Although having a four-month-old son means I spend most of my days red-eyed and disheveled, fatherhood has also whipped me into the best physical shape of my life. There are two logical explanations for this: 1) The gym is my only refuge from Babyland, and I try to sneak off there whenever my wife’s not looking, and 2) I've begun to develop "dad strength"—the mythical power that comes from constantly lugging around a human bowling ball and all of his possessions.

Achieving dad strength isn't an easy process. The physical grind of child-rearing will leave you with an impressive array of aches and pains if you're not ready for it. So whether you’re a new father or if you're expecting a bundle of joy in the near future, do yourself a favor and add these three exercises to your workouts at least once a week. Someday, your kids will thank you. [Ed. note: They won't.]

EXERCISE ONE >>

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What you'll be doing as a dad

Holding your baby in a standing position for long periods of time, often while pacing back and forth as he or she screams in your ear; leaning over changing tables for diapering and dressing.

What you need to build

Your lower back. Generally the most neglected body-part in the average dude's workout, those erector spinae muscles will be crucial for all the lifting and bending.

Do this

Back extensions. If they're not already part of your fitness routine, start very slowly. Try 3 sets of 8 reps on a back-extension bench, and once you feel comfortable with that, add reps, or try it while hugging a 25-pound plate to your chest.

EXERCISE TWO >>

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What you'll be doing as a dad

Picking random crap up off the floor—or snagging a cold beverage from the bottom shelf of your refrigerator—while holding your child in one arm.

What you need to build

Your quads and core, which will allow you to descend in a straight, steady motion without your baby toppling forward out of your grasp. (Trust me, the kid's mother will never let you hear the end of it.)

Do this

Dumbbell/goblet squats. The point is to keep your back as straight as possible, so you may want to practice without weights until your form is perfect. Once you've got it down, I suggest these two variations: Squatting with a pair of 25-pound dumbbells held vertically against your chest (3 sets x 8, increasing dumbbell weight as necessary), and squatting with a 45-pound weight plate held directly over your head (3 sets x 8, increasing reps as necessary). Get good at this, and balancing an infant will seem like a piece of cake.

EXERCISE THREE >>

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What you'll be doing as a dad

Carrying your baby in a car/stroller seat. (Like this. Doesn't he look happy? Man, fatherhood is such a gift.)

What you need to build

Your delts and traps. Unless your job involves moving paint cans or buckets of water, you will be shocked at how unprepared you are to have weight hanging directly from the side of your body, and how quickly your shoulders start screaming for mercy.

Do this

Upright rows. You're going for endurance here, so use slightly smaller weights—say, a pair of 20-pound dumbbells to start—in three sets of 15. If that's not challenging enough, add weight. The front raise is another great exercise that hits the same muscles and closely mimics the motion of lifting the baby/car seat in and out of your vehicle. Once you’re able to do that without grunting audibly, pat yourself on the back and crack a beer; you’ve earned it, dad.