The Best Short Exercise Routine For New Fathers With No Time

To all the fathers with no time, it's time for a gut check.

by Alison Zeidman

Sometime around Spring 2015, the Internet bestowed upon us “dad bod,” that term for when a previously-in-shape dude (you) chases a 30 minute-a-morning routine on the elliptical machine with 8 slices of pizza at a toddler’s birthday party. The ladies claimed to love the love handles. There were think-pieces and hot takes. It’s all fun and memes — until you notice it’s happening to you.

Adam Bornstein is a fitness expert, New York Times bestselling author, and new dad. He told you how to make sure you don’t throw your back out carrying around your kid, and now he has some tips on what you can do to make sure you don’t throw your front out over your belt line.

Bad News, There’s No One Magical Fat-Zapping Move

Late-night infomercials lied to you; there’s no way you can spot-remove fat on specific areas of your body (at least, not without a strong will, a sharp knife, and a little Bactine). Bornstein says you need a general resistance training program that challenges the entire body and promotes overall fat loss.

“Working yourself head to toe is going to cause all of your muscles to work harder, and your metabolism is going to be challenged more,” he explains. “If people just do ab work, they’re never going to lose fat.” And when you don’t see results in that target area, you might be tempted to quit altogether. Which is how you end up drinking a 6 pack instead of chiseling one.

But There Are 3 Magical Fat Zapping Moves!

Bornstein says the best way to achieve fat loss is to create a workout that maximizes metabolic stress, doing a variety of exercises at high intensity (or the popular HIIT method) and with shorter rest periods. It’s like your 3-year-old’s approach to naps.

The recommended routine is 6-10 reps each of 3 exercises. Repeat that as many times as you can over 20 minutes. “It sounds easy, but when you’re doing that many reps you’ll work up a sweat and get really tired. You’re causing your metabolism to work a little harder by doing exercises that challenge your entire body,” he says.

  • For Upper Body: At home, stick to push-ups. When you’re at the gym, trade that for chest presses.
  • For Lower Body: At home you can do lunges in the living room. At the gym, hold 2 dumbbells.
  • Core Exercise: Mountain climbers, to turn you into the Mountain.

The Core Core Moves

Sit-ups haven’t been considered crucial since the Presidential Physical Fitness Test, when Arnold did one-handed push-ups with Ronald Reagan on his back. To key in on your abs, Bornstein recommends 2 higher-intensity core moves that put a twist on old standbys:

  • Med Ball Slams: Best left for the gym or basement (unless you have the chillest of downstairs neighbors). It’s dead simple: Pick up a medicine ball. Hold it over your head. Slam it to into the floor. The movement of your upper arms combined with the weight and resistance of the ball mimics the effect you get from a crunch, “but it’s not putting your lower back at risk,” says Bornstein. “And it’s a little bit more metabolic because of the explosive nature of slamming the ball into the ground. Plus, it’s kind of fun.”
  • Harder Planks: Unlike the basic plank, this one maximizes tension. “You really want to think about the muscles involved,” says Bornstein. “Squeeze your abs as hard as possible as if you’re bracing to get punched in the gut, squeeze your glutes, and press your forearms into the floor.” You might be able to hold a lazy plank for 3 minutes, but see if you can handle an active plank for one. For a more difficult variation, try picking up one hand or foot off the floor at a time. If you’re feeling saucy, use one hand and one foot total. “What makes your abs work harder is removing stability. That’s a way to create a multitude of ab exercises without needing equipment,” he says.

Don’t Have Time? This Doesn’t Take Any

If you were an every-day-and-twice-on-Sundays gym rat before you had a kid and you try to keep that up, Bornstein pretty much guarantees you’re going to fail at fitness and fatherhood. “The biggest change I made when I had my son was to the amount of time I got to go to the gym,” he says.

Instead of saving up time in his schedule to get in just one or 2 long workouts a week, Bornstein would set aside 20 minutes, 4 days a week, as a way to comfortably maintain his baseline fitness level. If you only use your gym to shower when your boiler is broken, start at 10 minutes 3 times a week and build from there.