It's hard to believe now, but there was a time when Michael B. Jordan wasn't known for his rig. Before he laced up a pair of boxing gloves for the Rocky-spinoff Creed or before he got himself incredibly swole to play Erik Killmonger in Black Panther, Jordan made his name playing men who met tragic ends. First he was Wallace in the acclaimed TV series The Wire, and then Jordan portrayed the final moments of Oscar Grant in Fruitvale Station.
It was after Fruitvale Station that Jordan was cast as Adonis Creed, and to get in shape for the role was introduced to trainer Corey Calliet. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Jordan is known for having a killer physique and the acting chops to match, but training and putting on slabs of muscle didn't always come naturally to him. "When we first started, he could barely bench 20lbs, his legs were flailing everywhere," Calliet said in an interview with Looper. "He had nothing. He used to hate all this," he added.
So how exactly did Jordan go from not being able to bench 20lbs to being convincing as a boxer, a Navy SEAL, for his new film Without Remorse, and possibly Superman? We spoke to Calliet to find out.
Train for Your Goal
The most impressive thing about Calliet's work with Jordan is how he's been able to build the perfect body for each role. When Jordan was playing a boxer, he looked like a boxer. When he was playing a villain, he looked like he was capable of facing off against a hero. Now, in Without Remorse, Jordan looks and moves like a Navy SEAL.
Lots of actors are ripped, but the secret of Jordan's success is that he's always the right kind of ripped. To achieve that, Calliet tailors Jordan's training for every role he plays, because, as he says, "You can look ripped up but you can move like a robot. The goal [on Without Remorse] was to be able to embody what a Navy SEAL looks like from the way that he moved, the way that he talked and the way that he shoots a gun."
This training philosophy – training for your goal – isn't anything new. Calliet's been preaching it for the entire time he's worked with Jordan. Speaking to Men's Health Australia, he explained how: "The focus for Creed was to create an elite-functioning athlete, which meant boxing training, skill development in the ring and strength and conditioning sessions. Black Panther on the other hand had me implementing a bodybuilding training approach with focus on muscle development, with strategic cardio to support his lean mass gain [25-30 min daily at most compared to the hours he got while boxing]."
For Without Remorse, Calliet added a new type of training to Jordan's training arsenal: CrossFit.
"I had to figure out what was the hardest thing that I ever did to get in shape," says Calliet. "I think CrossFit is one of the hardest conditioning and weight training – I call it hybrid training – workouts that you could possibly do, and if you think about it, a lot of those guys [the military] that are out in the field, you have to be mentally and physically strong and you need endurance to be able to do what they do, and that's what CrossFit does.
"I do those workouts and it's not just building the body, it's building the mind as well."
Attention to Detail
As Calliet says, to prepare for Without Remorse, Jordan added high-intensity CrossFit training to his repertoire, but the pair still utilised weight training to really hone in on areas of MJB's body that needed further work. A specialist military adviser – Buck Doyle – was also brought on board to teach Jordan how to hold and shoot a gun like a real Navy SEAL.
All that adds up to a lot of work and Jordan would often need to get through three training sessions a day. "We trained probably every morning," says Calliet, "so in the morning we'd do the high-intensity interval training, and then in the middle of the day [we'd do]some gun training or any type of weapons training, and then late in the evening sometimes we'd do weight training, where I want to tire the body out and I just hone in on and focus on some small stuff that we might want to fix aesthetically."
Eat Right to Look Right
As we all know, abs are made in the kitchen, and if you want to look right you have to eat right too. The same is true for Jordan, and, as Calliet says, "If he doesn't eat right, he won't look the way he needs to look. I have him on a diet six days a week and on Sunday he can eat what he wants. It's a reward, but it also helps your body – having a cheat day ramps up your metabolism."
As well as being Jordan's trainer, Calliet is his dietician too. The diets he puts together aren't focused on tracking calories, instead they're inspired by Calliet's former pro-bodybuilding days, where he used certain foods to elicit certain responses from his body. "If you eat all fish, fish is going to make you look really lean and get your skin looking really tight. There are certain carbohydrates, so slower carbohydrates or fast, that have certain amounts of glycogen in them and that's going to help you to produce more sugar in the muscle and make it bigger," he explains.
For Calliet, when Jordan eats is just as important as what he eats. "When he did Creed, dieting was very new, so my main thing was just to get him to eat every two and a half hours, and we saw his body change. When we did Black Panther, I needed to make him big. He was eating way more carbohydrates and his food intake was higher, so it probably went from him eating six ounces of protein to maybe eight to 10 ounces of protein – he had to be a villain so he had to be much bigger. When he went to Creed 2, we were kind of in a balance, because he was much bigger for that, he was eating more lean proteins and not so many carbohydrates.
"Sometimes we even carb cycle, doing two days low one day high, and then for Without Remorse, the diet was really different. I kept carbs in the whole time just because I know how much he was going to be moving around, and it was way more action than he's ever done, consistent action. So the more energy I was able to give him, and give him little tricks here and there, sugars and bars, stuff like that, that more he was able to endure. The diet definitely changed for this one. It was probably more relaxed than the rest of them."
Michael B. Jordan's Without Remorse Workout
So what does a typical Michael B. Jordan Without Remorse workout look like? Well, as Calliet explains, a typical workout may only be four moves, but don't let its simplicity fool you. "It sounds simple and easy, but it's the worst thing ever," says Calliet.
If you want to do this workout like Jordan did, complete the following circuit four times with no rest in between. If you're doing it right then, "30 seconds feels like 30 minutes," he says.
American Kettlebell Swings
Reps: 30 seconds
With a kettlebell between your legs, hinge at your hips, swinging the weight backward. Drive your hips forward, explosively swinging the bell above your head. Let the momentum take you back down and into rep two. Repeat.
Reps: 30 seconds
With dumbbells in your hands, stand tall and take a breath. Take a long step backward with one leg, bending your front knee until your back knee touches the ground. Now, stand back up explosively, pause, then repeat with your other leg.
Reps: 30 seconds
First the prep work: hold both ends of a jump rope and let it hang in front of you. Limit the space between your feet and the ground to between 2.5cm and 5cm. Keep your toes pointed down, and land softly on the balls of your feet, with a slight bend at your knees. Aim for minimal movement from your elbows and shoulders; generate rotation with your wrists.
To perform double unders, begin by drilling your singles with a higher jump than you need, as you’ll need this extra time in the air to get the rope around again. Start with one double, then a dozen or so singles, before reducing the singles between attempts until you string them together.
If you can't manage double unders or if you're working out from home and you don't have the space for them, you can replace them with high jump double taps. Standing with your legs shoulder-width apart, jump as high as you can and tap your stomach twice while in the air. Repeat for 30 seconds to mimic double unders.
Reps: 30 seconds
With your legs bent and the soles of your feet together, lie with your hands behind your head. Tense your abs as you lift up, and touch your hands to your feet. Reverse the move, touching the floor behind your head on each rep.
Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is available to watch on Prime Video now.
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