Meet David Albers The Durable Dad

There is a growing wave of men in their forties who are unwilling to accept that their best years are behind them. Contrary to the dadbod stereotype, men like of Durable Dad are pushing to have their best life experiences well decades after entering the workforce and starting families. Durable Dad is an upcoming educational site that will educate men, especially former athletes to help them live pain free, healthy and active lives well into their later years.

How long have you trained at home?

I started training at home in 2015.  I had been working through some knee issues that forced be to get out from under the barbell for quite a while.  I ended up purchasing some kettlebells and tackling Pavel’s Simple & Sinister program at home and have never seen the necessity in paying for a gym membership since then.  I stuck with that program for about a year while also focusing on restoring my joint mobility and strength and have been able to make a lot of strength progress – more so than ever before.  From there, I continued to make progress in Simple & Sinister, so I would save up and purchase one or two more heavier kettlebells.  I have been accumulating kettlebells, jump ropes, battle ropes, and sand bags since then.  My heaviest bell now is 48 kg/106lbs.

What’s your next purchase?

This is a good question… there are a few things that I would like to acquire.  If I could narrow it down to one thing, I would like to get a big tractor tire next.  There are some farm equipment repair shops around that have large tires to dispose of every now and then so I keep an eye out for one that I would like to take off their hands.  My training area is relatively small so I will have to make sure that it can fit in my garage.

Kettlebell collection belonging to Durable Dad David AlbersI know you’re a grad student so you can’t just rush out and buy all of the toys.  What’s your strategy for getting good deals on equipment?

When it comes to the kettlebells, I actually just save up to purchase new ones.  I want the lifetime warranty that comes with them and I like to purchase ones that are single cast because I get pretty rough with them.  I have purchased all of my bells from Rogue Fitness as they have the best prices on new single cast powder coat bells.  It takes a lot of patience to save up for the next size but it is worth it to me.

For sandbags, I actually made one on my own.  I found a really sturdy old canvas bag for free, then went a purchased a few bags of pavers sand at a hardware store for $4.00 per 50lb bag, then loaded up the canvas bag lined with some industrial grade trash bags.  It weighs in at about 150lbs – that makes for some good cheap training fun!

For extra stuff like ropes, rings, suspension straps, bands, and jump ropes, I just keep an eye out for online deals or local listings.  Face book had the local “swap & shops” that are very handy for that stuff.  There are local gyms getting rid of old stuff all the time for good prices.

You’re really into movement culture. Do you have a preferred training modality?

Personally, I use kettlebells.  I would not argue that they are the best modality, but they are by far my favorite.  I like them because they are versatile and demand respect from their user.  I will say that getting under a barbell has been made much easier by training with kettlebells for the past three years.  I really like to mix kettlebell and body weight movements, specifically push ups, dips, or pull ups.  Personally, I try not to get to fancy with my exercise selection.  I really like to stick to a narrow focus of movements in a training plan to maximize adaptation and progress.

One of my favorite quotes from you is fairly recent. You said, “Being able to move a joint through a wide range of motion with control is like being able to write your ABCs.” I like how you phrase that. It implies that your goal is to maintain your mobility as you get stronger so you not only minimize your risk of injury but prolong your athletic career. How did you get started in training for mobility?

Ah yes! This actually happens to be my profession.  I work in sports medicine.  I see patients every day to evaluate musculoskeletal issues and program appropriate treatments via active exercises.  All forms of training follow the same rules of adaptation – there must be a habitual exposure to some kind of specific stimulus to drive positive adaptations.  When it comes to mobility, it is building blocks of movement.  I started as a practitioner in 2011.  Over the years, I have made it a point to push myself to learn more about the science of training and how specific tissues and the nervous system respond to training (specifically mobility training) and actively work on my joint health.  The main thing with mobility training is that fitness does NOT equal joint health.  The health of the joints must come first.

Then in 2015, I ended up taking a big step back from my training because of some chronic knee issues that had become much worse.  After taking time to truly assess my current state and my training activity leading up to that point, I came up with a plan to make myself better then train with much more intentionality.

That must have been discouraging to be in your line of work and then have knee issues. What caused the problem?

What’s your athletic background?

Mainly swimming.  I swam competitively and recreationally through my teen years then really dialed in on running after that.  Not competitively, just on my own.  I started taking strength training more seriously in 2013 and kinda got addicted to being strong. I picked up Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength program and have not looked back since!

You started on Instagram in January of this year. What’s the goal of the posts you make? Durable Dad founder David Albers made this diy sandbag

I am going to share my heart with you on this.  I see a lot of information about training freely flowing through the internet and social media.  From my observations, that information pulls people in a thousand different directions and there is a lack of communication of basic underlying training principles.  It is one thing to show a sexy exercise or workout routine, but it is another thing to teach people how to make themselves betterover time.  Understanding the logical adaptive processes of the body is the ground work for helping people take better care of themselves.  That is the kind of information I want to convey.

I am still in the process of building my website, durabledad.com, where I will make this kind of information more accessible and deeply explored for those that truly want to take their musculoskeletal health and strength seriously.  I also plan to use YouTube and Sound Cloud as methods of delivering content.

So you’re building the website, YouTube and Sound Cloud?

Absolutely! I am slowly building up my platforms for content delivery.  Some like quick tid-bits on Sound Cloud media, while others like videos or podcasts and some actually like to read articles.

I understand that grind!

I am still new to the podcast style of content so it’s an adventure, especially with a bunch of little hooligans running around while I am trying to record!

As a wellness professional, continuing education is important but it probably also helps you as a lifter. How often do you attend workshops and seminars?

Generally, I will attend one per year.  My credentials are both a blessing and a curse in a way.  I am required to accumulate and submit continuing education units every other year.  It is a blessing because it really drives me to think carefully about what I want to dedicate that time and money to because it will affect both my personal and professional practice.  However, it has been really difficult to justify getting to workshops while I am in grad school.  I will be finished in October, 2018 and I will be on the look out for workshops again.

One that I have particularly enjoyed and benefited from is a Functional Range Conditioning movement specialist (FRCms) certification I did last year.  Dr. Andreo Spina will challenge everything you think you know about how the body works.  Incredibly fascinating.

I have my sights set on two workshops over the next couple of years.  I would like to attend one of the StrongFirst instructor courses, specifically for kettlebells.

My wife and I plan to attend their Kettlebell User course this fall. Rob Brinkley spoke highly of them in the article we did on him.

I would also like to attend another seminar put on by the same providers that put on the FRCms courses. What draws me to a workshop or course is how rooted the concepts or principles are in science.  I am definitely a questioner, so I have to be convinced that a method is supported by evidence.

Bud Jeffries aside, one of the knocks on athletes who promote mobility first is that they often can’t post numbers in the gym or on the platform that are as high as those who put mobility on the back burner. You’re a fan of strength. What are your best lifts?

Ha yes! Bud is one of my Instagram heroes.  That guy is amazing.

Yeah he is! True strongman in every sense of the word.

You have a really good point.  I have to say that the term mobility is used to describe a few different things.  I would say that most see mobility and flexibility as the same thing. To me they are not.  Flexibility is having a lot of passive range of motion.  Mobility is the ability to actively access that range.  For example, laying on your back and using your hands to pull your knee to the chest is flexibility.  Standing upright and using the muscles of the hip to actively draw the knee toward the chest is mobility.  Mobility indicates control of the range… not just having the range.  With that, improving your mobility will, by nature, improve your strength because the muscles simply work better through a broader range.

Anyway, back to your question… my best lift is the Get-up.  I am working toward a Turkish Get-up with 135 on a barbell and a 200 lb sandbag Get-up.  My current maxes are 120 and 165, respectively with a current body weight of 200.

A Turkish Get-up with 120lbs is nothing to sneeze at! That’s pretty impressive, especially with a barbell where the leverage advantage is so bad for one handed lifts!

I am currently practicing a complex developed by Dan John called the Armor Building Complex that consisted of two cleans, one strict press, and three front squats with double kettlebells.  Currently, I am able to complete ten sets.  With that, I am strict pressing 140 lbs for ten reps.  I am still struggling to strict press a pair of 80’s, which is frustrating but it’s all about the process. You just have to embrace it and try again later.  I have not devoted a lot of time to developing my deadlift as I have been focusing so much on Get-ups and double kettlebell work but my most recent max is 405lbs which I was happy with.

One of my bucket list goals is to be able to get into a full , straddle split. That’s going to help me as a martial artist kick higher without effort. What are some bucket list goals of yours?

I would love to be able to do a handstand and even walk in a handstand.

Yeah, that’s solid. Nothing like watching Crossfitters casually walking all over the place on their hands like it’s nothing to make me feel completely unathletic!

Another would be a body weight bent press.  I am really hooked on this Armor Building Complex and would really like to be able bang out a round with the beasts (48kg kettlebells).  I don’t know if that is realistic, but I am officially putting it on the bucket list.

That bent press goal is also one I’m hoping to achieve one day. I spend time on the Side Press a few times a week to help with my shoulder issues but eventually, I plan to improve my proficiency in the Bent Press. My shoulder mobility just won’t let me get into a good position right now but we’re getting there.
But enough of my problems. You had a novel idea to break up exercise throughout the day. You said, “Do a 2-min workout… 8-10 times every day! To become more fit, your body needs habitual exposure to training stimulus (exercise)”.

It goes back to Pavel Tsatsouline’s “Grease the Groove” principle.  Provide a submaximal stimulus for a very small volume (to avoid fatigue) but with very high frequency to drive specific results.  For example, if someone wants to improve their swings or single arm kelltelbell clean and press, then they are going to need a kettlebell at work.  It totally depends on what you want to get better at.  If strength is actually a skill, then you need to practice the exact skill you want to get better at.

True. You get better but you don’t overtrain because you don’t wear yourself out. How would you recommend someone with a desk job implement that? They’re going to get strange looks taking their kettlebell into the men’s room every thirty minutes. Do you suggest body weight movements instead?

That is why it is important to be intentional with the exercises you select.  So, you could leverage body weight movements, if that is what you want to get better at. Looking at it from the perspective of just wanting more movement stimulus through the day, someone could use body weight movements and simplychange them up more often because they are not focusing on a specific skill.

I consider this approach to be at the opposite end of the spectrum from most workout fads we see today.  This approach is not a “get ripped in 4 weeks” type of plan.  It is a systematic way to chip away at your goals constantly, day in and day out for months or years until you are where you want to be.

You mentioned Arthur Saxon in one of your Instagram posts. He was legitimately a strong guy for any time. Who else are you a fan of from that era?

In addition to Saxon, I also look up to Eugen Sandow and Hermann Gorner.  I ended up getting copies of books that both Saxon and Sandow had written.  I figure that these guys had training figured out as they have set some strength records that have not been challenged to this day.  There is a lot of merit in that.

The more I learn about those guys, the more impressed I become by what they could do.  We’ve got some impressive guys today who carry on the tradition but it’s a shame that more people don’t know about their legacy. One reason I’ve become interested in the old time strongmen is their ability to lift heavy loads at awkward angles. Mark H. Berry, the men’s Olympic Lifting coach in 1932 said, “The trained athlete should be able to move with complete freedom in any direction.” It seems that we’ve lost that focus and the consensus seems to be that you need to sacrifice your health in order to achieve your goals as an athlete. Then you retire and you have to deal with the consequences of those decisions. What’s your advice for someone in that situation?

Mobility FIRST for any athlete.  If you are an athlete (as in one that is contributing most of your time and energy to your training and recovery), you need to be exposing your joints to their end ranges in all directions to make them as useable as possible.  This is what I mean about the lack of understanding of the foundational training principles.  The body is very specific in its adaptations, if you only expose your joints to very specific movements for many years, they will optimize themselves for those activities at the expense of their ability to do other things (motions or positions).

Mobility FIRST for retired athletes.  You have spend the last several years optimizing your body for a specific skill.  Now you have to make it useable or the long term.  Start exposing joints to end ranges and asking muscles to work at the end ranges.  It will not be fun, that’s why its called mobility training.  Get the joints healthy before continuing on your post athletic training journey.

For parents, it is ok if your kids do not “specialize” in a single sport when they are young.  Let them just be kids!  Climbingtrees, running, jumping, crawling, rolling, riding bikes, and building forts are good because there won’t be a situation of overtraining a specific movement or skill.  If your kid wants to play sports, great!  But its just a game, so let it be.  Additionally, your kids imitate you… if they see you getting on the floor and dedicating time to your mobility, they will naturally do the same.  When I am doing my mobility routine, my kids always want to do it with me.  Not only do I let them, but I instruct them on what I am doing and why I do it.  My 10-year-old eats up that stuff… he is nerd like me.

A lot of your advice seems to be aimed at dads in their late thirties and forties. When someone in that age bracket takes up a fitness regimen, society either suspects a mid-life crisis or worse, their wife starts asking hard questions. What advice do you have for those men to help them articulate their need to not fade away quietly?

When I am working with a patient I need to get them to buy into my process.  Part of that is getting them to expose their why to me.  Not being in pain is a superficial why.  I want to know why they don’t want to be in pain.  I am looking for things like “I want to be able to pick up my son again.” Or “I want to be able to go on bike rides with my family.”  That is a why that I can work with and one that truly matters.  The same is true in fitness.  Someone may want to lose weight to “look better naked” which is a valid desire.  Why do they want to look better naked?  Maybe they want to feel more attractive for their spouse. Their why could be that they don’t want their son to turn out like they did (overweight or unhealthy) or because they cannot do specific things with their family because of their current state.  The point is to know your deep why.  However, the issue is that men generally don’t share that deep stuff, which I believe is partially due to societal expectations of men.

So, my advice is:

  • Do not care about what society thinks about you and your desire to become more fit.  This is between you and your loved ones only. They are the only ones that matter in the long run anyway.
  • If someone really wants to know (especially if it is your spouse), then you need to be willing to share your deep underlying why.  There is power in saying it out load to someone that cares about you.
You’re a fan of outdoor training. I knew sunshine was good for you but I was surprised to find out from Stan Efferdingthat the Vitamin D created by sunshine has a positive effect on immune function, energy levels and even how well you process other vitamins. What benefits have you noticed from outdoor training?

Being outside is good for my soul.  I am inside all day at work.  To me, training outside is liberating.  I am also the type of person that would be totally happy living in a log cabin on the side of a mountain with minimal technology.  I simply enjoy the smell of the trees and warmth of the sun.

How much crawling do you include in your daily movement practice?

I actually only work on crawling a couple times each week.  It is nothing fancy, just forward, backward, and lateral crawling with a roller on my back.  I don’t tax myself very hard with it.  I do it just to keep the skill crisp.

It’s interesting that you train your kids alongside you. Since you’re a grad student, I’ll throw this one at you. People are becoming aware of the dangers of sitting but I don’t see much talk about the dangers from book bags. Our tendency is to wear the bag on only one shoulder and my soft tissue specialist noticed that I’ve got more heel wear on my right shoe because I tend to favor that shoulder when wearing my sling bag. One of the kids I train has one hip higher than the other and I suspect that’s partially due to him wearing his book bag on that shoulder. What things do you do with your kids to protect them from incremental damage due to book bags and sitting in school?

This goes along with the idea of good and bad posture.  Posture is nothing more than a position and I would argue that there is no such thing as a good or bad position.  The only time a position is a problem is if (a) your joint is not capable of that position or (b) you spend way too much time in that position.  So, there is nothing wrong with wearing a backpack on one shoulder, but you are going to have to switch shoulders regularly at minimum.

Kids get addicted to screens so early these days.  So, they go to school and sit for 6-8 hours per day, then they sit on the bus, then sit at home in front of another screen.  We should expect nothing else then a messed-up body by the time they went to start taking any kind of training seriously.

With my kids, I actually don’t get too worried about what they are doing at school as far as sitting.  It has to happen, its just the way things are set up these days.  But when they get home, they don’t get much screen time.  Their shoes come off and they go play.  For kids, play and a sound diet solves a lot of potential issues.  As they get older, they can make their own decisions,but I am banking them on sticking with the lifestyle they have been taught by me over the years.

I mentioned being a martial artist and one thing I’ve noticed is that as I’ve spent more time kicking in different directions, my squats have improved. It’s not that the weights I handle have shot up, it’s more that I can train without pain and that means I can slowly nudge the weights up without the issues I used to have. So my max hasn’t increased so much as my walking around strength has gone up. You talked about the benefits of the 90/90 position. Why is it important to expose your hips to their end ranges of motion on a regular basis?

The short answer is because that is the only way to improve the quality of tissues.  Joints need to spend time at their end ranges to stimulate both the nerves and the tissues fibers of the joint capsule.  The capsule are the ligaments that wrap around a joint and provide structural integrity.  There is a specific type of sensory nerve that is stimulated under high tension which is achieved by move in to end ranges.  Stimulation of these nerve endings and the actual capsular fibers result in reorganization of cells and fibers over time to allow more range of motion and more tissue resilience.  Additionally, the central nervous system will regulate the “tone” of muscles around a joint based on condition of the actual joint tissues.  Improve the joint tissues, and muscles around the joint will start to work better.

The presents of pain can significantly alter the function of muscles around a joint because the brain is trying to avoid pain.  So, you have to stimulate as much of the capsule as possible without working into joint pain.  Over time, you earn more pain free range, muscles work better, and you get stronger.

For most joints, axial rotation is the best way to stimulate the capsule (except for the spine, use flexion and extension).  That is why the hip 90/90 can be so useful as it places both hips in a maximally rotated position.  To keep it active, I like to use isometric contractions in that position to enhance the usability of that range.

Talk about the value of solitude. What have you learned from your practice of being alone this year?

Man, with five (amazing) kids at home, working with patients at work, and interacting with fellow students constantly, you need some time to yourself.

To me solitude is:

  • a time for reflection.  We are bombarded with information all day.  We make decisions all day.  Solitude allows me to reflect on what is going on in my life and (hopefully) clean some wisdom moving forward.  I think about thigs things that went well and think about what made it go so well.  I think about thigs that I really screwed up and how I can keep that from happening again.
  • a time to make decisions.  As I have stated before, I am a questioner.  After I have gathered as much information about a decision as I can, I like to make it on my own.  But I need time to think on my own without anymore input from others.
  • a time to calm your mind.  God has created a magnificent world.  I can witness His infinite wisdom and creativity.  It is time for me to just be; to just exist in His creation.  One of my favorite places to be is Grandpa’s farm.  It is so fulfilling to me to just be away from the business of life and to take time to slow down to observe and be thankful for all that I have – my precious family and a Creator that loves me.
Well said! YouTube is famous as the place where people go to learn things whereas Instagram is where you go to see cool stuff. Why did you choose Instagram as your social media platform? Is it a way to draw attention to your brand ahead of launching your site?

You got it!  IG is a good place to build a following so I actually have an audience to launch to in the near future.

What can people expect from durabledad.com?

Originally, I wanted it to be a blog.  However, I want it to be more “living” than that.  I really want it to be a place where men can go for quality and pertinent information.  As I have stated before, I am a questioner at heart.  Things must make sense to me before I can justify their use in my own practice.  I want to provide simple and actionable information for men but also have the deeper information available for those that like to dig in to know the why.

So this is aimed primarily at men? Sort of like the Art of Manliness?

I specifically want to target dads like me.  Men that are pulled in a lot of different directions and have had to learn how to prioritize their life the hard way.  I feel like there are not a lot people looking out for these guys, you know?  Let’s face it, making time for myself is rarely a realistic thing with five kids, full time job, and grad school.  I train anyway, I just let my kids be involved in whatever I am doing.  I want to show dads that reality and that it is okay.

Additionally, I want to facilitate interaction of the users.  There is so much wisdom out there among our dads and fellow coaches.  In addition to the posted content, I want to cultivate a community of dads sharpening their experiences and learning from each other.

When do you expect to launch the site?

Originally, I was planning to lunch this spring, but school ended up taking a much greater toll than I had anticipated.  I have pushed the launch back to August or September of 2018 at the latest.

Is it going to be primarily content from you or do you plan to collaborate with other writers?

I would love to collaborate.  Overall, the content will primarily be from me, but I would like to interview various other writers or even some users.  I am constantly making audio notes through the day of thoughts that I have for content as I work with people.  I also know that I am going to meet some pretty amazing people that have a lot to offer and I would like to allow them to contribute also.

Where can people follow your training now?

You can currently find me on:

1. Instagram – @durabledad

Sites still under construction:

4. My website – durabledad.com
5. SoundCloud

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About the author

John Greaves III is a writer based in North Georgia with nearly two decades of experience in training at home. A former amateur kickboxing champion, John now competes recreationally in powerlifting. He takes a physical culture approach to training; believing that strength and health need not be mutually exclusive. In addition to his nonfiction work, John has written two fiction books, A Different Kind of Giant and A Little Lesson in Manners that are available on Amazon.com.

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