Josh Holloway: Not Your Average Hollywood Baller

Josh Holloway: Not Your Average Hollywood Baller

The “Dirty Muskrat” is gone. The “Odor Catcher” has left the building. During the six years that Josh Holloway played the follicly blessed con man James “Sawyer” Ford on ABC’s Lost, he came up with various nicknames for the ever-present stubble that roughed up his chiseled mug. “I often called it the ‘squirrel that lived on my chin,’” he says, laughing, which he does a lot. “I don’t like facial hair.”



“I have always had a passion for basketball. I was determined to be an NBA baller. It was a time when videos of Magic Johnson, Dr. J, and Kareem in the ’70s shorts were everywhere. Coaches were like, ‘You can be anything you want.’ I believed them. I trained hard and I was good. I could play. Then I got so abused in high school, being on varsity but never playing, scrimmaging and getting beat up by all the big players. I was worn out and not having any fun, and my grades suffered because all I did was try to be a baller. And then I finally discovered pussy, and quit. [Laughs] So I went back to playing soccer. But I always played basketball because I loved it. And now it goes perfectly with all the training I do. CrossFit and cross training, all for joint stabilization, core—all that makes you a better athlete.”

Luckily for Holloway, his hirsute days are over. It’s been liberating to lose the signature scruffiness and reclaim some much valued privacy. “I noticed how well the Clark Kent disguise works,” he says, when he went to Prague last year to co-star with Tom Cruise and Jeremy Renner in the new film, Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol. “I was told, ‘Lose the hair, lose the beard.’ And then I walk out on the Charles Bridge where there are probably seven street artists drawing images of Sawyer and nobody knows who I am—not a soul. It was trippy.”

A less trippy, more essential perk he enjoys for living a clean shaven life: “The amount of attention I get from my daughter now is awesome,” he says of 2-year-old Java. “Every time I shave I go, ‘Look!’ Then she feels my face, and I get lots of kisses.” If he sounds a little sappy here, well, let’s face it, there was always a surprisingly sensitive side to Sawyer that came, in part, from Holloway. But when it comes to his daughter, the actor is an absolute goner. “It’s overwhelming right now,” he says. “I’ve never loved anything so much that it hurts.”

This is a rich, if transitional, time for the 42-year-old Holloway, who hasn’t had a solid game plan since Lost wrapped its run in May 2010. “It’s like coming out of a long-term relationship,” he says of the seven years he spent on the series that elevated his career but controlled his life. Downing a beer in an old-school L.A. steak house, Holloway sports a woolen cap and long-sleeve gray T-shirt, with a couple of silver chains looped around his neck. Half a dozen years ago, as Lost became a pop-cultural pandemic, the swaggering, emerald-eyed actor was touted as a 21st century Steve McQueen, but the truth is his commitment to the series left him little free time for any plum offers. He lost a shot at the co-starring role of Sabretooth in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which went to Liev Schreiber. Then Holloway had to pass up the smaller part of John Wraith, played instead by the Black Eyed Peas front man He was also unavailable for roles in two westerns—the Brad Pitt epic The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and 3:10 to Yuma, with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale.

This year, Lost creator J.J. Abrams (who directed Mission: Impossible III and is a producer on Ghost Protocol) offered him the lead role in his new CBS series, Person of Interest, but he turned it down. “It was [being] shot in New York and I’d just moved my whole family to California,” he explains. “I couldn’t pick them all up and move again.” After Lost ended, the Georgia-bred Holloway and his wife, Yessica, headed South for a down-home visit with family and friends to do what he enjoys most. “I was barbecuing and PBR-drinking,” he says. But after all that Southern comfort, Holloway says he “looked like a potato sack.” So he started working out—just in time too. “Bryan Burk [one of Abrams’ producing partners] called and said, ‘Are you available in two weeks? We need you in Prague [for Mission: Impossible].’ And I’m like, ‘Shit! Classic! Wow, alright!’ I was trying to be cool, but this was quite an o! er. My wife and I jumped around, laughing and dancing for an hour after that phone call.”

Prepping for the part of Impossible Mission Force (IMF) agent Trevor Hanaway proved to be a lifestyle game changer for Holloway. “I trained my ass o! ,” the actor says. “That shook me up. I thought, ‘Enough of this letting go and getting it back. Maybe you can’t be completely performance-ready all the time, but you can’t let it go. You need to stay within striking distance.’” This epiphany came slowly. Growing up in Free Home, GA, with three brothers, Holloway stayed naturally fit running around the family’s 30 woodsy acres, building forts, and fishing. He took up soccer at 6, then switched to basketball in middle school, playing varsity at Cherokee High. Despite years of sports and lifting, he says he was always done in by genetics. “All my brothers were skinny with a gut. Bone-thin with a bit of a pooch. That’s what I fight against.”

Throughout his years as a model in New York and Milan andeven during his years on Lost when he was hailed as a sex symbol, he never felt he lived up to the image. “I love food, I love drink, I love that social thing,” he says. So how did he manage to look camera-ready for all his shirtless scenes in Lost? “They would give me five days’ notice, sometimes more if I had a feeling and called to ask. Writers and producers expect you to be in shape all the time, but as they became my friends, I’d say, ‘Dudes, give me a little warning.’ And they tried. Then I’d warrior up, do more weights, and stick to eating steak and fish.” While he pulled it off , Holloway now says, “I’m tired of that. No more of that desperation push. I’m going to stay fit. It feels better.”

To get in shape for Mission: Impossible, Holloway turned to John Kovach, a Southern California trainer who incorporates integrated movement patterns, unstable surfaces (like a Bosu balance trainer or Swiss ball), and Pilates into his programs. “Josh is an athlete, so he has always stayed in good fundamental shape,” Kovach says. “He just needed to ramp it up from being in average shape to phenomenal shape. He wanted to do as many of his own stunts as possible—he knew there was going to be a fair amount of wire work. I made sure he had good, practical core conditioning so that when he was doing suspension work he would hold himself in alignment without sagging.”

Holloway worked out with Kovach 90 minutes a day, four to six times a week. “We were doing one or two days of strength work and three to four days of interval training,” says the trainer, who typically designs workouts that mimic movement patterns his clients will do in
their activity of choice—whether it’s tennis, surfing, or gardening. “He dropped eight to 12 pounds and got ripped.” The actor also ate well, kick-starting his day with a substantial breakfast (a poached egg or cup of Irish steel-cut oatmeal). He made lunch his main meal and limited his protein intake at dinner. He also replaced processed carbs (white rice, white pasta, white bread) with whole grains (brown rice, Bulgar wheat) and got 40% of his calories from carbs, 30% from protein, and 30% from fats.

Today, they work together three days a week doing high-intensity interval training one day, strength work another, and core work another. Holloway, whose weight used to fluctuate between 180 and 208 (“I can carry it, but that’s not leading-man weight”) now holds at a solid 185. But now it’s less about weight and size and more about endurance and flexibility. Kovach says it’s important to work out all the muscles between the knees and rib cage and up and down the spine—not just sculpt a six-pack. By using a Swiss ball, he turns basic crunches into a full-body exercise involving all the muscles that stabilize joints in Holloway’s ankles, knees, and hips. And the actor likes the variety as much as the results of this “muscle confusion” core training. “I’m always doing a different exercise, doing full ranges of motions. And it doesn’t get boring.”

want people to get into a routine where they are doing squats every Tuesday and Thursday in three sets of 15. The whole idea of muscle confusion is to try not to let the body get too adapted to any specifi c movement pattern.” This suits Holloway perfectly. “I was doing a lot of boxing through Lost, thrashing a bag at least three days a week. If I had shirtless scenes, I’d do it six days a week. Then I realized my joints were hurting. So the concept of muscle confusion really was helpful. Suddenly all my joints started loosening up and my endurance increased. I don’t need to get stiff and big. I need to be loose and agile, yet tight and lean.”

While he can’t divulge much about his part in Ghost Protocol, he has nothing but praise for Cruise. “He is the ultimate machine,” Holloway says. “When I arrived on set he was in the middle of some huge fight scene and I didn’t want to bother him. And he was like, ‘Hey, hang out, dude. This is your set—relax.’ He said, ‘I know you’re going into stunt training. Really take your time.’ That was great advice, because I get there and I’m nervous and excited, like, ‘This is Disneyland for men. Let’s shoot some shit and jump off of buildings.’ It was good that he said, ‘Settle down, dude—you don’t gotta do it all right away.’ He really put me at ease.” Director Brad Bird applauds Holloway’s professionalism: “Josh takes the job seriously but also knows how to have fun,” he says. “There’s a scene where Josh had to be dropped 30 feet with a huge IMAX camera suspended above him. That takes game.”

So is Holloway ready to finally become an action hero? “Sure. Give it!” he says, confident from having previously trained with Navy SEAL team members and learned what it takes to be tough. “People try to keep you from reaching your goal, but never stop going toward your target. If you have obstacles, go through them. Never stop fighting.” Meanwhile, all this training has improved his performance on the court. “There is nothing more challenging than a full-on basketball game with the starts and stops, the jumping, sprinting, side shuffles,” he says. “Now I can move faster, be more agile. I don’t twist my knee, my ankle doesn’t go out.” And while Java may notice that Dad’s face is now smoother to her touch, he’s also more comfortable in his skin. “I’m in better shape now than I’ve been in a long time,” Holloway says. “I’m in my 40s, but I feel almost as strong as I was in high school—it’s like, ‘Wow, I haven’t lost a step.’ I don’t want to be the sex symbol stud guy. But I want to keep this up for my life and my wife and my work. Because playing in the big leagues is fun, right? But you’d better be prepared to deliver.”

NEXT: Josh’s Workout

The Josh Holloway Workout

In addition to playing hoops, Holloway does a 90-minute strength and conditioning workout
based around functional, real-world moves. After 40 minutes of foam rolling, Pilates, and dynamic
warm-up, he moves on to high-intensity intervals. Here is a sample of one of his circuits.

60 seconds for each exercise, 15–30 seconds rest in between

This lateral agility drill is a traditional Brazilian training method. To do it, you’ll need an agility ladder like those found in most large gyms. The move is simple. Standing in front of the ladder, cross your left foot in front of your right in a lateral motion, and step your right foot to the right. Then cross the left foot behind the right laterally and then step the right foot to the right again. Repeat this series to the end of the ladder. Then return going to the left, reversing the movements. Never touching the rungs or the rails, stay on the balls of your feet, keep your hips facing forward, your chin up, and your feet moving in a quick and precise manner.

Begin in a squatting position as if you were performing a standard clean (or deadlift) with a kettlebell between your legs. Grab the kettlebell with one hand and explosively straighten your legs and body out of the squat. At the same time lift the elbow of the working arm high to the side, like you’re performing an upright row with that arm. Rise onto your toes, then drop your elbow to your side and “catch” the kettlebell gently on your shoulder while bending the knees to absorb the downward momentum. Next, press the kettlebell overhead. Return to the start position and repeat.

This move is similar to the side kick in soccer, except you aim your kicking leg slightly to one side of the target, then snap the knee and drive the heel or calf of the kicking leg into it. If you are kicking with the right leg, aim slightly to the left of the target, quickly flex the knee, and snap to the right and into the target. Perform this drill on each leg. For a tougher variation, try a sliding
kick. If you are leading with your left leg, cross the right foot behind the left foot and place it as far out across the left foot toward your target as possible. Then, extend the left leg into the kick, driving your whole body forward toward the target.

Climb onto a stability ball, with the insteps of your feet on the ball. (Depending on your
balance and agility, your toes or balls of your feet are fine as well.) Keep your hands on the ground in a push-up position. Next, lift your hips into a pike position drawing your feet toward your chest with straight legs, rolling the ball forward toward your arms. From this position perform a push-up touching the crown of your head to the floor (like an overhead press). Return
to the start position. Keep your core braced at all times. If that’s too hard, rest your foot on a bench instead.

Face away from a TRX (or other suspension trainer) with your hands gripping the handles,
arms extended in front of you. Lift one leg off the ground extending it at the hip straight behind
you. With control, raise your arms out to your sides and back with softly extended elbows, lowering yourself into a pectoral fl ye position. (Your arms should not extend behind your
shoulders.) Then pull your arms back together in front of your chest. As with all TRX exercises the closer your body is to standing upright when you start, the easier the exercise. Try to minimize shaking as best you can.

See Holloway’s extended workout.

For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!