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  BRUCE LEE'S WORKOUT ROUTINES

 


SECTION 1

SECTION 2                       Weight Training

Isometric Training

SECTION 3
Flexibility Training

SECTION 4
Cardiovascular Training

PROVE IT!  YEAH PROVE IT! (Quote from "DRAGON" heh heh)

Ok, now before we start, let me just prove to all the doubters out there that Bruce Lee was not in fact born with the kind of body that he possessed later in life.  As pictures are worth a thousand words...yadda yadda yadda....Chunky.JPG (8199 bytes)
This is Bruce in his early days in the states.  (Just kikin' it as they say).   As you can tell by the facial features, which are somewhat pudgy  (well, as compared to later standards anyway), he was not in his future "ripped to shreds" state.   In fact, Bruce Lee had been known to admit to his wife Linda, that he could always tell whether he had lost weight or not by how "My face has gotten smaller.   You know me Linda, it's always in the face."  Ok, let's take a look at some more pictures.

Small.JPG (8054 bytes)The key thing to observe in the picture to the right, is how thin Bruce Lee's arms look.  Even his shoulders don't seem as rounded or muscular as they were to become.  He does have the beginnings of some muscularity, but his physique in this picture shows him to be of average build, in fact rather slight.   Would you be intimidated by meeting this guy in a dark alley?  Probably not.

Ok, as you can see, the picture on the far left show Bruce in a relaxed state.  There's no flexing in any of his muscles whatsoever.  Very very unimposing.  In fact, most guys who look like this in pictures tend to be the same guys that go out and buy those Weight Gain 2000 protein shakes (you know, the $100 cans  Bleeba.jpg (31902 bytes)about the size of a carton of milk, but with two measly "normal" sized servings...snicker...might as well call it FAT GAIN 2000, or WASTE OF MONEY 2000).  In fact, all we need to make this picture perfect is Bruce Lee holding a newspaper in one of his hands (Has anyone else out there noticed this annoying habit whenever they advertise those before and after pictures?  I can NEVER see the date on the newspaper..so what's the point?)   Ah, but now on the right, Bruce is flexed, and we can already see the trademark cobra like effect that he was able to produce with his lat muscles.  Note also the soon to be famous abdominals!

Now let's see how Bruce Lee looked in the late 1960's as he progressed with his training methods. Wow.JPG (8185 bytes) I don't think that anyone can deny that  Bruce Lee had managed to improve his physique to a startling degree!  This picture is actually taken from "Way of the Dragon" Lee's third film and about 2 years before his untimely death.  In other words, Bruce Lee was actually able to improve on the body that you see to your right!  (I'll show you later with pictures from Enter the Dragon).

 

 

 

Now that I've show you that even Bruce Lee didn't exactly start out with much, let's go over what he did to actually reach the level of fitness that he did.

 

 

WEIGHT TRAINING

I will merely list the exercises that Bruce Lee followed for each body part.  I will also list the reason's (if necessary) as to why a particular exercise is not worthy of being used.  Theories about what exercises are useful, dangerous, or even down right detrimental to the human body have changed over the past 25 years, and I will discuss which exercises are safe and productive enough to warrant inclusion into any weight trainer's bodybuilding routine in the section on HardGainers.  Bruce Lee first started weight training after being exposed to two friends who had developed imposing physiques.  According to this friend, Bruce Lee began training using only the BASIC exercises at first:  Squats, Pull Overs, and Curls for about 3 sets each.  Even with this simple basic program, Lee's body quickly became stronger and more muscular in appearance.  This spurred Lee on to read as much as he could about bodybuilding.   He is known  to have read all the muscle magazines that he could get his hands on.  Articles were sometimes clipped out, and only added to his routine if it produced results through experimentation with his own body's reaction to each exercise.

"Since weight training involves repetitions, a great deal of energy must be exerted.  Therefore, weight training should be practiced only every other day." - Bruce Lee

This quote indicates that even back then, Bruce Lee knew about the need for rest between workouts, which is a necessary criteria for muscle growth, as muscle only grows and is able to repair itself when it is allowed to rest.  There is such a thing as overtraining.  Below are Bruce Lee's body measurements on the left, and one of his earlier routines.  As you can see, he was very meticulous about tracking his improvement.  His Exercise chart reveals that the poundage's he used when first starting were nothing spectacular....keep this in mind when you decide on starting weights!

WorkOut.JPG (10909 bytes)WorkOut2.jpg (16909 bytes)

1. Abdominals

Let's face it, one of the most awe inspiring things about Bruce Lee's body were his  abs.   They were thick, striated, and cut.  Now you can definitely build an impressive set of abdominals, but it just isn't going to look that great if it's covered by fat.  You can not spot reduce this area, so don't even bother doing marathon abdominal sessions, it's a waste of time, and a waste of energy.  Abdominal training is different from other body part specialization, in that it is the only body area that really requires a three prong attack to obtain good results.  Training the abs consist of all the following ploys:

Personally, I'd rather cut down on the calories as opposed to aerobic work..I mean, what's easier to do to obtain a negative calorie balance?  1 hour of walking on a treadmill, or passing on the slice of chocolate cake?  One takes one hour, the other takes 1 second. 

If you don't want  to do the aerobic work or diet (you can do one or the other, as well as both) then don't bother doing abdominal sets either...the TWO have to be done at the same time.  Does this mean that you should just ignore your abdomen?  No, not at all.  You will find that doing some of the basic exercise that I describe in the Hardgainer section cause your abdominal muscles to be used (some for stabilization, and others as a byproduct of training the other areas), so don't worry too much about them falling behind.

Bruce Lee had five abdominal exercises which he used, 3 which he used all the time, and two which he added at times as a supplement.

  • The Sit Up:  Don't even bother doing this exercise, it makes use of  leg muscles (psoas), and can be done more efficiently with better abdominal results as I'll describe in the next section
  • Leg Raises:  Another popular exercise from the past, but like the sit up, has an improved version.
  • The twist:  Next!
  • Frog Kicks:  Pretty much hanging from a bar and touch your knees to your chest.....yeah right...
  • Side Bends:  Done with a weight opposite the side that you are working on.   There is a more efficient way to work these muscles.

 

 

2. Forearms

Forearms?  Does anyone really train forearms?  If they did, why?!?!   Well, to put it bluntly, if you don't have a good grip, you aren't going to be able to handle the kind of weights (read as heavy weights) that you need to to really build muscle.  It will be the weak link in your form.  In other words, your bench press, deadlift, lat pulldowns etc will be limited by the fact that your forearm muscles are going to tire and weaken before the larger muscles do.  Bruce Lee focused on forearm training mainly to improve gripping and punching power.  He also felt that training them daily was ok as the muscles involved were very very dense and could withstand this kind of training.  Rep ranges were anywhere from 5-17.

 

 

 

 

 

3. Neck and Shoulders

" We should not neglect the training of our neck muscles.  This kind of training is very important in sports." - Bruce Lee.  Basic shoulder muscles were also incorporated into Bruce Lee's training routine.

 

 

4. Chest

Bruce Lee didn't want to build a huge bodybuilding chest, as he felt that it could be an obstacle to good blocking techniques.  He did however realize that a lot of the high and low blocks that passed across the body, as well as uppercuts, hooks and crosses, required  a contraction of the chest muscles.  As you can see in the picture, he had very sharply defined upper and lower pectoral muscles.  (You can almost see where the pec muscles insert into his upper arm!)

 

 

5. Back

I'm not going to go on and on ad nauseum about Bruce Lee's back development.   Bottom line is that it was awesome!  He used to blow his lats out in such a way as to imitate a Cobra.  Anyone who has seen "Way of  The Dragon" has got to remember the scene where Bruce is doing exercises on a balcony, then suddenly goes into a full lat spread.

 

 

6. Arms

Bruce Lee didn't really train his arms for show, they were by-products of  the training that he did to develop functional strength.  This is actually somewhat similar to the Hardgainer Philosophy as you will see later.  Personally, I don't do specific arm exercises, as they get enough of a workout doing the basic larger muscles exercises.

 

 

7. Legs and Calves

Ok, like pretty much 99% of the people out there, I hate working out my legs.   It's demanding, painful, and in my opinion, self-torture.  Still, I have read over and over again that doing Squats or any heavy leg movement is the key to building mass.  Supposedly, heavy leg exercises are so taxing to your body that your body is forced to go into hyper anabolic mode to compensate for this increased stress.  What this means is...more muscle gain.  I finally broke down (crying and whining all the way mind you!) and added 20 rep squats into my training routine.  I've actually found after a while that I enjoyed doing squats, because afterwards, I know that I did something that most people would just blow off :-)  Let's face it, spindly legs on a massive upper body look ridiculous...so if you are serious about building muscle, just   commit yourself to doing Squats.  Besides, the crying you will do the night after doing squats really aids in the sleep process (At least it did for me!)

 

 

Isometric Training

This kind of training is good for building strength at "sticking points" of your exercises.  These can be done on any machine if a heavy enough weight is used to render the bar immovable.  On the other hand, you could also just grab anything that you can't  move...use your imagination.   Bruce Lee for example had a bar that was attached to a weight, which was attached to a chain, attached to a wooden platform, which he stood on.  He altered the height of the bar by rolling up the chain.  He also used a Power Rack at times.  There are 3 basic positions in which to perform isometric exercises:Isometrics.JPG (4294 bytes)

  1. Three inches above the starting position
  2. Three inches below the finishing position
  3. An intermediate position in between the first two.

For the Bench press for example, number one would be pressing on an immovable bar 3 inches above your chest, 2) would be 3 inches below complete arm lockout, and 3) would be at a position between these two.

There are 8 Basic Exercises, do one repetition for each exercise, with each rep involving maximum exertion for 9-12 seconds.

  1. Press LockOut:  The Shoulder press, with the bar 3 inches below arm lockout.
  2. Press Start:  Bar at about chin height.
  3. Rise on Toes:  Watch out for spinal compression, don't go crazy here.
  4. Pull:  Bar 6-7 inches below the waist.  Like the beginning of a biceps curl.
  5. Parallel Squat:  Where your thighs are 3 inches above parallel in a typical squat.
  6. Shoulder Shrug.  Go to shrug machine, load up a weight you can't possible move, and shrug.
  7. Dead Weight Lift:  Set bar at 2 inches below your knees.   Pull upwards using your back and legs.
  8. Quarter Squat:  Bar at 4 inches below where it would be if you were standing full upright.

 

 

Flexibility Training

It has already been discussed in Emotional Content the importance of stretching, so I won't go over that again.  It is a good idea to try to stretch everyday if possible.  You can do it as soon as you wake up, and maybe just before going to bed.  If you are going to lift with weights that day, just add some stretches for the body part that is going to be worked on.  It has become common knowledge that the "Bounce" method of stretching is out.  Limit the stretches in the beginning to 20 seconds each, and for only one rep.  This can reach a maximum of 45 seconds for each stretch.  The key thing is to slowly "ease" into the stretch; allow the muscles to slowly relax and stretch on their own. 

 

 

Cardiovascular Training

I think the main thing to remember here, is that cardiovascular training is like any other form of training: it is progressive.  Don't start off thinking you're going to run 5 miles.  Start off with a block if you want, 50 yards, and increase it by 10 yards WEEKLY, not daily.  I'm currently experimenting with the idea of "Sprinting" as opposed to jogging, as for some reasons it hurts my knees less.

Stepping:  We all know this type of workout.  You can start at one minute per leg.  Increase it by 2 minutes a week, and you'll be doing 30 minutes straight in two months.

Jogging:  I know this is probably good for you, but it's so damn boring!!  Tough on the knee joints too..and feet.

The last variation is one that Bruce Lee prescribed for a student of his:  Jogging (1 minute), Sprint (as long as you can), Walk (1 minute), then repeat this Giant Set as many times as you can.

 

 

Ok, that's it for Bruce Lee's Training Routines.  While I think that he was definitely on to something, and the body to back up his theories, I think that on the whole he may have been overtraining.  As you will see in the following section, one does not have to put in the kind of hours that Bruce Lee did into building a decent physique.  You will notice too that some of the exercises that Bruce Lee did are not included in the next section.  They were omitted because either they aren't productive, are dangerous, or both.  Now before anyone starts telling me where I can go...just remember that Bruce Lee himself was constantly changing his own workout routines as he found better ways to train, and realized that some of the exercises were not working that well.  I too have tried many different routines  before finally coming upon the HardGainer's routines which for me anyway, has worked very very well.

 

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By the way, a lot of this material was found in John Little's book "Bruce Lee:   The Art of Expressing the Human Body".  This author is responsible for releasing a complete set of  recent books about Bruce Lee.  Is the book worth buying?  Definitely, especially if you are a Bruce Lee fan, but also if you are into serious training.  There is a lot of good material there, and as some people say, "If you want to look like Bruce, you have to train like him."  This book will indeed give you his exact training routines, as well as how he did the exercises, and variations.