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Bruce Lee Workout

Bruce Lee was well known not only for his unbelievable fighting abilities and speed, but for his great physical fitness levels.

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_lee

Lee felt that many martial artists of his time did not spend enough time on physical conditioning. Lee included all elements of total fitness—muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility. He tried traditional bodybuilding techniques to build bulky muscles or mass.

The weight training program that Lee used during a stay in Hong Kong in 1965, at only 24 years old, placed heavy emphasis on his arms. At that time he could perform single bicep curls at a weight of 70 to 80 lb (about 32 to 36 kg) for three sets of eight repetitions, along with other forms of exercises, such as squats, push-ups, reverse curls, concentration curls, French presses, and both wrist curls and reverse wrist curls. The repetitions he performed were 6 to 12 reps (at the time). While this method of training targeted his fast and slow twitch muscles, it later resulted in weight gain or muscle mass, placing Lee a little over 160 lb (about 72 kg).

He employed many different routines and exercises including skipping rope, which served his training and bodybuilding purposes effectively.

Lee believed that the abdominal muscles were one of the most important muscle groups for a martial artist, since virtually every movement requires some degree of abdominal work. Mito Uyehara recalled that "Bruce always felt that if your stomach was not developed, then you had no business doing any hard sparring". According to Linda Lee Cadwell, even when not training, Lee would frequently perform sit ups and other abdominal exercises in domestic living throughout the day, such as during watching TV. She said of Lee, "Bruce was a fanatic about ab training. He was always doing sit-ups, crunches, Roman chair movements, leg raises and V-ups".

Lee trained from 7 am to 9 am, including stomach, flexibility, and running, and from 11 am to 12 pm he would weight train and cycle. A typical exercise for Lee would be to run a distance of two to six miles in 15 to 45 minutes, in which he would vary speed in 3–5 minute intervals. Lee would ride the equivalent of 10 miles (about 16 kilometres) in 45 minutes on a stationary bike.

Lee would sometimes exercise with the jump rope and put in 800 jumps after cycling. Lee would also do exercises to toughen the skin on his fists, including thrusting his hands into buckets of harsh rocks and gravel. He would do over 500 repetitions of this on a given day.

Physical feats
Lee's phenomenal fitness meant he was capable of performing many exceptional physical feats. The following list includes some of the physical feats that are attributed to Bruce Lee.

Lee's striking speed from three feet with his hands down by his side reached five hundredths of a second.
Lee could take in one arm a 75 lb barbell from a standing position with the barbell held flush against his chest and slowly stick his arms out locking them, holding the barbell there for several seconds.
In a speed demonstration, Lee could snatch a dime off a person's open palm before they could close it, and leave a penny behind.
Lee would hold an elevated v-sit position for 30 minutes or longer.
Lee could throw grains of rice up into the air and then catch them in mid-flight using chopsticks.
Lee performed one-hand push-ups using only the thumb and index finger.
Lee performed 50 reps of one-arm chin-ups.
Lee could cause a 300-lb (136.08 kg) bag to fly towards and thump the ceiling with a sidekick.


According to Linda Lee Cadwell, soon after he moved to the United States, Lee started to take nutrition seriously and developed an interest in health foods, high-protein drinks and vitamin and mineral supplements. He later concluded that in order to achieve a high-performance body, one could not fuel it with a diet of junk food, and with "the wrong fuel" one's body would perform sluggishly or sloppily. Lee also avoided baked goods and refined flour, describing them as providing calories which did nothing for his body.

Lee consumed green vegetables and fruits every day. He always preferred to eat Chinese or other Asian food because he loved the variety that it had. Some of Lee's favorite Chinese dishes were beef in oyster sauce, tofu and steak and liver. He also became a heavy advocate of dietary supplements, including vitamin C, Lecithin granules, bee pollen, vitamin E, rose hips (liquid form), wheat germ oil, Acerola — C and B-Folia.

Lee disliked dairy food although he knew that for building muscle he must add milk and consume eggs. As a result he only ate dairy as part of cereals and protein drinks, usually using powdered milk instead of fresh milk. Lee's diet included protein drinks; he always tried to consume one or two daily, but discontinued drinking them later on in his life. They typically included non-instant powdered milk which is reported to have a higher concentration of calcium than other forms of powdered milk, eggs, wheat germ, peanut butter, banana, brewers yeast for its B vitamins, and Inositol and Lecithin supplements. Linda Lee recalls Bruce Lee's waist fluctuated between 26 and 28 inches (66 to 71 centimetres). "He also drank his own juice concoctions made from vegetables and fruits, apples, celery, carrots and so on, prepared in an electric blender", she said.

According to Lee, the size of portions and number of meals were just as important. He would usually consume four or five smaller meals a day rather than a couple of large meals, and would boost his metabolism by eating small healthy snacks such as fruits throughout the day. Fruit and vegetables provided him with the richest source of carbohydrates, he was particularly keen on carrots which would make up one half of the contents of the drink, with the remaining being split between the other fruits and vegetables. The reason why Lee was so keen on juicing vegetables and fruits is that he believed it allowed the body to assimilate many nutrients more easily. The enzymes in the juiced vegetables acting as organic catalysts which increase the metabolism and absorption of nutrients. Given that most of these enzymes are destroyed when vegetables are cooked, Lee would try to consume them raw.

Lee often drank a royal jelly and ginseng drink as they contain B-complex vitamins, including a high concentration of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), acetylcholine, hormones, and eighteen amino acids which allow for a quick energy boost. In traditional Chinese medicine, ginseng is also said to improve circulation, increase blood supply, allow quicker recovery times after exhaustion and stimulating the body. In addition, Lee regularly drank black tea, often with honey or with milk and sugar.

One thing to note here while mentioning all these supplements that Bruce Lee was taking, one must always be careful not to take more of any one vitamin and mineral than is the daily recommended allowance. Exceptions might be Vitamin D where research is pointing more and more towards higher limits, and every person's needs are different based on skin color, age, sun exposure etc.  Consulting with your doctor is very important as one vitamin might hamper the effects of another, or a person could get toxic levels of a vitamin causing permanent damage. Never just grab supplements without researching each and every one.

Here's some information on Bruce Lee's workouts I originally posted here http://www.buyersmls.com/brucelee/

According to 1996 article from Iron Man, Bruce Lee utilized an weight lifting schedule on an every other day basis to allow for recovery. Lee coordinated his bodybuilding workouts so they fell on days when he wasn't engaged in either endurance-enhancing or overly strenuous martial arts training. He increased his body weight from 135 pounds to 165.

Lee geared his training for function rather than muscle size. Three areas most important in Lee's physical fitness program were stretching for flexibility, weight training for strength, and cardiovascular activity for his respiratory system.

The Weight Training Program

Bruce Lee weight trained on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays using this plan.

clean and presses 2 x 8
squats 2 x 12
barbell pullovers 2 x 8
bench presses 2 x 6
good mornings 2 x 8
barbell curls 2 x 8

Clean and Presses

Lee would take a shoulder wide grip on an Olympic barbell. Bending his knees, he squatted in front of the resistance, and with a quick snap of his arms and a thrust of his legs he cleaned the barbell to his chest and stood up. After a brief pause he thrust the barbell to arm's length overhead, paused briefly and then lowered it back to the top of his chest. After another brief pause he lowered the bar back to the floor. After eight reps Bruce Lee would take a very short rest and do his second final set.


Lee's squats were done with a barbell on his shoulders and his feet shoulder width apart. He slowly descended to a full squat position and with no pause came back up to the starting position. With a short breather he would then do set two.


Bruce Lee performed pullovers by lying on his back on a flat bench and taking a shoulder-width grip on a barbell that he pressed out to full extension above his chest. From this position he lowered the barbell behind his head-making sure to keep a slight bend in his elbows so as not to strain his elbow joints-until it touched the floor ever so slightly and provided a comfortable stretch in his lats. From this fully extended position he slowly reversed the motion by contracting his lats, pecs and the long heads of his triceps.

Bench Press

The bench press was the only direct barbell movement Bruce Lee used for his chest according to his personal records. He used a shoulder wide grip on an Olympic barbell. He pressed the weight off the support pins to arm's length above his chest. From this locked-out position he then lowered the bar to his chest and exhaled as he pressed it backup to the fully locked-out position.

Good Mornings

Good mornings should be done carefully and only after a good warm-up. Lee did this exercise to strengthen his lower back but in 1970 he damaged his fourth sacral nerve in his lower back doing this exercise with 135 pounds and without a warm-up. This caused him terrible back pain for the rest of his life and you'll see further along in this article led to his death. So if you do this one be careful. For a time his doctor didn't even think he would walk again.

Good mornings are done by placing a barbell across your shoulders and positioning your feet three inches apart. Bend at the waist, keep your hands on the barbell. When you get your back at a 90 degree angle to your hips, return to the upright position. Using extremely light weight to perform this exercise would be highly recommended.

Barbell Curls

Lee took a comfortable shoulder-width grip on the barbell with his palms facing forward. Keeping a slight bend in his knees, Lee contracted his biceps and curled the barbell up until it was on a level with his upper pecs. Pausing briefly in the fully contracted position, he then slowly lowered the barbell back to the starting position.

Other Bruce Lee Training

Bruce Lee incorporated weights in his martial arts training. Lee would shadow box with weights in his hands.


Bruce Lee trained his abs daily, believing that if your stomach wasn't developed you had no business in the ring.

Lee was always doing situps, crunches, Roman chair movements, leg raises, and V-ups. Chuck Norris went on record saying he saw Bruce bouncing Brandon Lee on his abdomen while simultaneously performing dumbbell flyes, and leg raises while watching tv.


In order to improve his gripping and punching power, Lee became an avid forearm trainer. He trained his forearms daily and had several gripping machines built for him.


What Killed Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee was obviously in great shape during his short life time. So what happened?

The following video is basically audio from a 1975 comic con where Chuck Norris was speaking to the crowd.

His story is basically this, that he had met Bruce Lee during the Green Hornet series, and that he had trained with Lee before later working with Lee on the infamous fight scene for the movie, Way of the Dragon. He goes on to talk about the rumors surrounding Bruce Lee's death. According to Chuck Norris, Bruce had ruptured disks in his back weightlifting. The doctor had told Lee he would not walk again, but Lee was up on his feet in a month. Afterwards, according to Norris, Bruce Lee suffered back pain and had to take medications for it. The pain medication added to some antibiotic he was given for a headache while filming his last movie caused his brain to swell and ruptured brain cells.

Is there a lesson here? Well there are other versions of Lee's death varying around what he took for a headache that day. Wikipedia even mentions a previous incident where he was taken to the hospital for brain swelling, but if you go just on what Chuck Norris says happened then there might be something we can learn from Lee's unfortunate death. Lee was by all accounts extremely successful in his fitness goals thanks to his determination to work out and focus on his diet. Unfortunately, one bad workout sent him on a downward spiral almost paralyzing him for life, and inevitably putting him on pain medication that may have combined with other meds to cause brain swelling. For certain when lifting weights one needs to be careful. Warm up first for at least ten minutes to prevent injury, and be extremely careful with back exercises. In all weight lifting exercises build up, and never grab the heaviest weight first thing. Start out lighter and build up to heavy even in the same workout in order to get the muscles warm and filled with blood.

As far as medications go, it goes without saying the less we have to take the better, and always be cautious about what you take and never mix any medications together without doctor's orders.

Don't be afraid to lift weights though because in all fairness a person can hurt their back just sitting up wrong, and the worse shape your muscles are in the better chance you have of getting hurt doing mundane things like picking up a pencil. Lee's initial recovery from his back injury also speaks volumes about a body's ability to recuperate that is in great physical condition.

So keep building your body, but above all do it smart and base your workouts on where you are at currently.


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