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How Michael B. Jordan Got Ripped For Hollywood

Prior to his breakout in 2012/2013 via "Chronicle" and "Fruitvale Station,"  Michael B. Jordan was perhaps best known for supporting roles on series like "The Wire," "Friday Night Lights" and "Parenthood." While he has always been a solid actor, however, he wasn't necessarily known for his musculature. 

In recent years, Jordan has grown bigger, expanding both his career profile and his physique. The actor has put on some serious muscle to convincingly portray the son of a legendary boxer in the "Creed" movies and a supervillainous revolutionary in the "Black Panther" films. Below, a blow-by-blow breakdown of how Michael B. Jordan built up his body.

He was never out of shape

Take a look at Jordan's Instagram pictures before his training intensified, and you'll see that the actor has never been exactly out of shape. Still, that's a far cry from the shredded frame he's been sporting in more recent movies. Even in something like his starring role in "Fruitvale," he looks about half the size of his current body.

That all changed with his casting as Adonis Creed. Playing the son of "Rocky" staple Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) required him to look the part of a boxer in peak condition. Even though Jordan describes himself as a "super competitive" athlete, that's a far cry from the level of fitness required for a boxer. According to trainer Corey Calliet, it was hard-going at first: "When we first started, he could barely bench 20 pounds, his legs were flailing everywhere ... he had nothing. He used to hate all this." He might have hated the training, but he certainly can't fault the results. Jordan was able to put on 24 pounds of pure muscle in a year, defining the look of Adonis Creed.

Trainer Corey Calliet was the secret to his success

There's no easy shortcut for putting on that much muscle mass on in such a short time, but a Hollywood trainer certainly makes it a little more manageable. Enter Calliet, a former boxer whose experience was instrumental in crafting Adonis Creed's Adonis-like body. According to Jordan, Calliet was the first trainer that he really clicked with after a series of false starts with others, and the results certainly speak to the pair's rapport.

Calliet stayed with Jordan as he got into a different level of fitness for his role as the revolutionary Erik Killmonger for the original "Black Panther." Calliet played both sides of the movie's conflict though; he also worked to get Angela Bassett in fighting shape; Bassett would play Ramonda, the matriarch of Wakanda and mother figure for Chadwick Boseman's titular protagonist.

According to Calliet, whether he's training someone in their twenties like Jordan or in their fifties like Bassett, the technique is the same. Focusing on high-intensity interval training is the most efficient way to burn fat and allows Calliet to focus on the muscle groups that need highlighting for each role.

From boxing zero to boxing hero

In order to properly portray a boxer, Jordan had to train like a boxer. That meant 45-60 minutes daily of cardio along with tons of ab workouts, like crunches, mountain climbers, leg raises, reverse crunches, and traditional sit-ups to build up his core and burn fat. As for building muscle, Calliet had Jordan focus on supersets — exercises where lifting or curling dumbbells are interspersed with push-ups or another workout. In addition, Calliet pushed Jordan with circuit training, building his endurance with quick rounds of burpees, box jumps, bench push ups, and side step-ups.

If that all seems exhausting, we haven't even gotten to the main event yet. A full three hours of boxing training following every workout day that includes the speed bag, the heavy bag, mitt training, and jumping rope. According to Jordan: "I felt muscles I didn't even know I had." Calliet agreed, saying "I wanted to make him look even more ripped than Apollo, and I think we did that."

Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition

As any fitness buff worth his salt will tell you, exercise is only half the battle when it comes to getting your body into peak shape. For Jordan to get into literal fighting condition, he had to cut his food intake almost entirely to lean proteins (chicken, ground turkey, and fish), carbs (rice, potatoes, steel cut oats), green veggies, and protein shakes.

"Extreme diet change. I stripped down my diet completely," Jordan explained in 2015. "I worked out two to three times a day, six days a week. And if you do that consistently for about 10 months, your body will change." That's a punishing regimen for anyone, but shooting in Rocky Balboa's hometown of Philadelphia meant having to pass on Philly Cheesesteaks, beer, and other nutritionally lacking (but delicious) food.

Luckily for Jordan, Calliet doesn't rank among those trainers who don't believe in cheat days. Once a week, from sundown on Saturday to sundown on Sunday, Jordan was allowed to eat anything: "French toast in the morning, Philly cheesesteaks in the afternoon, [and] pizza." Those brief respites don't seem to have hurt the final results of his hard work — and perhaps, they helped keep his motivation up.

Self-motivation is key

Speaking of motivation, Jordan has plenty to go around. The young actor credits growing up in Newark with a supportive family as the inspiration for his work ethic and aspirations.  

"My dad used to tell me all the time that you have to be serious about something," he said in 2017. "I told myself at a young age that I was going to sacrifice. I used to run myself into the ground till pure exhaustion just because then I would feel like I deserve it."

That motivation has been key to Jordan's physical transformation, pushing him to heavier weights and longer runs. No matter how painful the workout, Jordan can persevere through that motivation. 

"How do you push past the not wanting to do something? You remember why you're doing it. Why you're working hard. What's at stake," he explained. "For me, it's my family, all the dreams that I have in my head, that I want to see manifest."

Jordan kept working out after Creed with Method Training

That's not to say that Jordan isn't enjoying his new fit status. As anyone beginning to exercise knows, it is getting started that is the hardest part. 

According to Jordan, it all changed once he began to see results: "When things start getting a little easier, when you start lifting weight you never lifted before, when you start bench-pressing 225 pounds 10 times and it ain't nothing, and then you start giving hugs to girls and they're, like, feeling you up a little and you think, 'What's this?'" he said in 2017. "Then it's, 'This is all right.' So I learned to love it when I started seeing results."

Being in fighting shape from "Creed" helped Jordan transition to the training for "Black Panther," where he used a new technique called "Muscle Training." The technique adapted Jordan's workouts to match what the character would do to stay in shape, which helped alleviate the dreaded workout boredom or fitness plateau.

Training to dethrone a king

For the role of Erik Killmonger, Jordan needed to bulk up to play the muscular revolutionary. This entailed a grueling regimen to gain 20 pounds of muscle mass in nearly every part of his body: "Chest, shoulders, back. My legs a little bit, my quads. I was just, like, massive."

It takes more than muscles to portray the antagonist in a superhero film, however; Jordan was also put through a comprehensive weapons training program in addition to learning various forms of martial arts.

For Jordan, it was a real departure from the boxing-focused training of "Creed." "This one is more martial arts, using a lot of your legs," he explained at the time. "So, I'm picking up different fighting styles. Also a lot of guns too, the weapons training is a totally different muscle."

No rest for the wickedly fit

While any normal person might want to take a break from nonstop workout routines and just eat some pizza and drink beer, Jordan jumped right back into training for 2018's "Creed II." 

The story this time followed Adonis fighting the son of Ivan Drago, the man who killed Apollo in the ring in "Rocky IV." Professional boxer Florian Munteanu was cast as the son of Ivan Drago, and at 6 foot 4 and 245 pounds, Jordan had his work cut out for him in getting back into fighting shape. If the Instagram video of his boxing workouts was any indication, however, he didn't have that far to go.

Bigger and better for Creed II

The first "Creed" established that Adonis was fighting in the Light Heavyweight division, which in boxing has an upper limit of 175 lbs. For the 2018 sequel "Creed II," however, both Adonis and the actor playing him had to bulk up in order to fight Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the fearsome son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who killed the father of Adonis in the ring three decades earlier.

Munteanu's considerable size (6'4", 240 pounds) was a challenge, and while Jordan was never quite that massive — Adonis has to be the underdog, after all — he still strapped on nearly 25 pounds of muscle for the film, according to a 2020 profile in Men's Health

The film gives him an unconventional training regimen; after losing to Drago in their first bout, Adonis rebuilds himself out in the desert alongside Rocky and his trainer "Little Duke" Burton (Wood Harris), pounding holes in the sand, sparring with one foot inside a tire, and lifting weights with his head. In real life, however, Jordan and Calliet did things a bit more by-the-book, focusing on dumbbell exercises to build and tone the upper body and one-mile sprints to increase stamina and reduce fat.

The SEAL workout

For the 2021 Amazon film "Without Remorse," based on the Tom Clancy novel, Jordan had to develop a more holistic workout plan, one that involved not just athletic training but tactical as well. The actor was cast as John Kelly, an elite Navy SEAL whose wife and family are murdered in a home invasion. As John recovers from his injuries after being left for dead, he sets his mind and his body toward revenge, but in finding justice for his family he uncovers a massive conspiracy at the highest levels of power.

As with "Black Panther," military training was essential to the character; Jordan can't just look good, he has to be able to move and to fight with efficiency. 

His training regimen included a 12-week course in weapons training, similar to what real-life soldiers would receive, but Calliet was also concerned with some aspects of Jordan's physique that don't get as much attention when he's in the ring as Adonis Creed — namely, his legs and cardiovascular endurance. "The stronger your trunk is," Calliet explained in 2021, "the better your upper body is." The two employed a crossfit-style program utilizing high intensity interval training, with 30-to-45-minute sessions twice a day, in addition to the ten hours a day Jordan would spend in front of the camera and in weapons training. 

Michael B. Jordan, regular guy

Playing larger-than-life characters requiring you to be larger than life can be a double-edged sword; once you've hit those rarified heights, it's hard to come back to earth. While extreme physical transformations are nothing new, the long-term health effects can be disconcerting; Jordan has yet to yoyo a la Christian Bale, but after five years straight of playing nothing but comic book characters, champion boxers, and elite soldiers, it was inevitably jarring to see him playing a mere mortal once again.

In 2019, Jordan starred in the fact-based death row drama "Just Mercy." The film cast him as celebrated civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, working to free an innocent man (Jamie Foxx) awaiting execution in 1980s Alabama. 

Jordan cuts a lean figure in his portrayal of young Stevenson, dressed in sharp suits that are perhaps a little too fitted and not boxy enough to really be from the late '80s, but bringing to mind his pre-superhero physique in films like "That Awkward Moment" and on "Friday Night Lights." One person less-than-thrilled at Jordan's toned-down silhouette, however, was the real-life Stevenson, who joked in 2020 that "I said to [Jordan]: 'The one area where we don't have to be authentic is that you don't have to lose that 'Black Panther,' 'Creed' body when you play me. You can keep that."

A new challenge

"Creed III" arrived in theaters nearly five years after "Creed II," with both its star and main character in new phases of their lives and new challenges to face. For Adonis, the challenge comes in the form of a ghost from the past, a childhood friend (Jonathan Majors) who spent decades in prison and now wants a shot at the title from the now-retired champ. For Jordan, the film marks his directorial debut, taking the reins from previous franchise helmers Ryan Coogler and Steven Caple, Jr.

Behind the scenes, the film proved to be a new challenge for Calliet as well, as he planned a workout regimen that could be executed while still allowing Jordan to fulfill his responsibilities as not just the film's star, but also its director. According to Insider, Training began four months out from the start of principal photography, with Calliet putting his star through the paces for up to three hours a day, six days a week. 

After filming began, however, workouts became less regular due to the demands of Jordan's schedule. He and Calliet would do half-hour bursts of strength training, calisthenics, or the same kind of high intensity interval training they had developed for "Without Remorse" whenever possible. "Have you ever heard of eating on the go?" Calliet said in an interview with Insider. "Well, we trained on the go."

A dad bod?

Calliet told Insider that his goal for "Creed III" was to get Jordan into the best shape he had ever been for the series; for Jordan, there were other concerns beyond just getting swole. 

The body of Adonis tells a story in the "Creed" films, just as Stallone's transformation from an unremarkable heavyweight in "Rocky" to a superhumanly-toned all-American warrior in "Rocky IV" reflects the narrative of those films. At this point, Adonis is comfortably retired, living off the fat of his accomplishments in the ring and a new generation of fighters he is promoting. He is no longer a fighter, or so he thinks. In fact, Jordan went so far as to describe his physique in a 2023 GQ interview as a "dad body."

While those who rock the dad bod in real life might scoff at this painstakingly-built movie star appropriating the phrase, his statement provides a good insight into how Jordan views his most famous character at this point in the franchise; it also is, perhaps, unintentionally telling about how he views himself compared to his co-star Majors, who similarly trained with Calliet. Adonis, like Rocky before him, always has to be the underdog going into each film's climactic bout; sometimes, a dad bod is a state of mind.

A steady diet and good sleep

Much of the coverage revolving around Jordan's transformations over the years have understandably focused on his workouts and the way different roles require a different focus, whether it's upper body (when playing Adonis Creed) or lower body and accumulating muscle mass (for, example, Erik Killmonger). But once again, an important element in his fitness plans often overlooked was his diet. For Jordan and Calliet on "Creed III," the focus was on lean proteins and whole foods like rice and vegetables, with fruit and protein shakes for a snack. While a constant diet of turkey and rice might seem spartan, Calliet is also a firm believer in cheat meals, which would actually help fill out his muscles.

In their joint interview with GQ, Majors seconded the importance of a steady diet to maintain such impossible physiques, claiming to eat about 4,000 calories a day when preparing for the role, while also emphasizing an even more overlooked aspect to fitness: A healthy sleep schedule. "Sleep hygiene is, like, everything," he said, highlighting the importance of good sleep not just for general well-being, but for skin health. "You've got great skin, man," referring to Jordan, "and if you don't sleep your skin won't be like that. Your muscles won't grow like that.  [...] Water retention is a big thing, especially for the movies."

A real-life boxing career?

There is something about playing a boxer on screen that convinces an actor they could do it in real life. Sylvester Stallone got cocky with Dolph Lundgren while filming "Rocky IV" and wound up in the hospital. Mickey Rourke followed up his 1988 fight drama "Homeboy" with a few devastating years returning to the ring as a pro boxer. Then there's Mark Wahlberg, who never stepped into the ring after playing Micky Ward in 2010's "The Fighter," but certainly talked a big game. Perhaps it's the months of training required to look the part of a boxer that makes them think they have what it takes to leap from fiction to fact.

While Jordan has never said he could be a real fighter, or even that he wants to, one of his compatriots has done it for him: Former cruiserweight Tony Bellew, who played opponent "Pretty" Ricky Conlan in the first "Creed" film. 

Bellew returns for a small part in "Creed III," alongside Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez and current welterweight champ Terence Crawford, who also trained Jordan for the film. Bellew, who famously floored Jordan by accident while filming the climax of the first movie, was impressed with the actor's athletic prowess and work ethic, claiming in a March 2023 interview with Virgin Radio (via TalkSport) that Jordan could be the real thing. "He would eat a couple of these YouTubers, no problem," he said, referring to the crop of amateurs like KSI and Jake and Logan Paul, who have leveraged their popularity in recent years into a kind of auxiliary professional league. Bellew then reconsidered his own stance, admitting that "I'm not sure he'd want to mess with that pretty face of his."