March 26, 2021 10 min read

There’s a point in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia where Mac is suddenly totally ripped. He’s suddenly transformed from a plain-looking, sort of schlubby dude to a bronzed rippling supermodel. It’s such a drastic change that people initially didn’t believe it actually happened.

The internet is full of Rob McElhenney interviews where he has to prove that he did, in fact, shed all of that weight. If you’re wondering how he did it, and if you can replicate it, then be prepared to totally turn your life around. It’s doable, but it requires single-minded dedication to the task, it’s not quick, and it’s the furthest a task can be from simple.

Rob McElhenney

It’s More Difficult in Philidelphia Than You Think

Rob McElhenney does something that a lot of celebrities neglect to do when he’s interviewed about the changes he made with his body. He talks openly about how incredibly difficult it was to reach the heights he’s reached during his weight loss journey. 

Just think about it. He lost a pretty huge amount of weight and then he kept going. He not only slimmed down, he got jacked. He spent nearly every single day for well over six months totally upending his life and dedicating himself completely to the goal of rebuilding his body from scratch. His diet, his habits, and everything he did from day to day were all in service of becoming a stronger, slimmer, and more cut human being. In a particularly bold, tongue-in-cheek comment to Men’s Magazine, you can see Rob McElhenney sarcastically talking about how “easy” it was to totally turn his life around. He tells them “...it’s actually quite simple, and anybody can do this. Anybody on the planet can do this,” sounds good so far, right? 

He continues on, “first thing’s first: if you have a 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. Alcohol? Sorry. That’s out. 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. And make sure you keep your caloric intake at a certain level.” It’s that simple. All you have to do is either get a job that doesn’t require any kind of schedule or quit working entirely. The next step is totally upheaving your diet, and getting a personal chef.

You can see that getting yourself to look like him is incredibly difficult. Rob McElhenney is worth $50 million. It took him leveraging his incredible amount of wealth and focusing on only improving his body to get to where he is now. Even then, he wasn’t able to buy his way to fitness, he had to sweat and he had to work incredibly hard to get those results.

Poetien powder

The Philly Diet

The most important part of McElhenney’s plan to shed all of this weight was his diet. In his interviews, he often talks about having a personal chef to take the edge off. He didn’t have to really make any diet choices because all of the mental processing was offloaded onto someone else. This part of his routine is much more achievable than the other aspects of it.

You don’t have to have a personal chef and a ton of time but do are going to have to get a little creative with the way you plan out your meals.

Rob McElhenney says a few things about his diet. His favorite foods? Out of the question. No more beers after work. You’re going to have to be incredibly discerning about when you eat, and you’re going to have to be meticulous about the amount of food you’re putting in. 

For the six months he trained, his diet was almost entirely lean meat and easily digested carbs. He talks a lot about how sick he got of grilled chicken and rice, but that’s the kind of food that’s available to you when you’re limiting your intake as drastically as he did. Chicken, rice, and leafy green vegetables are going to be your strongest allies in the fight against fat. You want a diet full of protein to rebuild your muscles, carbs to impart energy to your body, and vegetables so you can top up your vitamins. 

Rob McElhenney is often quoted telling magazines that at least one of his meals would just be a protein shake. This sounds pretty spartan, but when you realize the kind of hunger-suppression effects a protein shake has. Your body responds well to the presence of protein. A protein shake is an excellent way to lose weight. Sometimes the best strategy is the most simple one. If you want to eat less, then you need to suppress your hunger. Protein does that much more quickly than other nutrients while also serving the purpose of rebuilding your damaged muscle fibers after an intense workout.

Eat smarter, not harder, and you’ll find the path to success.

This all sounds daunting at first, but if you just prepare your meals ahead of time and track your intake throughout the week, then you’re going to have a much easier time. You don’t need a personal chef, and you don’t need iron willpower. You just have to make time for yourself. Rob says “if you have a job—like a 9-5 job—quit that,” but that’s a little far. 

Working eight hours a day, and all of the time your commute takes from you does leave you with very little time to dedicate to your workout and mealtime, and obviously, that’s what he’s getting at. You can mitigate this by sticking to a more rigid schedule, though. If you line your workouts up with your week so that your rest days fall on your weekends, you can keep your rest days active enough to encourage muscular growth by getting chores done around the home.

Meal prepping for the entire week is one of the best ways to save time (and money) during the week. If you can set your meals up and have them all ready to roll in the fridge then you won’t have to burn time every time your stomach rumbles. 

The leg up Rob McElhenney has over you is that he doesn’t even have to consider meal prepping and he has the flexibility to change up his meals. That’s a hurdle you’re going to have to claw yourself over, but it’s the easiest part of getting yourself on track for losing weight and gaining muscle. 

Your muscle mass is dependant on your diet. You can work out every single day of the week for hours at a time, but if you don’t have the protein and vitamins to keep your body happy then you’re just wasting the effort. Your body is made up of all of the food y7ou’ve eaten, so if you’re not taking the time to fill yourself with the kind of healthy food that you need to rebuild your muscles. Take your diet seriously and build strategies that will enable you to make wise decisions and you’ll be well on your way to matching pace with a multi-millionaire. 

The Exercise

Rob McElhenney is pretty vague when it comes to the specific exercises he did to shed those pounds, but we do know that “all you need to do is lift weights six days a week.” He’s probably vague because keeping up a healthy routine for six weeks requires a lot of variables.

If you’re going to lift weights six days a week for six months, then you need to think like a weightlifter. Your body benefits from weightlifting a great deal, but if you don’t make sure that you’re tackling all of your muscles and creating a balanced, well-maintained machine. When you’re building a workout routine, make sure you’re switching things up. You can’t just spend six days of the week pounding on the same group of muscles.

This is for the same reason your diet needs to be on point if you want to see any kind of muscle growth. Lifting weights is hard on your muscles, it’s an activity that depends entirely on your ability to overcome the limits of your body. Your muscles are going to be sore, they’re going to tear, and they’re going to build themselves back stronger than before.

This process means that you have to be smart about how you lift weights. If you’re doing bicep curls to failure every day of the week without giving your biceps the opportunity to rest, then you’re just battering battered muscles. Progress is about recovery, so your routine needs to reflect this. Think of your exercises in pairs. Your body is full of muscles that have antagonists. If you’re going to work on your biceps one day, then work on your triceps the next day. If you’re working on wrist curls one day, then try working on some reverse wrist curls. 

Flexibility is going to be important as well. Your muscles are made up of incredibly dense cells. That makes them powerful and capable of incredible feats, but that also makes them very rigid. If you’re pumping up your muscle mass without also working on your flexibility, then you’re going to pay for it in the long run. Your muscles will start pulling joints out of place and causing you all sorts of pain after a while. Make sure you’re stretching or doing exercises that incorporate flexibility like calisthenics. 

running

A Strong Workout

If you’re still unsure what your workout should look like, then here are some suggestions. These workouts target your major muscle groups and their antagonist muscles, and they’ll encourage flexibility and cardiovascular health. All of this exercise is important, McElhenney’s workout routine touched on all three of these aspects of health.

Rob McElhenney’s workout routine was stuffed full of all sorts of weightlifting, but the one thing he was specific about was his daily three-mile run. If you’re shy about cardio, then change that. Your body needs cardio to keep up with the energy and oxygen demands of your body. If you’re serious about your weight lifting, then you need to be serious about your cardio. The only way you’re going to supply your big weightlifting muscles is with a strong and efficient cardio system.

Arms

If you want thick upper arms, you need to work on your biceps and triceps together. These two exercises will isolate each of those muscles, making them a good pair for building strength and size in your upper arms.

  • Skullcrushers: 
  • Biceps curls: You can do 21s if you think your mileage has run out for biceps curls. This variant of your curls, will keep tension on your arms, making them a source of eccentric tension, that will challenge your biceps in new and surprising ways

Chest and Back

Your chest and back are the areas that you’re going to want to focus on. They’re going to be the most impressive areas to chisel out when you’re trying to make an obvious and impressive change to your body. Your chest and back muscles, are going to create the most obvious growth that you can show off the easiest. 

Make sure, you’re spending a good amount of time on both halves of your torso, spending too much time on your chest is going to ruin your posture and tank your flexibility if your traps and obliques can’t keep up with the passive strength of your overgrown pecs.

  • Push-ups: your push-ups don’t have to be just a chest exercise, you can vary the distance between your hands to focus on different muscle groups. This can make your push-ups one of the most versatile exercises in your routine.
  • Chin-ups

Legs

Leg day is the bane of a lot of lifters. Folks will overdo it, or they’ll skip leg day so many times that when it’s time to finally put their legs to the test, they’ve lost all of their endurance. Keep up with your leg days, and if you’re in agony the next day, then make sure you’re walking it off the next day. Your  soreness is only going to be worse if you allow your muscles to seize up in between leg days 

  • Deadlifts: If you only do one of these exercises, then deadlifts are the best option of the three. They’re going to work out your lower back as well as your legs, making them an exercise that will get you way more work for your time then other leg exercises 
  • Leg Lifts
  • Squats

Cardio

Make sure you work in a decent run every day. If you’re not ready to make it three miles a day, then build your way up. The cardio is going to make or break your routine. Your body needs the heart health, and a run is a great full-body exercise that uses your core and lower body in conjunction to propel all of your bodyweight across great distances.

Rest Like The Best

One thing you will find in every single successful workout routine is at least one day dedicated entirely to rest. The most important aspect of a healthy lifestyle is figuring in rest. McElhenney’s frenetic workout routine still involves “at least 9 hours of sleep a night” and he still only worked out six days a week. Rest isn’t for the weak, you can’t skip rest days. You’ll be totally invalidating your work if you don’t figure out how to rest effectively.

This workout routine is heavily focused on weightlifting. If you’re trying to maintain your health without disrupting your momentum, you should opt for an active rest day. These are rest days that keep your level of activity up without pushing your muscles as far as a regular workout will. This means activities like a long walk or a light jog, yoga, or just ambling around your home and getting your chores done. Anything that will get blood flowing throughout your body without making you break a sweat.

Just remember that you’re not invincible, and your body simply requires rest. If you want to get swole or lose the pounds, then you’re eventually going to have to pump the brakes. Just looking at things from a simple mechanical point of view, you’re going to have to allow your body the time to rebuild if you want to make any kind of progress.

Can You Train Like Mac?

The amount of time and the degree to which your life is beholden to upheaval is out of this world. You can’t sculpt a body like McElhenney’s without totally dedicating yourself to the process. It’s not easy, and even McElhenney talks about the incredible difficulty of achieving that goal, even with all of the resources he had at his disposal. If you’re going to take on this workout plan then you’re going to have to take some drastic measures to set yourself up for success, but careful planning and a lot of realistic tweaking will make this achievable.


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