If you’re among the devoted fans of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (and we are legion), you’ve seen star and co-creator Rob McElhenney go through multiple body transformations over the course of the show.
Over the course of 15 seasons playing Mac on the FX and FXX comedy, McElhenney has gone from scrawny to bloated to ripped. One photo of him looking particularly jacked at a Los Angeles Pride parade stunned his audience so much that it went viral.
McElhenney’s transformations started when he gained 60 pounds over seven months, he told Men’s Health, to embody a heavier Mac between the sixth and seventh seasons of Sunny. But then he backtracked, losing that weight and becoming shredded, leading to inevitable comparisons to fellow diesel star and buddy Ryan Reynolds.
Like Reynolds, luckily, McElhenney has divulged some of what went into packing on slabs of lean muscle. From diet to exercise, here are healthy tips and habits we could all pick up from the man behind Mac.
He Bulked Up By Chugging Melted Ice Cream
McElhenney packed nearly 70 pounds onto his trim 135-pound frame by following his nutritionist’s advice—for a very short time.
“I worked with a sports nutritionist who basically had me eating three chicken breasts, three cups of rice, and three cups of vegetables. And I had to eat that every two hours. So, I tried that for half a day,” he told Men’s Health.
He quickly found a faster way to bulk: milkshakes. “It turns out if you drink a gallon of ice cream every day you will start to gain weight.”
When he wasn’t chugging ice cream, he was hitting the weight room. “I started lifting really heavy because it was building up ridiculously fit muscle and the fat would just sit on that. So, I put on the weight in about two and half months – three months,” he told the magazine.
To drop the weight, he says he simply quit his frozen treat habit. McElhenney claims that he lost the first twenty pounds in just over a week by ditching the ice cream and while keeping up with his weight-lifting exercises.
He Worked With a Magic Mike Trainer
When McElhenney set out on his impressive journey to a toned body—in part because his character does a pivotal rain dance at the end of season 13—he started working with the trainer Arin Babain, the personal trainer who worked with Channing Tatum for Magic Mike.
Babain reportedly put McElhenney through his paces 6 days a week, focusing on the following schedule:
Day 1: Chest and Shoulders
McElhenney did 3 sets of 8 reps of bench presses, incline dumbbel presses, chest flies, dips, cable pull-downs, and dumbbell shrugs.
Day 2: Back and Arms
Sticking with the 3 sets/8 reps structure, McElhenney powered through deadlifts, barbell rows, bicep curls, lat pull-downs, hammer curls, weighted chin-ups and weighted wide-grip pull-downs.
Days 3 and 6: Core and Calisthenics
McElhenney’s twice-weekly bodyweight workout included planks, jump squats, burpees, military push-ups, crunches, chin-ups and clash push-ups.
Day 4: Shoulders and Arms
McElhenney built upper body strength doing 3 sets of 8 reps of these moves: overhead presses, barbell shrugs, military push-ups, kettlebell swings, standing rows, and alternating front and side raises.
Day 5: Legs
On leg day, Babain challenged McElhenney to power through leg presses, calf raises, box jumps, dumbbell lunges, hamstring curls and squats.
He May Have Gotten a Boost from Testosterone
When netizens questioned if his pumped-up pecs were natural, McElhenney told Men’s Health: “I’m not going to get into the medical science. Let me just tell you something. Increased levels of testosterone is just a cross I have to bear.”
He might be joking about steroid use, but he hits on an important truth: testosterone is key to hitting fitness goals. Working out has been shown to increase T levels. And replenishing T levels if they’re low can help you develop muscle mass. (You can try Hone’s at-home assessment to safely and easily check your T levels.)
Checking your T levels is so easy with Hone’s at-home assessment that you can knock it out before hitting the gym.
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He Consumed a Lot of Chicken, But No Booze
McElhenney joked that if regular folks want to get jacked fast they should follow his lead.
“Anybody on the planet can do this,” McElhenney told MH. First thing’s first: if you have job—like a 9-5 job—quit that. Do you like food? Forget about that. Because you’re never going to enjoy anything you eat…So what you need to do—you have a chef, right? like a personal chef?—make sure the chef makes you a lot of chicken breast.”
He’s not wrong when he recommends firing up lots of chicken breast (lean protein that’s versatile in plenty of different dishes) and skipping beer and cocktails, which are generally killer for any health and wellness milestones. “Alcohol?” he told Men’s Health. “Sorry. That’s out.” Which means so is acting like the pub-dwelling characters on Sunny.
He Took Up Yoga to Get Better at Golf
Once McElhenney got back to his lean weight he decided to level up his golf game.
However, his fit frame made the sport a bit challenging. “It’s the complete opposite of lifting heavy. You have to become less muscular and more flexible. So I’m going to start doing a lot more yoga, a lot more Pilates.”
He Prioritized Sleep
In an Instagram post about how he got ripped, McElhenney said that he got 9 hours of sleep per night. After a 3-mile run and a grueling workout, it’s safe to say he needed it.