How Glenn Howerton, star of the new NBC comedy A.P. Bio and a creator of It‚Äôs 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 It‚Äôs Always Sunny in Philadelphia, I had the chance to lampoon some of the stereotypes I‚Äôd encountered.
My character, Dennis Reynolds, is obsessed with his appearance, and some of the douchey things he says‚ÄĒlike ‚Äúworking out the glam- our muscles‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúpopping the shirt off ‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒare cribbed straight from guys I used to know. That said, I do want to look good on camera. For Season 7 of It‚Äôs 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 wasn‚Äôt exactly the direction I wanted to go. I want to lead a healthy life; I just don‚Äôt 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 It‚Äôs Always Sunny with a skeleton crew. I‚Äôd had back problems since my 20s, but they started to get worse. There was a lot of pressure on me, so I‚Äôd pop a few Advils and try to grit through it. I could get through a day as long as I wasn‚Äôt 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. I‚Äôd be putting on a sock, then it would be game over, and I‚Äôd 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. It‚Äôs 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 hasn‚Äôt seized up once.
The Write Stuff
Nowadays, I spend a lot of my time sitting at a desk working, whether for It‚Äôs Always Sunny or A.P. Bio. Given my history of back pain, I have to counteract sitting all day with regular training, which I‚Äôve 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, I‚Äôll do pistol squats while holding a medicine ball. For my arms, I‚Äôll do pullup variations‚ÄĒoverhand 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. I‚Äôve also learned that I look and feel my best when I eat a high-protein, high-fat diet‚ÄĒa lot of meat and avocado, basically‚ÄĒwith lots of vegetables. I‚Äôm 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 wouldn‚Äôt be realistic for the professor I play in A.P. Bio to be shredded within an inch of his life‚ÄĒbut, as much as I spoofed hard-body types in It‚Äôs Always Sunny, I look forward to landing a superhero role one day that gives me the excuse to. After all, who wouldn‚Äôt want to get paid to put on 50 pounds of muscle?