Dad Bod

The Best Workout Routine For All New Dads Who Bend, Lift, And Carry

Seven exercises to prep you for the kid-carrying and car-seat lifting you're about to be doing.

by Matt Schneiderman
Originally Published: 
man working out

There are no physical requirements for becoming a dad — but there damn well should be. Once that kid is born, you’ll be expected to bend, twist, and contort yourself in ways you never imagined while manipulating your squirmy, organic kettlebell. As with all things baby-related, taking on an exercise program to get in Superdad shape feels too-little-too-late. But just a few weeks of focused activity can get you physically prepared for the demands of literally raising a child.

“If you start training 4-to-6 weeks before the due date, you’ll be confident and ready for the big event,” says Robert Herbst, an 18-time world champion powerlifter, Strength Sports Hall of Famer, and personal trainer. “By doing these exercises, you’ll ultimately be able to walk through the airport with a diaper bag, a folding stroller, some of your luggage, and your baby.”

Many of these exercises are compound movements that use multiple joints and muscle groups at once. What’s more, if you continue to do these types of exercises after the baby comes they’ll revive your manhood. “New fathers’ testosterone levels drop,” says Herbst. “Compound exercises cause the body to secrete more testosterone and human growth hormone.” Here’s what to do.

Twisting Deadlift

Why? “This is for all the picking up, stooping, and lifting up of the baby when it’s in its infant car seat,” Herbst says. “You’ll also be picking up toys and diaper bags. These incorporate your hamstrings and spinal erectors.”

How To Do It

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Place a 20-pound kettlebell or dumbbell in front of your right foot.
  • Reach over with your left hand and pick up the weight without squatting.
  • Stand upright and then put the weight down in front of your left foot.
  • Pick it up with your right hand. Put it down in front of your right foot. Repeat for 10-12 reps.

Suitcase Deadlift

Why? “Women can hold the kid effortlessly with it resting on their pelvis,” says Herbst. “Men don’t have the wide hips that women have — we don’t have that convenient shelf. Holding the baby in your arms uses more muscle as opposed to bone.” This preps you for that motion and prepares your body to carry uneven (one-sided) loads. Bonus: There’s no chance you’ll fumble a football again.

How To Do It

  • Stand with an Olympic bar or barbell at one side.
  • Grab it in the middle, like a suitcase. Then put it down.
  • Repeat 8-10 times, then repeat on the other side.


Why? “You’ll do a lot of awkward stuff with a kid — holding them while reaching for your phone, reaching to the top shelf, or while walking a flight of stairs and stumbling over the dog. You need a strong core to hold a 20-pound load in all sorts of weird ways.”

How To Do It

  • Stand in front of a bench or block a foot high.
  • Step up with one leg and then the other.
  • Then step down in the same order. Repeat for 12-15 times, then switch legs.

Variation: Stand to the side of the bench. Step up with you left foot, then your right, then down on the other side of the bench with your left and then your right. Then return to the other side moving from left to right.

Dumbbell Rows

Why? This builds general strength for the one-armed lifting of car seats you’ll be doing.“You can build up to using some pretty heavy weights,” says Herbst. After doing this for a few weeks you’re going to start to get lats. After 3 months of doing this, your partner will consider trying for a second.

How To Do It

  • Place a moderately heavy dumbbell on the floor next to the weight bench.
  • Resting one hand on the bench, lean over and pick up the weight with your free hand.
  • Pull the weight straight up to the side of your chest. Your upper arm should stay close to your side you’re your body should remain stationary.
  • Lower the weight with controlled movements.
  • Repeat 8-10 times. Switch arms and repeat.

Front Raises

Why? “This isolates the shoulder,” says Herbst. “You’ll be holding the kid over your head or putting him back behind your neck for a ride on your shoulders. These motions put your shoulders in a horrible position, so you want to strengthen your rotator cuff muscles.” Because MLB pitchers get Tommy John surgery. You get Motrin.

How To Do It

  • Standing, hold lightweight dumbbells in each hand in front of your thighs using a prorated grip (knuckles up)
  • Lift one arm until its parallel with the floor, keeping your body still while doing so.
  • Lower the weight with control.
  • Do the same with the other arm and alternate between the two. Perform 10-to-12 reps.

Lateral Raises

Why? For the same reason as front raises. These are all about that shoulder mobility / being able to raise your arms when you’re 60.

How To Do It

  • Standing, brace yourself by holding on to a piece of equipment – a dumbbell rack, lat machine, etc.— with one hand.
  • Hold a light weight dumbbell at your other side.
  • Lift the weight in an arc, bringing your arm slightly above parallel to the ground.
  • Lower it down slowly. Repeat, then switch sides. Perform 10-12 reps.

Lift and Walk

Why? “This will get you used to carrying a load since you’ll likely be having your child on your chest in a carrier,” says Herbst who adds that its good practice for handling your baby the right way. “Imagine the kettlebell as your flesh and blood and imagine the infant car seat and child as a kettlebell.” At least that kettlebell won’t spit-up on you.

How To Do It

  • Pick up kettlebells or dumbbells (start with 10 pounds in each hand and work up from there) with knuckle forward grips.
  • Raise the weights so they’re near your collar bone, elbows pointing forward.
  • Walk for 2 minutes, maintaining good posture (shoulders back, chest out, stomach tight, knees slightly bent, and head up).

Now that you’ve mastered all of these exercises, it’s time to put on that sweatband (and matching wristbands), lace up the sneakers, and show your baby you’re just as limber and virile as the day you conceived it.

This article was originally published on