on being doughy, but we do own our fair share of it.
After all, they don’t call it the “dad bod” for nothing.
There are a couple of reasons getting in shape just seems to get harder and harder, but don’t fret, there’s some light at the end of this tunnel:
1. We’re busy
Everyone thinks they’re busy, but parents know a level of business most people can only dream (nightmare?) of.
One recent survey found that working parents only have about 90 minutes of free time a day (and even that estimate is extremely generous due to the constraints of the survey).
There’s just not a lot of time leftover after we’re done being great dads.
2. We’re tired
Parents tend to get 1-2 less hours of sleep per night than their counterparts. That REALLY adds up.
When you’re exhausted, AND busy, as we found above, that’s a really bad combination for making it to the gym.
3. Our testosterone levels are slowly declining
Testosterone, the source of male energy! It gives us life, energy, and just enough competitive spirit and aggression to drive us to kick ass in the gym.
Unfortunately, once we turn 30, we start to lose it. Slowly. (We lose about 1% of our T-levels per year after 30.)
That’s not much at first, but starts to take a toll into your late 30s, 40s, and beyond. If you do manage to drag your tired ass to the gym, your gains might be a little slower than they were when you were a young stallion.
Now here’s the good news
You may have heard that your metabolism slows down as you age, and that losing weight and keeping it off can become damn near impossible as dads get older.
This is, more than likely, not true at all. The simple truth is that you’re either getting less exercise and activity than before, eating more, or both.
That, my friends, we can fix.
The best free stay-at-home dad or beginner workout
It’s time to do something.
It’s OK if you’re insanely busy, out of shape, and never have time to leave the house (like stay-at-home dads, for example). We can work with that. The important thing is to start exercising again, even if it’s just a basic routine.
My top recommendations are Aaptiv (audio-guided workouts on the go), Beachbody (full programs you can follow at home), ClassPass (hop around fitness studios with one membership), and the weightlifting routine I used to get cut (details below).
But you don’t have to spend any money to start making a change.
For a good beginner, at-home workout for dads: I highly recommend the Bodyweight Beginner Program put together by the contributors over at the bodyweight fitness subreddit.
In this free routine you’ll spend about one hour per night, three nights per week, doing bodyweight strength exercises in your own home.
(I hope I don’t have to convince you that, whatever you do, strength training is an absolute must for fitness and a great body.)
In this program you’ll:
- Do dynamic warm ups to improve mobility and prevent injury
- Build up to advanced moves like handstands through smart progressions
- Work your whole body using challenging bodyweight moves
- Progress to more difficult variations as you gain strength
Why dads should try it: It’s free, you can do it from home, you need minimal equipment (a pull up bar will help), and it’s a great way to get really strong and athletic.
If you’re really serious, and can make it to the gym, try this: the ultimate anti-dad bod workout
You may eventually reach a point where you’ve become quite strong at bodyweight workouts (or maybe you were already athletic) and you’re ready to go lift some heavier weights at a real gym.
If you can make a very simple commitment to 3 workouts per week, I implore you to check out the Kinobody Warrior Shredding Program.
This is the exact program I used to lose 15 pounds of fat while also being a busy dad, so I know first hand that it works.
In this program you’ll:
- Gain massive strength on key lifts that emphasize a strong back, broad shoulders, and sculpted chest
- Drop fat through a really simple and flexible diet and get that flat stomach or abs you’ve been craving
- Spend a maximum of 3 hours per week in the gym while other guys seem to live there
- Completely transform your body. If you follow the program you’ll be shocked.
Why dads should try it: It’s low commitment and flexible (only 3 hours in the gym per week), it includes a full nutrition protocol with everything you need to shed fat, and you won’t just lose weight, you’ll turn heads.
If you’re intrigued, click here to get an easy $20 off the program by taking a simple 30-second survey from Kinobody
Tips for staying on track and losing the dad bod
Getting in shape is actually really, really simple. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Here are a few things I’ve learned that might help.
Choose something you can commit to.
If you can go to the gym 5 days a week, that’s great (but maybe not even necessary). If you can only make it twice, that’s fine too. If you can only do home workouts, that’s cool!
Just make sure you’re realistic about what you can do week in and week out, and stick to it.
However, I urge you to be hard on yourself and not use “busy and tired” as a catch-all excuse to sit around and watch TV when you could be working out.
Only you can really decide whether one workout a week is really all you can do, or if you’re just being lazy.
(Believe me, I know how hard it is to be a parent and how busy things can be. If one workout a week is really your max, there’s no shame in that! Just don’t let yourself off the hook too easy.)
Nutrition is more than half the battle.
You can get stronger muscles no problem, but if you don’t dial in your eating you’ll never lose the dad bod.
Don’t cheat and think that you’ve earned the right to eat whatever you want just because you’re working out now. It’s going to kill your progress!
The good news is that nutrition, like exercise, is simple but not easy. You don’t have to only eat salads and whole grains every day. You can eat a lot of the things you love, you’ll just have to keep better track of your calories and macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbs).
This is a bigger topic than we’ll get into right now, but a good target for weight loss for dads is about 12 calories a day per pound of body weight.
Enjoy the process
If you’re Hugh Jackman and you have to play Wolverine on camera in 6 weeks, you hire a personal trainer, you work out twice a day for hours at a time, and you eat 5,000 perfectly rationed calories prepared by a full-time chef.
In a few weeks, you’re transformed.
Busy dads don’t really have that luxury. We have to learn to love the slow and steady progress, and enjoy the incremental gains along the way.
Start your strength training and dial in your diet, and marvel at how your triceps start to pop out as the fat fades. Feel the tightness in your chest. Watch small amounts of fat and water weight leave your face and reveal a slightly more chiseled jaw line.
Those little moments of self-appreciation will keep you going.
Good luck out there, fellow dads!
If you want some more options, check out the rest of my workout program reviews right here.
Fit Dad FAQ
Can you get a six pack after you become a dad?
Yes! You abso-freaking-lutely can.
People think to get an awesome body you need to pour in a ton of work, long hours, and deprive yourself of everything you love. The truth is that, when it comes to getting in shape, less is more, and consistency matters more than intensity.
If you can commit to three awesome workouts per week (that’s it!), you can make amazing progress. If you can just hit a certain calorie level consistently every day, or most days, you’ll do awesome (whether your goal is to slim down or bulk up).
The important thing for dads is gaining strength and getting lots of rest and recovery. You don’t need to be in the gym every single day, or hitting 2-a-days with long runs in the morning and lifting weights at night.
You can slowly coax your bodyfat down with a proper diet while strength training in the gym, and you can definitely get that six pack.
What are good muscles to work or good exercises for carrying your kids?
To get stronger at carrying your kids around (especially as they get older and bigger!) you’re going to want to have a super powerful foundation.
That means strong legs, a powerful back, and a steel core/ab muscles.
The main program recommended above should do the trick.
You’ll hit some one-legged squat variations that build a lot of stability and power in your legs. You’ll build a really strong and broad back doing weighted pull ups. And you’ll hit the abs with some challenging direct work as well.
Alternatively, you can get a really strong base doing traditional squats and deadlifts.
Arms are totally overrated for overall carrying strength. But they do look nice!
Should dads build a home gym?
If you have the space and budget, a home gym can help you out tremendously.
It’ll be way easier for you to find the time to workout, whether it’s first thing in the morning while the household is still asleep, or late at night when you finally get some alone time.
Not everyone will have the option of building a full and glorious basement gym, but you should definitely consider adding at least a few small pieces of equipment (like dumbbells or a pull up bar) to your home for those days when you just can’t sneak away to the gym.
And if you want more tips & ideas, check out my guide on what to do when you have no time to exercise and work too much.