How Glenn Howerton, star of the new NBC comedy A.P. Bio and a creator of Itâs Always Sunny in Philadelphia, realized his health was no joke.
I NEVER THOUGHT OF myself as a leading man. But when I moved to Los Angeles, in the early 2000s, I kept getting pushed into those kind of roles. Not only hat, male actors all seemed to think that they needed to be as cut as Brad Pitt in Fight Club. I have nothing against being ripped, but it was a ridiculous standard. In helping to create Itâs Always Sunny in Philadelphia, I had the chance to lampoon some of the stereotypes Iâd encountered.
My character, Dennis Reynolds, is obsessed with his appearance, and some of the douchey things he saysâlike âworking out the glam- our musclesâ and âpopping the shirt off ââare cribbed straight from guys I used to know. That said, I do want to look good on camera. For Season 7 of Itâs Always Sunny, Rob McElhenney, who plays Mac, put on 50 pounds of fat as a gag and tried to get me to do the same. But that wasnât exactly the direction I wanted to go. I want to lead a healthy life; I just donât want to be obnoxious about it.
A turning point in my health came in 2013, when my lower back started to seize up really badly. I was in my mid-30s and producing Itâs Always Sunny with a skeleton crew. Iâd had back problems since my 20s, but they started to get worse. There was a lot of pressure on me, so Iâd pop a few Advils and try to grit through it. I could get through a day as long as I wasnât filming a scene that involved jumping on a trampoline or diving into a pool. But it got to the point where my back was locking up every four to six weeks. Iâd be putting on a sock, then it would be game over, and Iâd be in bed for an entire day.
I ended up seeing a neuromuscular expert named Sam Visnic, who helped me relax overworked muscles and activate others instead. Itâs hard to describe the movements we do: He lies me down, puts my legs at a 90-degree angle, thrusts my pelvis, then cocks my right foot forward as I squeeze a ball between my knees. But it works. Since I started seeing him three years ago, my back hasnât seized up once.
The Write Stuff
Nowadays, I spend a lot of my time sitting at a desk working, whether for Itâs Always Sunny or A.P. Bio. Given my history of back pain, I have to counteract sitting all day with regular training, which Iâve made a firm part of my schedule. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I train in my home gym, usually in the late afternoon. I recently switched from lifting to doing more body-weight exercises. For my glutes, Iâll do pistol squats while holding a medicine ball. For my arms, Iâll do pullup variationsâoverhand to underhand, wide grip to narrow grip. I have a ball grip add-on that I put on the bar, which makes pullups brutal. On Tuesday and Thursday, I do yoga, which has improved my flexibility, and I enjoy the peace of mind that comes with it. Iâve also learned that I look and feel my best when I eat a high-protein, high-fat dietâa lot of meat and avocado, basicallyâwith lots of vegetables. Iâm not afraid to make a good bone broth or add bacon fat to a meal, either.
The main reason I train is so I can pick up my two sons, ages 3 and 6, without having to think twice about it. But I do just enjoy challenging my body. It wouldnât be realistic for the professor I play in A.P. Bio to be shredded within an inch of his lifeâbut, as much as I spoofed hard-body types in Itâs Always Sunny, I look forward to landing a superhero role one day that gives me the excuse to. After all, who wouldnât want to get paid to put on 50 pounds of muscle?