Bruce Lee’s weight training routines
Bruce Lee Clean and Press – 2 sets of 8 reps
The clean and press is a classic weight lifters exercise. Unlike bodybuilding exercises, which work muscles in isolation, Bruce Lee’s weight lifting/power lifting exercises work muscles together, i.e. they are compound movements. Bruce Lee performed clean and presses in a very intensive fashion, that is, without rest between reps. This made the exercise a cardio and endurance exercise as well as a weight training exercise.
In the clean and press 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. A good form is essential in the clean and press, it is also important not to attempt to lift too much weight, as injuries to the lower back are common in poorly executed clean and presses.
Bruce Lee Barbell Squat – 2 sets of 12 reps
The squat is one of the most important compound exercises in the Bruce Lee Workout, especially for martial artists. It develops a solid base and core. In the standard squat, which should always be performed in a squat rack for safety, a barbell is placed across the shoulders and a squat is then performed. Bruce Lee advised there should be no pause in the lowest position, instead as soon as your thighs reach a horizontal position, you should rise again to a standing position. The squat works the hips, glutes, hamstrings, calves and quads.
Bruce Lee Barbell Pullovers – 2 sets of 8 reps
The barbell pullover is a weight training exercise that is less common these days. It is the classic rib-box expander. To perform a pullover you should lie on a flat 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. Some people can touch the floor behind them with the bar, but this is not recommended without adequate training. Use a light weight to start with, as this is a deceptively difficult movement.
Bruce Lee Bench Press – 2 sets of 6 reps
No weight training session would be complete without a bench press. Many martial artists actually advise against the bench press as it expands the rib cage, which is a weakness in fighting. Bruce Lee taught that a fighter should aim to develop a solid set of ribs, which can take strikes. Performing many bench presses and pullovers can open the ribs too much, so if you plan to fight competitively, do not place too much emphasis on these exercises.
Bruce Lee Good Mornings Exercises – 2 sets of 8 reps
Bruce Lee was a fan of the good morning exercise. The exercise involves holding a barbell across the shoulders and then bend forward, keeping the legs and back straight. This exercise can be very dangerous if you do not warm up and attempt to use too much weight. Really good mornings can be performed with good results with just an empty bar. Bruce Lee damaged his back doing good mornings exercises – he did not damage it in a kung-fu challenge match, as portrayed in the film Dragon!
Bruce Lee Barbell Curls – 2 sets of 8 reps
Curls are the other staple weight training exercise along with bench presses. Everyone seems to want bigger biceps. For martial arts styles that involve grappling, grabbing, pulling and throwing, a good pairs of guns come in very useful. So perform bicep curls in each training session to build up the guns. Bruce Lee Workout aims to increase your pulling power.
Change the Routine and Exercises to Suit Your Needs
With any weight training, it is important not to get into a rigid routine. After a while of training, you will hit a plateau and training will no longer produce the same gains, if any, that it once did when you were weaker and less fit. For this reason, it is essential to add new exercises. So, train with dumbbells instead of barbells at times, change the weight and number of repetitions etc. to give the body a new challenge and a new spurt of growth.
Bruce Lee’s isometric training workouts
Bruce Lee’s Isometric Training Workout
Bruce Lee used to perform a simple routine using 8 different isometric exercises. Each exercise is performed just once. The aim is to work to maximum effort in each exercise for 6-12 seconds.
To perform these exercises you need a power cage or a similar weight training bench with a bar that is too heavy to move. If you have enough weights you can put them all on a bar so that it is too heavy for you to lift. This can actually aid your training, as rather than knowing it is impossible to move the bar, you can tell yourself that if you push harder, you may move it!
- Press Lockout. Set a bar in a power cage at about 3 inches below your lockout position for a shoulder/military press. Grasp the bar as you would normally for a press, and then push the bar upwards as hard as possibly for 6 to 12 seconds.
- Press Start. This is the second position for the press. Start with the bar at chin height, just above the lowest position on your usual military press. Exert maximum force for 6 to 12 seconds.
- Rise on toes. Set the bar in a position just above your shoulders where you can touch it enough to apply pressure when on tip toes. Then position yourself under the bar, rise on toes, and push the bar as hard as possible for 6 to 12 seconds.
- Pull. The bar is set in a similar position to where you start an upright row, just below waist level. Stand in front of the bar and with a shoulder width grip, pull it upwards as hard as possible while also rising on your toes for 6 to 12 seconds.
- Parallel Squat. Set the bar at the lower position of a barbell squat at the point where your thighs are parallel to the floor. Position yourself in the usual squat position and then try to lift the bar as you would in a squat. Push as hard as you can for 6 to 12 seconds.
- Shoulder shrug. Position the bar in the power cage at the start of the shoulder shrug position, so that you can grab the bar but with the shoulders down. Then with all your effort attempt to perform a shoulder shrug.
- Deadlift. The isometric deadlift is performed with the bar about 2 inches below your knees. Then perform the usual deadlift with your feet set shoulder width apart, hips down and back flat, pushing as hard as possible with the legs and pulling up for 6 to 12 seconds.
- Quarter squat. The second squat position. Set the bar about 4 inches below your standing position in a barbell squat. Position yourself, and then push upwards on the bar as hard as possible for 6 to 12 seconds.
Bruce Lee’s abdominal workouts
Bruce Lee’s abdominal muscles were quite exceptional. They were very well defined, well developed, and very solid. Lee’s waist was very thin, with almost no fat at all. Bruce Lee followed some simple rules to ensure that his abs stayed in great shape. The main rules are:
- Diet is the most important thing when building abs. Learn how to eat in order to build muscle and keep off fat. A high protein and low carb approach is a great way to build muscle and lose fat.
- Losing fat is the second key. If you have a layer of fat over your abs you will never see them no matter how good they are.
- Work your abs like any other muscle. Add weight constantly so you don’t stagnate.
Bruce Lee’s five favorite abdominal exercises:
- Waist twists – 4 sets of 90 repetitions
- Sit-up twists – 4 sets of 20 repetitions
- Leg raises – 4 sets of 20 repetitions
- Leaning twists – 4 sets of 50 repetitions
- Frog kicks – 4 sets of 50 repetitions
Also Bruce also performed these core exercises:
- Roman chair sit-up
- Leg raises (excellent for the lower abs)
- Side bends
It is important to work fast while concentrating on good form. When you can no longer perform any more full repetitions, continue with smaller movements, such as abdominal crunches, which give improved muscle development and definition.
Beyond Bruce Lee Fitness Training
This was by no means Bruce Lee’s only workout and weight training routine, but it formed the foundation, the core, of his strength training later in his career. If you want to start to train like Bruce Lee then perform the Bruce Lee Workout at least once per week.
Credit: Motley Health