Meet the Man Behind Michael B. Jordan’s Absurd “Creed III” Physique

The great Corey Calliet also got Jonathan Majors into "untouchable" shape

March 21, 2023 7:24 am
Michael B. Jordan in the latest "Creed" movie.
In "Creed III," Adonis Creed is coming out of retirement for a bout with his old training partner. Calliet wanted the fighter to look his biggest yet.
Eli Ade/Courtesy of MGM

Ever wonder how Michael B. Jordan’s managed to show up looking like an absolute beast in every installment of Creed? Physical trainer Corey Calliet has been in the actor’s corner since the very beginning of the franchise.

The former bodybuilder first met Jordan on the set of Fantastic Four, and from there they ignited a working relationship that’s lasted eight years. Now the actor is one of Hollywood’s hottest commodities, and Calliet is taking his talent for transformation to the masses.

Creed III marks their sixth collaboration, and it’s by far their most ambitious. For Jordan, it was also his directorial debut, meaning he had to get into action star shape while managing a busy film set. For Calliet, he was charged with not only helping elevate Jordan’s physique, but working with Jonathan Majors, as he prepped for the role of Adonis’s long-lost boxing partner “Dame” Anderson. The trainer himself even makes an appearance onscreen during the epic final fight, standing right where he’s always been — in Jordan’s corner. 

We spoke with Calliet about first connecting with Jordan, their training sessions, his personal drive and what it takes to build the iconic Creed physique.

How did you start your career as a trainer and transformation specialist?

I started out with transforming myself. I was working out every day at the beginning, without knowing exactly what I was doing. I got into bodybuilding, and through discipline was able to see the kind of results that other people would see in a year, in a few weeks. I became addicted to bodybuilding then. It was like a drug for me. I thought that if I could do this for myself I could do this for other people. I started training people in Baton Rouge. I had a bit of a reputation, and when the movie Fantastic Four was filming in the area they called me to train the cast. 

That’s when you met Michael, right?

I was kicking around there for about a month not training anyone at all. None of the cast wanted to really work out. I would do a quick session here and there, but someone in the crew said that I should meet with Michael because he was already set to do the first Creed movie at that point. I caught up with him, we did a session, and I think we connected from the beginning. He hit me up for another session later, and that was the beginning, we were hanging out all of the time after that. This was the start of his real ascent, so we were able to grow together and help each other through those sessions. 

How did training with Michael for Creed III differ from preparing for the first two movies in the franchise?
I don’t think we would have been able to succeed with Creed III like we did if we hadn’t done the first two. I was excited to see my good friend direct, but because of that responsibility that he had, wearing so many hats, our time training together had to be more strategic. There aren’t many directors that have had to transform their bodies at the same time. Getting to see him succeed through that challenge was very inspiration and motivational for me, as I was there to help him.

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How did you go about training him while he was leading the movie?

We had about four months to get him ready before filming, but he was still involved with preproduction during that time. Once we were on set, we had to do these very targeted sessions where we got the most that we could out of half an hour here and there. There were days that Michael would work out before we filmed, and sometimes it was after the day wrapped. I had to make sure I was helping him save the energy he needed to direct. I would target the upper or the lower body, and on occasion hit the full body.

What did those workouts look like?

I like drop sets because they really tax the muscle. If I’m not doing drop sets I’m doing very high rep counts, with moderately heavy weight. I want to break down the muscle, so that we’re coming back bigger each time and getting the most out of that time. We used free weights, cable machines and kettlebells. For each project that I do, I read the script and I base the training that we’re doing around the character. Adonis is a boxer, so I tried to incorporate boxing movements into our exercises each time, with the cables or the kettlebells. 

For this movie in particular, Adonis is coming out of retirement, so he’s going to look a little bit different at the beginning than he is at the end. Michael’s body is different than when we first started too. His muscles have matured, and we’ve been at this a few times now. I know what I need to do to get him bigger, so really we just had to focus on making sure conditioning was where it needed to be. We always start with putting on the size with heavy weight, then move into more conditioning as the process goes on, to get him more defined when the cameras come on.

Let’s talk about the results, which once again, are incredible.

For every Creed movie I’ve wanted him to show up looking better than the one before. Sure, he’s coming out of retirement, but he’s still the champion. I wanted him looking like a champion. I think we were able to do that. It was challenging this time around, but because we’ve done so many projects together I know how to get the most out of Michael. That’s what I mean when I say we needed those first two Creed movies to do this one. I know when I can push him hard and I know when I need him to take it easy. 

For Michael, I know that once he starts to see the results himself, that’s the confidence boost he needs to take it further. I knew that if I started to pump his chest and really show off his abs, he would lean in harder. That confidence transferred into the way that he was behind the camera, him being able to command the set with confidence. We were coming out of a pandemic, so everybody felt the effects of that. But he stays ready, so we were able to get there. I also think that working with Jonathan Majors pushed him to up his game. They really elevated each other. 

That brings us to your other project for this movie, the great Jonathan Majors. What was it like working with him?

If the word discipline needed to take human form, that person would be Jonathan Majors. He has this incredible work ethic and passion. In ways, we are alike in our mentality. I remember first meeting Jonathan at Michael’s house, and I told him that I wanted to bring two gladiators into the ring for this one. The first time I got into the gym with Jonathan, he took off his shirt and I could see that he was ripped, but I wanted to get him chiseled. Don’t get me wrong, he came into the door ready, but I wanted to take him to that next place. I wanted his physique to be untouchable. 

What were his workouts like?

Jonathan is a workhorse. I could tell that immediately. And when you have someone like that, you want to let them work. I was doing bodybuilding exercises with Jonathan, because he was doing another movie Magazine Dreams after. I wanted to help Jonathan bring that symmetry to his body. His waist was already small, but I wanted to bring his shoulders up. 

So he was living that bodybuilder life, which in a way is restrictive. [You’re living] like someone who’s in prison. Jonathan lived that eat, sleep, and train lifestyle. There was no going outside. There was no partying. The mentality in our sessions was that of someone who got locked up. That’s what prison life is: three hot meals, a cot, an hour to train in the yard, and 23 hours to yourself. 

How do you think that Jonathan and Michael elevated each other during this process?

Jonathan’s acting is something special. Michael has always been a great actor, but I think working with Jonathan made him even better. The same was going on with their physiques and how they were showing up in the ring. They pushed each other, and made each other better. They were working out together a lot of the time, so they knew where the other was at. Michael also helped Jonathan improve at the boxing that we do for the Creed movies, because he’s been doing it for eight years. 

While training for Creed III, Majors was also preparing for his role as an insecure bodybuilder in the upcoming film Magazine Dreams.
Eli Ade

How about their nutrition? How do you keep that on point?

I’ve worked with Chef Donnie Stykes on every Creed movie, so he worked to prep meals for both Michael and Jonathan on this one. I like to keep things simple as possible, getting into the foundational elements like carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. The most important part was them getting enough food. I would adjust the diet if I needed to depending on how they were looking. I don’t believe in having a guide that’s going to take you through six weeks no matter what. I think it’s important to listen and look at the body, where it’s at. If the body was looking a little too fat I would add the carbohydrates, things like that. I also would have them do protein shakes after their workouts.

This was a very arduous process. Can you explain what they did to recover?

I had them both doing IVs, once a week, because that helped get them feeling good. I had them getting body work done as well, which was done by Jerica Maness. Michael was also using a hyperbaric chamber, to get the most out of his rest periods.

One of the best parts of the Rocky movies, and now the Creed movies, are the epic training montages. Talk a little bit about how those were put together. 

Michael wanted the training montage to be out of this world, so we found things that you wouldn’t normally see in a movie like this. Like, with his body, we try to go a step further each time. The weights that you see Jonathan lifting aren’t fake and he’s not being helped up those ropes at all. That’s all him. He didn’t want to lift fake weights. I told him, “Hey you are going to do a lot of takes for these scenes.” That didn’t matter to him. He wanted it to be real. But to be honest, they both look so good in the montage, you believe that it’s them doing everything. 

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