Noel Clarke has come a long way from the troubled protagonist we saw in Kidulthood, and not just because he’ll return to our screens as detective Aaron Bishop when the second series of Sky One hit TV drama Bulletproof lands later this month. Nope, it’s mostly because the BAFTA-winning actor is now in the best shape of his life.
Taking to Instagram, Clarke credited fellow Bulletproof co-star Ashley Walters – who plays childhood friend and detective partner Ronnie Pike – as the motivating factor behind his transformation, which saw him shed a whopping 14kg and gain a formidable rig.
“My Christmas present to myself,” Clarke wrote. “To be fair. It was @ashleywalters idea. While we were shooting BULLETPROOF 2 'Let’s get in shape' he said. I thought about making excuses. 'I’m not as muscular as you, I don’t have your genetics., I’m 5 years older than you'."
“But excuses aren’t really me. They never have been. So I said well 'let’s do it'. And although I can’t look like he does in the 4 months it’s been. (Or Ever. You look amazing bro) It’s like everything in life. You are only really competing with yourself. So this is me. Thanks Ash for the kick up the arse. Thank @upfitnesslive and @robbieleiby for getting me here.”
After 21 weeks of intense training at Ultimate Performance in Kensington – which we’ll dive into in a moment – he’d dropped from 26 per cent to 12 per cent body fat.
“I remember the first day when my trainer, Rob, said to me, ‘I believe you could get in this shape, and you could lose this amount of fat,’” says Clarke. “I was like, ‘Mate, good luck, because I just don’t see that happening. But hey, you’re welcome to try. Knock yourself out!’ And then here we are, 21 weeks later and actually he was right.”
To find out how Clarke earned those extremely chiseled abs, we tapped up personal trainer Rob Leiby for the inside track. When you’re an actor, there’s no such thing as a ‘typical’ week, so they trained “when we could, at any time or day of the week,” says Leiby.
The goal? Three or four full-body weight training sessions a week, along with cardio on an exercise bike, and between 12,000 and 20,000 steps per day. The programme was tweaked as Clarke became stronger and leaner, with the final eight weeks focusing on heavier weights, more sets and less reps.
“The key theme was ensuring that every exercise was controlled, efficient and effective, and performed with perfect technique to get the maximum benefit from every single rep,” says Leiby. “We focused on big compound movements, such as bench press, rows, pulldowns, as well as resistance machines to start, that were more stable and allowed him to work extremely hard.
“This progressed to different variations of deadlifts and more complex and challenging variations of exercises as he advanced,” he continues. “Almost every set throughout the training, we pushed reps and sets to ‘technical failure’, the point at which form breaks down, or ‘muscular failure’ where his muscle would give up.”
As any regular Men's Health reader will know, a solid training plan is only 30 per cent of the story. Nailing your nutrition is absolutely key, so Clarke and Leiby kept things simple – with nutrient-dense ‘whole’ foods, a quality source of protein and a variety of vegetables.
“For the first two weeks, we adopted a low-carb bootcamp-style approach to reduce the high levels of inflammation present at the beginning, likely from unhealthy food choices, and also to improve his insulin sensitivity with carbohydrates,” says Leiby.
As Clarke’s filming schedule became more hectic, he switched to Ultimate Performance’s meal prep service EatUP, which delivered macronutrient-calculated meals per day.
Massive biceps aside, the biggest change for Clarke has been mental. “I think the most life-changing things in my transformation with U.P. have just been that the overall mindset,” he says. “I’ve gone from believing I was in shape to realising I wasn’t in shape, to getting in shape. But also, the mindset and the education that they give you in terms of changing your lifestyle, how you eat, and the amount of walking you do, has just been phenomenal.
“It’s not just a physical change. It’s a lifestyle change. It’s a mindset change. It’s an education. It’s something that will benefit you – not just now, but for years in the future.”
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