Bruce Lee Body Training Routine
For Strength, Power & Muscle Definition
Detailed below is the Bruce Lee Body Strength Workout for Muscle Definition that Bruce used from 1970 until his death in 1973. Realizing that bigger is not always better, Bruce Lee’s muscle training philosophy evolved. He stopped working out with his 1965-1970 Bruce Lee Weight Training Bodybuilding Workout for Muscle Growth and quickly developed a new 1970 workout plan that dramatically took him down in both body weight and size. The earlier-era “165 pounds of pure muscle on a 5’7″ frame” Bruce Lee body famously transformed himself into the “nimble and sinewy 135 pounds of focused strength in a small, yet explosive package” Bruce Lee body we all know today. When we think of him, we visualize Bruce in this leaner post-1970 era when he made all of his best movies. Along with a proper diet and cardio fitness routine, this is the compound muscle power workout that got him there.
Bruce Lee Strength Training
For a Bruce Lee Physique, Power & Muscle Definition
The Bruce Lee training information below is partially excerpted from the awesome book “The Art of Expressing the Human Body” by Bruce Lee & John Little. You can buy it today from Amazon.com on the Bruce Lee Books page.
Clean & Press (2 sets x 8 reps)
A barbell is lifted from the floor, and in one explosive movement the weight is lifted up to rest on the front of the shoulders – this is the clean. Afterwards, the weight is then pressed upwards and held overhead. It is then lowered to the floor in one movement and repeated. Bruce Lee ridiculously performed clean and presses without rest between reps. Not stopping makes the clean & press a cardio fitness and endurance exercise as well as a as well as a superb body and strength training workout.
CAP Barbell 110-Pound Weight Set
This is a basic beginner weight set for bodybuilding. The weight kit includes 6 x 2.5 lb, 6 x 5 lb and 4 x 10 lb. weight plates, a 5′ standard bar and 2 x standard dumbbell handles. This is a great affordable starter kit for your Bruce Lee weight training workout.
Squats (2 sets x 12 reps)
A barbell is placed across the shoulders and a squat is then performed. Bruce Lee did these with no pause in the lowest position, instead immediately rising to a standing position. The squat works the hips, glutes, hamstrings, calves and quadriceps. Bruce loved the effects of squats on his body and had kept dozens of articles clipped out of magazines on the mechanics and benefits of squats. Lee would perform 12 repetitions and, after a short breather, do one more set of 12 reps.
Weider Ultimate Body Works Incline Bench
Adjustable incline bench on wheels with a pulley on each side. Features resistance bands and a cable & pulley system.
Pullovers (2 sets x 8 reps)
Pullovers were simply considered a “rib box expander” or “breathing exercise.” This weight training exercise is less common nowadays. To perform a pullover, lie flat on a bench, hold a barbell with a shoulder width grip overhead, and then lower it backwards behind your head, keeping the elbows slightly bent. The bar should be held as far back as it is comfortable. Then slowly reverse.
Bowflex PR1000 Home Gym
Get a total Bruce Lee body strength workout with this affordable home gym. It provides as little as five or as many as 210 pounds of resistance and features over 30 exercises.
Bench Press (2 sets x 6 reps)
The only barbell maneuver Bruce Lee did to develop his chest was the classic bench press. Many modern martial artists now advise against doing bench press exercises because it expands the rib cage, which is a weakness in fighting. If you plan on fighting competitively, you may want to curtail your use of this training exercise. Lying down upon a flat bench with a shoulder-width barbell grip, press the weight off the support pins to arms length above his chest. Lower the barbell to the chest and, exhaling, press it back up to the starting position.
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells (Pair)
Each of the two weight training dumbbells adjusts from 5 to 52.5 pounds and lets you rapidly switch exercises using a unique dial system. If you only get one piece of equipment, these safe and convenient Bowflex weight training dumbbells should be it and work extremely well in most of your Bruce Lee exercises!
Barbell Curls (2 sets x 8 reps)
Curls were a staple in Bruce Lee’s body training routine. They gave him impressive bicep size and incredible pulling and grappling power. Get a shoulder-width grip on the barbell with palms facing forwards. With slightly bent knees, contract biceps and curl the barbell up to the upper pectorals. Then slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position.
Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Bench Series 3.1
This weight training bench adjusts to four different positions for over 30 different exercises. It includes a removable leg hold-down brace and wheels away for easy storage.
Good Mornings (2 sets x 8 reps)
Bruce used this more as a limbering exercise, so they can actually be done with just an empty bar. Warning: This is the exercise that caused Bruce Lee’s life-lasting back injury. In 1970, Bruce did 135-pound Good Mornings without warming up. On the last rep, Bruce heard a pop and damaged the fourth sacral nerve in his lower back. Place a barbell across your shoulders with feet three inches apart, bend over from the waist keeping your hands on the barbell at all times. Bend over until back is at a 90 degree angle to hips, then return to the upright position.
Bowflex Blaze Home Gym
This Home Gym has more than 60 gym-quality exercises. Includes a lower pulley/squat station, a lat tower with angled lat bar, a leg extension/leg curl attachment and 210 pounds of Power Rod Technology resistance (upgradable up to 410 pounds).
Why did Bruce Lee change his weight training routine so drastically?
Based on the reminisces of Jesse Glover, Bruce Lee’s first US martial arts student, Bruce decided to radically reshape his strength training workouts simply because he wasn’t happy with the functionality of the additional mass.
“I noticed that he was bigger after he was weight training. There was a time after he went to California that he went up to 165 pounds. But I think it slowed him down because that was real heavy for Bruce. He looked buff like a bodybuilder. And then, later on I saw him and this was all gone. I mean, one thing that Bruce was [about] was function – and if stuff got in the way, then it had to go. Bruce wanted his weight training to complement what he did in the martial arts. A lot of what Bruce was doing was about being able to maintain arm positions that nobody could violate in a fight. Like, if you take most people who are into bodybuilding or weight training, most of them are interested in simply building up their muscles to a bigger size, particularly the major muscle groups. Not much attention is paid to the connective tissues, like ligament and tendon strength. Well, Bruce’s thing was ‘let’s build up the connectors and we won’t worry so much about the size of the muscle.’ Again, Bruce was about function.” – Jesse Glover, Bruce Lee’s first US martial arts student
Not much attention is paid to the connective tissues, like ligament and tendon strength. Well, Bruce’s thing was ‘let’s build up the connectors and we won’t worry so much about the size of the muscle.’ Again, Bruce was about function.” – Jesse Glover, Bruce Lee’s first US martial arts student Bruce Lee trimmed down the bulky muscle and lost 35 pounds, yet he became much stronger.
How did Bruce Lee workout less and lose weight, yet gain more power and strength? Around 1970, Bruce’s body strength training evolved to meet his new workout philosophy involving compound exercises. He began simplifying his training and discarding the routines he felt added too much bulk for his martial arts purposes. Cutting down on the protein shakes and using the 20-minute body workout below, Bruce Lee trimmed his body down to a very chiseled 136 pounds. This Bruce Lee Body Strength Workout for Power is the basic training program Bruce settled on for the remainder of his life.
Develop Bruce Lee Power & Muscle Definition!
The reason the shortened 20-minute Body Strength Workout for Power worked for Bruce was because all parts of the new regimen involved compound exercises. John Little, Bruce Lee biography writer, explains that Bruce “geared his training regimen for function above all else. Lee devised muscle-development programs that stressed compound exercises, exercises that require two or more muscle groups. His reasoning was simple: He wanted harmony among all of his muscle groups so they could generate power in concert, and would combine to accomplish a single objective, whether it be the execution of a powerful punch or kick, an efficient trapping combination, or even to dodge a blow.”
“Training for strength and flexibility is a must. You must use it to support your techniques. Techniques alone are no good.” – Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee realized that, in some ways, less is more. Compound exercises work multiple muscles instead of isolating a single muscle like the incline curls and triceps stretches in his older workout. Bruce’s new body strength workout gave him power without the bulk. Coupled with his martial arts, diet plan, cardio fitness routines and wide range of other exercises, Bruce Lee essentially became one of the first cross-trainers ever.
Get Bruce Lee Ripped!
According to Bruce Lee student and famed martial arts instructor Dan Inosanto, Lee didn’t solely weight train with the Body Strength Workout above. He also incorporated weight lifting into his martial art workouts.
“Bruce would always shadow box with small weights in his hands and he’d do a drill in which he’d punch for 12 series in a row, 100 punches per series, using a pyramid system of 1,2,3,5,7 and 10-pound weights — and then he’d reverse the pyramid and go 10, 7, 5, 3, 2, 1 and finally “zero” weight. He had me do this drill with him and — Man! — what a burn you’d get in your delts and arms!” – Dan Inosanto, Bruce Lee student and renown martial arts instructor
His wife, Linda Lee, said that Bruce’s obsession with strength workouts went home with him at night even after training all day in the gym and dojo. Bruce kept a dumbbell around his house that he would constantly lift.
“He was always using that dumbbell… Bruce had the unique ability to do several things at once. It wasn’t all unusual for me to find him watching a boxing match on TV while simultaneously performing a full side split, reading a book in one hand, and pumping a dumbbell in the other.” – Linda Lee, wife of Bruce Lee
Learn Bruce Lee’s Training Techniques!
Develop a Bruce Lee Body Today!
A note to Bruce Lee Workout readers:
On your Bruce Lee-inspired body training journey, remember to change the exercises to fit your needs. Don’t get into a rigid routine. After a while, your body will hit a wall and an unchanged Bruce Lee body strength training program won’t produce the same muscle gains it once did when you were weaker. It is essential to add new exercises and remix old ones. Change weights and reps. Use barbells or bands instead of dumbbells. Challenge your body! For the famed martial artist, his strength training routine constantly evolved throughout the years as Bruce Lee pushed his body to its limit. You should allow your home or gym routine to evolve as well. If you lift with good form, the Bruce Lee Muscle Gods shall reward you. Training long term with no injuries is both a blessing and a goal. Don’t sacrifice proper form for a few extra pounds in the set. Once you move on to heavier weights, your back will be forever grateful that you did. Use lifting aids like lifting straps, belts or liquid chalk to boost your grip strength and make sure that your back muscles stay safe and get pumped up to the max. Check out the Bruce Lee Training Equipment section for the latest Bruce Lee workout gear.
Bruce Lee used a wide variety of exercises including weight training, body strength training, circuit training, isometrics, ab workouts, stretching, diet and cardio fitness. He used the best training equipment available to get that muscular Bruce Lee body in his classic martial arts movies. Bruce’s perfect body, wisdom, charisma and kung fu skill inspired books on his life, philosophy & martial arts! Visit the Bruce Lee Workout homepage for a complete breakdown on all the Bruce Lee training programs and workout routines. Workout Like Bruce Lee!
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