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Bruce Lee Fitness and Strength Workouts

, editor., Published January 29th, 2012; edited October 23rd, 2012.

Bruce Lee gave so much advice in his relatively short time as a professional martial artist and fitness instructor. Fortunately he left many notes and journals that have now been made into books, so that we know more about his training methods and philosophies.

“Above all, never cheat on any exercise; use the amount of weight that you can handle without undue strain.” – Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee divided his routine into specific martial arts training to enhance his martial arts prowess, i.e. weight training, calisthenics, cardio fitness and stretching. If you combine this Bruce Lee workout with a fitness plan you will get excellent results very quickly.

Each day Bruce Lee would train to improve his physique and his martial ability. However, Bruce Lee also stated that it was important to never train the body so hard on any given day, to the point where the body is too weak on the following days to train more or to fight.

From a martial perspective it is essential to never over-train, as although in the long term intensive training can make the body stronger quicker, in the short term it is not a good martial practice to leave yourself weak to fight.

Here we look at his weight training routines including isometrics, his abdominal workouts, we take a brief look at his cardio routines and stretching. Finally we present a review of The Art of Expressing the Human Body, a fantastic book that provides so many insights into Bruce Lee’s life and training. First we take a look at his training philosophy.

Bruce Lee Workouts and Weight Loss Plans

There is little doubt that if you follow in the footsteps of Bruce Lee, training as hard as he did and eating a nutritious and healthy diet, then you will quickly master your own body and never have any weight issues again. One thing is certain, and that is Bruce Lee knew how to lose belly fat very effectively, to the point that he had zero body fat. Losing weight is easy with a Bruce Lee style workout. Did you know that some weight loss plans are designed by martial artists? Vic Magary, the founder of the 31 Day Fat Loss Cure, holds black belts in Karate and Taokwondo, and uses his martial arts training technique to help you lose weight and get in great shape.

Bruce Lee Training Philosophy

Above all, never cheat on any exercise; use the amount of weight that you can handle without undue strain.” – Bruce Lee

This quote is still valid for all forms of weight training exercise today. Firstly, good form is essential, whether you are lifting weights, stretching, performing bodyweight exercises or practicing martial arts. Bruce Lee obviously had a very good grounding in the importance of good form, as kung-fu, and other martial arts, use “forms” for training and honing fighting techniques.

Good form is essential in martial arts, as it can help to determine the strengths and weaknesses of a student, condition the body to react and move in the correct way, as well as strengthen the muscles, ligaments and joints. Poorly executed form can lead to poorly executed martial application, which can be fatal.

Bruce Lee was interviewed on the Pierre Berton Show in 1971. The interview starts with the the question of Bruce Lee making films in Mandarin, when he can only speak Cantonese. Surprising, in the early Bruce Lee films the voices are dubbed, as the early Bruce Lee films were first shot without sound.

“To me, a motion picture is motion. You gotta keep the dialogue down to a minimum” Bruce Lee, 1971.

Then they discuss the secret of the success of the Big Boss, namely that it broke the mould because the fighting was real. Bruce talks about how martial arts has deep meaning to his life – and that martial arts have shaped all parts of his life.

“Martial Arts include all the combative arts like karate, Judo, Chinese kung-fu, Aikido .. some have become sport, but some not, such as kicking to the groin, jabbing fingers to eyes.” Bruce Lee, 1971.

On being asked if he could break five or six pieces of wood with his hand or foot, Bruce Lee replies,”I’ll probably break my foot.”

Bruce then talks about his theory of the “art of expressing the human body“. Combining instinct and control to have harmony, to prevent either becoming mechanical or wild – unnatural naturalness, or natural unnaturalness.

“Under the sky, under the heaven, there is but one family. It just so happens that people are different” Bruce Lee, 1971.

At the end of the video he talks about how style is meaningless, and that he does not teach style. Everyone has two arms and two legs, so for fighting, style is only restrictive.

In the end of this part Bruce Lee talks about “The Warrior”, and how martial arts are relevant in Westerns, but not the modern world, as now people carry guns.

The Importance of Good Form when Exercising

In the Bruce Lee Workout, form is very important. Poorly executed form not only reduces the effectiveness of an exercise, but it can also cause injury by placing too much pressure in the wrong areas. Also, to cheat on an exercise, is to cheat your own body of obtaining the optimal workout during any given session.

Bruce Lee’s weight training routine evolved during his career. In his early days, his emphasis was on bodybuilding, especially forearm training, and he supplemented his diet with protein drinks. Later on, he started to simplify his training. He realized that rather than the isolation exercises favored by bodybuilders, he needed to perform compound weight training exercises to increase his overall strength and condition. Bruce Lee’s weight reduced after he gave up the bodybuilding routines in favor of more traditional compound and cardio training.

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 is interesting, as it seems to move away from his traditional approach of not working the body so much that you are weakened. So, although he was moving away from the bodybuilding routines, he was also moving away from pure martial arts. The Bruce Lee Workout should be intensive enough to require adequate recovery days.

Bruce Lee suggested that you should train at most once every other day, or three days per week, with an extra rest day at the weekend. For Bruce Lee, the most important aspect of his new weight training routine was that he could still train his martial arts and practice endurance/cardio training on the other days.

Bruce Lee adopted a cross training methodology, in that he believed fitness training should have three key elements: stretching for flexibility; weight training for strength; and cardiovascular for endurance.

Bruce Lee’s Weight Training Routine

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 adopted many different exercise workouts during his short but intensive martial arts career. Although he became famous for his well chiseled muscles, which were once compared to warm marble, he also used many exercises derived from more traditional kung-fu training, which involve holding a weight steady for a period of time. Possibly the most famous kung-fu isometric exercise is the horse stance, which is simply a squat that you hold. Sounds easy, try it.

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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

See weight training exercises for descriptions and guides on performing these.

As you can see, in principal the exercises are easy. All are performed for 6-12 seconds. Remember that you are aiming to work to failure still, in that you will be putting so much effort into pushing or pulling the isometric bar that by the time your reach 10 seconds your muscles should be screaming in pain.

To perform these isometric exercises well you need to first really learn the moving versions, as form is very important and unless you have performed squats and deadlifts before, you may position yourself incorrectly resulting in a muscular injury. Bruce Lee always emphasized good form over brute force.

If you perform these exercises with maximum effort then one set of these exercises may be enough for you. Do not underestimate how much work the muscles are doing in not moving an object. Your body will be attempting to get all of your muscles to work together to move the stationary bar. Isometric exercises should not replace other weight training exercises. Remember also that diet and nutrition are vital to strength and muscle development. What makes this type of training so different is that you only have your body and willpower to listen to. Nothing moves, you just push and sweat! If Bruce Lee said it worked for him, then there is a good chance that it will work for you too.

##Bruce Lee’s Abs 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Work your abs like any other muscle. Add weight constantly so you don’t stagnate.
Bruce Lee taught that abdominal exercises never reduce the waist

###Bruce Lee Abs Tips<

Bruce Lee himself often used to comment on how he trained his abs. In doing so he helped other people build their own. Bruce learnt how to build abs from champion bodybuilders, and spent many years perfecting the art of abdominal development. He believed that the abs were vital to provide balance and strength in the body.

“The abdominal and waist region coordinate all parts of the body and act as the center of generator. Therefore, you can promote the ability to control the body’s action and master your will more easily.” Bruce Lee.

One of the best tips that he offered, which has been tried and tested many times over the years, is that you should always curl your body up as if rolling up a newspaper when doing a crunch.

Do not sit up and down like a see-saw, but curl your upper body up starting with your head, then neck, then chest. Keep your abdominals engaged (tensed) and your attention focussed on them at all times. Do not simply go through the motions.

Lee concentrated on five exercises for stomach and abdominal development. He found that these were the best exercises to help build and maintain perfect six-pack abs. He would also only perform 1-3 different exercises on any one day, and very rarely perform all five in the same session nor on the same day.

Bruce Lee’s 5 Favorite Ab 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 Liked These Stomach Exercises:

  • Roman chair sit-up
  • Leg raises (excellent for the lower abs)
  • Side bends

Bruce Lee’s Abdominal Training Tips:

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. Bruce Lee was also a firm believer in static concentrations, which involve tightening the stomach muscles for short bursts and then relaxing. Most importantly, Bruce Lee taught that abdominal exercises never reduce the waist, i.e. there is no reduction in belly fat. For this, diet and nutrition is key. Bruce Lee further developed this routine, adding additional sets of sit-ups, side bends, leg raises, “flags,” twists and back bends to his abdominal workout regimen. The “flag” exercise was a complex movement that Lee devised for working the abdominals harder. While lying on a bench, he would grasp attached uprights with both hands and raise himself, supported only by his shoulders. Then, with his knees locked straight and his lower back raised off the bench, he would perform leg raises.

Bruce Lee’s Success with Abs Training

In addition to what we have learned from Bruce Lee, there have been many other tried and tested methods of exercising and bodybuilding. Here is a summary of the concepts required for developing excellent abs: Bruce Lee preformed both cardio and weight training (high and low intensity) every single day. In doing this he lost a lot of muscle, but mainly he burned off fat. This was the main reason that his abs looked so good. There was barely a shred of fat covering them. Bruce ate a good diet and a lot of protein. He was an advocate of eating a post workout protein shake and used to experiment with lots of different ingredients. Recent research has proved that post workout shakes drunk within 30 minutes of exercise provide maximum benefit. Lee firmly believed that proper nutrition was essential for developing the perfect set of abs. What you eat determines the thickness and density of the outer tissue covering the abdominal muscles. Once the belly fat has been worked off through a calorie controlled diet combined with aerobic and endurance fitness training, the abs are then relatively easy to maintain through a good healthy diet and regular abdominal exercising. He did a lot of martial arts and was especially adept at kicking. Lots of the muscles used to power a kick come from the core region and as such he worked his abs out in different ways. He was constantly changing his abs routine, which meant that his abs never become too efficient at performing the same exercise. Overall this all helped him to achieve a very complete development. Bruce Lee’s final advice is to exercise abs daily, and that with patience and perseverance, results will be seen in time. This advice goes against what many athletes and bodybuilders advise. Today people suggest that you treat your abdominals as any other muscle and ensure that it is rested for at least 2 days after exercising.

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.

Bruce Lee’s Stretching Routines

For Bruce Lee stretching was a vital component of his daily fitness routine. The same rule really applies to all forms of exercise, from martial arts to track and field, weight lifting to gymnastics, plus sports from cricket to NFL. The benefits of stretching are numerous and can aid you for years to come. Stretching helps to prevent injury while training and competing and also increase range of motion, which can increase the work and benefit of exercising. For many martial artists stretching is just about kicking higher, but really stretching plays a more important role than just that.

Routine Pre-Workout Stretches

According to Herb Jackson, one of his training partners, stretching was the only set routine that he performed before a workout. His workouts were often varied and spontaneous, but the stretching was specific and regimented. He also was famous for stretching almost constantly while working on set. People have commented that he would be reviewing some footage and rather than sit, would stand with one leg up on a chair to help keep himself loose for the next scenes. To view one of Bruce Lee’s stretching routines, watch his film Way of the Dragon. In the final act, before fighting Chuck Norris on the Roman Coliseum, he performs one of his pre-fighting warm up and stretches. Unlike many other action movies, what Bruce displayed on film was true to his methods.

Bruce Lee’s Top Reasons To Stretch

  • Stretch for improved health and fitness. Strong and supply joints are essential to being healthy and fit.
  • Reduce injury. A greater range of motion means that you are less likely to put the weakest points under too much strain when working out or competing.
  • Stretching is a good way to warm up and prepare the muscles for the task ahead
  • Stretching after a workout can reduce muscle soreness and quicken recovery
  • Being more flexible makes you a better athlete
  • A good stretch routine should be a pleasure to perform, and is a great way to start or finish the day
Ideally you should stretch for 10 to 15 minutes before your main workout, but after warming up. As part of a stand alone fitness regime, you should aim to stretch 4 times per week to help strengthen and tone the body. Pilates and yoga can be considered advanced forms of stretching for this purpose. When stretching, you should apply constant gentle pressure that increases over time. Do not bounce. Always relax into the stretch. When doing seated forward stretches look forwards, not down, to avoid hunching the back. #### Bruce Lee’s Favorite Stretches These stretches are performed as a warm up by most martial arts clubs today. These were also Bruce’s standard stretches (photos coming soon!):
  • Seated Hamstring Stretch – stretches the rear thigh muscle
  • Hurdlers Stretch – stretches the hamstrings and groin
  • Seated Groin Stretch – opens the hips and stretches the groin and inner thighs
  • Standing Hip Stretch – stretches the hip and buttocks
  • Lunging Stretch – stretches the hips, buttocks and front thighs
  • Thigh Stretch – stretches the large muscles on the front of the thighs
  • Calf Stretch – stretches the back of the lower legs
  • Lower Back Stretch – vital stretch to warm up the lower back before exercising.
  • Side Stretch – stretches the muscles along the core
In addition to stretching muscles, it is also wise to “limber up” before exercising. This involves loosening the muscles with small gentle exercises. Typically the neck, shoulder, wrists, knees and ankles are limbered up and gentle stretched. This helps to get the blood flowing and warm the tendons. #### References and Resources: ### The Art of Expressing the Human Body – A Book Review Bruce Lee was a trend setter in many ways. He was the first celebrity to really bring the idea of martial arts fitness training into the lime light. Even today people want to know how he managed to develop a body that was almost perfect. His book, The Art of Expressing The Human Body, tells this story. Beyond his martial arts and acting abilities, Bruce Lee’s physical appearance and strength were truly astounding. He achieved this through an intensive and ever-evolving conditioning regime that is being revealed for the first time in this book. If you want to look like Bruce Lee, the Bruce Lee’s The Art of Expressing The Human Body is ideal as it details many of his training methods and his diet and nutrition rules. Much of what we know about Bruce Lee is found in this one book. In this book we can learn about the various methods Bruce Lee used throughout his career. He changed his methods as his body developed. He moved from traditional kung-fu training drills to incorporate more functional strength training. We can also learn about his diet, with insights from Linda Lee on what he liked to eat, the supplements he took, even the home made juice blends that he drank. One of the most inspirational things about this book is that it shows his actually training logs. Bruce Lee was a great believer in documenting all his training. He believed that only by keeping a log of his workouts was he able to progress and improve. Strength training is a key feature of the book. Bruce loved isometric exercises, and the book explains how they provide the raw strength required for martial arts. And he developed isometric exercise far beyond the basic horse stance. Obviously the book documents his famous 1 inch punch, and goes some way to explain how he trained his body and his mind to enable him to accomplish such feats. Part of his success was trying new techniques, even having fitness equipment custom made to meet his requirements, to strive to improve his physical self. There are whole workouts dedicated to wrist and forearm strength (essential for martial artists and grapplers). Plus his back exercise routines are simply awesome. He provides details on stretching too. The Art of Expressing the Human Body is still as relevant today as it was when Bruce Lee started penning his notes in the early 1970′s. Modern day martial arts classes would not be as dynamic today if it were not for Bruce Lee, and what he taught to others through his classes, and through his books. Every serious martial artist should read this book. “The Art of Expressing the Human Body” by Bruce Lee (fitness-store-20/detail/0804831297" rel="nofollow" shape="rect">available from #### Further Reading

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The Bruce Lee Diet

taken from:

Avoid Refined Flour Generally Bruce Lee avoided refined flour. So, he did not eat many baked foods such as biscuits and cakes, which he described as being “empty calories“. It is worth mentioning that today many people attribute irritable bowel syndrome to the excess consumption of refined flours. His philosophy was not to consume calories that did not provide some benefit to the body. This approach to eating is very similar to that of the Buddhist scriptures, which states: “You must learn to be moderate in eating, and eat only enough to remain healthy, and fit for trance. For excessive food obstructs the flow of the breath as it goes in and out, induces lassitude (lack of vitality), sleepiness, and kills all valour. As too much food has unfortunate consequences, also starvation does not lead to efficiency. For starvation drains away the body’s volume, lustre, firmness, performance and strength. You should take food in accordance with your individual capacity, neither too much nor, from pride, too little.” From Buddhist Scriptures (, edited by Edward Conze (1959).

Chinese Food Bruce Lee enjoyed Chinese food, as he felt that western food was often too bland. Some of his favourite Chinese dishes were beef in oyster sauce and tofu. However, he loved to eat steak and liver too, but overall preferred the more balanced approach of Asian dishes. He felt that often Western food placed too much emphasis on protein and fat and not enough on carbohydrates from vegetables, rice, pasta etc.

Avoid Dairy Food Bruce Lee did not like dairy food, and only ate dairy as part of protein drinks, usually using powdered milk instead of fresh milk.

Smaller Portions and More Meals For Bruce Lee concentration on the type of foods eaten were not the only important consideration, the size of portions and number of meals were just as important. Bruce Lee would usually consume four or five smaller meals a day rather than a couple of large meals, plus some healthy snacks such as fruits. Today body builders often follow similar eating habits, eating high protein meals approximately every four hours to ensure the body has a good supply of proteins to help build and repair muscle tissue. Eating more often than every four hours can put too much pressure on the digestive system, leading to indigestion. This is another reason why constant snacking is not good for you.

Drink Protein Drinks Bruce Lee consumed one or two protein drinks every day, plus fruit smoothies too. Although his protein drinks varied, they generally consisted of: * Non-instant powdered milk - which is reported to have a higher concentration of calcium than other forms of powdered milk * Eggs - sometimes with the shells * Wheat germ / wheat germ oil * Peanut butter * Banana * Brewers yeast (contains concentrated B vitamins, which are essential in the release of energy from carbohydrates). * Inositol supplement (Inositol is found in many foods, particularly in cereals with high bran content. Inositol plays an important part in the health of cell membrane, in particular the specialized cells in the brain, bone marrow, eyes and intestines. The function of the cell membrane is to regulate the contents of the cell, which makes effective functioning of the cell possible). * Lecithin - taken in granular form. (Lecithin is a mixture of glycolipids, triglycerides, and phospholipids. It is needed by every cell in the body and is a key building block of cell membranes; without it, they would harden. Lecithin protects cells from oxidation). All ingredients would be mixed thoroughly in a food blender. Bruce Lee suggested that for better results (i.e. for gaining more muscle mass quicker) milk and cream can be added too. Please bear in mind that the supplements Bruce Lee took were popular when he was researching bodybuilding during the 1960′s and early 1970′s, these supplements may now be superseded by new ones producing better results. Also bear in mind that all supplements may have side effects if taken to excess. It is best to check with your doctor/GP before starting a bodybuilding diet.

Take Dietary Supplements Bruce Lee also took many mineral and vitamin supplements. Today there is a much greater variety of supplements on offer than there were when Bruce Lee was training. Knowledge about how different supplements interact and benefit us has advanced a great deal since the 1960′s, as a result there may be better and more efficient supplements available than the ones listed below. However, here are some of the supplements Bruce Lee is known to have taken:

  • Vitamin C
  • Lecithing granules
  • Bee Pollen
  • Vitamin E
  • Rose hips (liquid form)
  • Wheat germ oil
  • Natural protein tablets (chocolate flavour)
  • Acerola – C
  • B-Folia

Increase Carbohydrates by Juicing and Blending

Bruce Lee knew that carbohydrates are essential for people with very high activity levels. It was for this that he regularly consumed fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies. Fruit and vegetables provide the richest source of carbohydrates, so Bruce Lee would often make juices/smoothies comprising of carrots, celery, apples, bananas and some parsley. Usually carrots would make up one half of the contents of the drink, the remaining being split between the other fruits and vegetables. He also sometimes used green leafy vegetables, again with a large proportion of carrot juice to help offset the bitterness of the green leafy vegetables. Bruce Lee was ahead of his time here, as these are the basic rules applied in our article how to lose belly fat. Juicing fresh fruit and vegetables is a great way to consume high quality carbohydrates. Juicing allows the body to assimilate many nutrients more easily. The enzymes in the juiced vegetables are also organic catalysts that increase the rate at which food is broken down and absorbed. Many enzymes are destroyed when vegetables are cooked, especially if boiled, therefore consuming raw fruit and vegetables is best. Some nutritionists suggest that for better health and more energy, approximately half of the carbohydrates consumed should come from raw fruit and vegetables.

Eat Honey and Ginseng Bruce Lee often drank a Royal jelly and ginseng drink to give him a quick boost. These drinks are very small, and provide a very quick release of energy. Royal jelly contains B-complex vitamins, including a high concentration of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), acetylcholine, hormones, and eighteen amino acids. It also contains trace of many minerals, trace amounts of vitamin C, some enzymes, as well as antibacterial and antibiotic components. Contrary to claims by many of those promoting its use, vitamins A, D, and E are completely absent from royal jelly. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Ginseng promotes Yang energy, improves circulation, increases blood supply, revitalizes and aids recovery from weakness after illness, and stimulates the body.

Sample Meals Obviously Bruce Lee’s diet would have varied greatly during the 1960′s and early 1970′s as his training methods evolved, but here is what is possibly one of his typical days meals:

  • Breakfast
    • Food: A bowl of muesli cereal, comprised of whole grains, nuts, and dried fruits, plus 2% milk (semi skimmed).
    • Beverage: Orange Juice and/or tea.
  • Snack Juice or Protein Drink: Protein powder, non-instant powdered milk made with water or juice, eggs, wheat germ, bananas, peanut butter. Brewer’s yeast was frequently added
  • Lunch
    • Food: Meat, vegetables, and rice.
    • Beverage: Tea.
  • Snack Juice or Protein Drink: see ingredients for morning-snack protein drink.
  • Dinner
    • Food: Spaghetti and salad, or another meal of rice, vegetables, and meat, chicken, or seafood.
    • Beverage: One glass of 2% milk and/or tea.

Bruce Lee fitness lessons

Develop a “total” approach to fitness. Bruce Lee’s exercise regimen, unlike those of most of his contemporaries, involved all the components of “total” fitness - strength, endurance, flexibility, coordination, rhythm, timing, and so on. This is the way it should be for the rest of us also. You cannot consider yourself to be truly fit if your entire exercise program consists of, let’s say, running. Your heart will be strong and your legs will not tire easily but your upper body will be flabby. Strength train for a purpose. According to Little, after poring over many scientific books, Lee came away convinced that strength was a prerequisite to all physical activities. Bruce Lee said that “techniques alone are no good if you don’t support them with strength and flexibility”. Exercise experts now agree that even golfers and bowlers would benefit much from a solid strength-training program. However, Little points out that although Lee was famous for his amazing V-shaped body, he did not lift weights simply to get bigger muscles. Little mentions Dan Inosanto, a close friend and the man chosen by Lee to assist him in teaching martial arts, as saying that Bruce Lee was only interested in strength that could readily be converted into power. Strength that had a purpose besides just looking good and being “macho” enough to bench press a large amount of weight. According to Lee, the strength developed in the home-gym had to be translated into quick and efficient power in the real world for it to be worth any good. Therefore, he cautioned that “the athlete who is building muscles through weight training should be very sure to work adequately on speed and flexibility at the same time” because “a man can be strong, but if he cannot use that strength quickly, he is not powerful”. Cardiovascular endurance is important. Little writes that Bruce Lee believed that “technique is useless if you lack the requisite endurance to carry it out.” Many an athlete has discovered this, to his or her dismay, in the last minutes of competition. When you take two athletes or two teams of equivalent skills, it will probably be their physical stamina to last to the bitter end that will make the difference between victory and defeat. Bruce Lee’s favorite form of endurance training was running which he tried to do every day, rain or shine, though he also did interval training on a regular basis also. Crosstrain. Little claims that Bruce Lee was the original cross-trainer. I don’t know if he really was the first person to cross train but, judging from the many kinds of exercise that he did, he was definitely a great believer. Little says that “the constant variety Lee infused into his workouts not only staved off the possibility of motivational boredom, but he also kept his muscles adapting to new and constantly changing training stimuli”. For example, in his strength training program, Lee used all kinds of strength-building exercises and equipment. He used free weights, cables, compression machines, heavy bags, spring-loaded devices, etc. Little says the “cornerstone of Lee’s training belief was experimentation and a refusal to become a slave to any one approach. Lee believed that the moment one locks in one way of doing anything, the potential for true learning, growth, and development is shut down. Therefore, Lee employed and experimented with many different training methods throughout his lifetime.” Don’t forget the “minor” muscles. Many people work on the “obvious” muscles - the chest, upper back, waist, legs, buttocks, etc. and tend to forget about the “minor” muscles like the shins, forearms, wrists, and rotator cuffs (deep shoulder muscles that cannot be seen). What most people don’t realize is that the smaller muscles work as assistants for the larger muscles and are the ‘weak’ links that can be prone to injury. Lee understood that the whole body has to be strengthened. He said, “If you are talking about sport, that is one thing. But when you are talking about combat - as it is - well then, baby, you’d better train every part of your body.” Strengthen your abs. Lee said, “My strength comes from the abdomen. It’s the center of gravity and the source of real power. The abdominal and waist region coordinate all parts of the body and act as the center or generator. Therefore, you can promote the ability to control the body’s action and master your will more easily.” Lee also cautioned his students about the mistaken notion of using abdominal exercises as a means to remove fat. In this, he was ahead of his time. To this day, there are still people who believe that doing one hundred crunches a day will strip off the fat layer around their midsections. Just look at all the abdominal exercise devices that are being sold on TV infomercials. Bruce Lee told his students that abdominal exercises would only build muscle and that if one wanted to reduce fat deposits, you had to pay strict attention to your eating habits and the pace of your workouts. So true! Bruce Lee achieved his phenomenal abdominals the old-fashioned way – through “a lifetime of sacrifice, denial at the dinner table and tremendous dedication at the home-gym”. You are what you eat. Bruce Lee’s eating philosophy was quite simple. He believed in ‘consuming only the calories your body actually needs, rather than simply indulging in culinary pleasures". Linda Lee states that mealtimes were not the primary focus of their lives. She says that eating was simply considered the “fuel” that kept all the members of the Lee family on the go. Little writes that Lee believed in staying away from foods with empty caloric content and little nutritive value and found it especially helpful to avoid refined sugars, excessive fats, fried food and alcohol. Always exercise safely. Bruce Lee learned the hard way that if you don’t pay attention to safety issues like warming-up, you get into serious trouble. One day in the early 70’s, he did the ‘good morning’ exercise (this requires you to bend from the waist until your upper body is at a ninety-degree angle with your legs) without warming up. To make matters worse, he was also using an excessive amount of weight (135 pounds, his own body weight). He paid the price by damaging a nerve in his lower back. Little writes that, as a result, Lee experienced intense back pain for the rest of his life. Lee called himself “stupid” for executing the exercise in that manner. Don’t make the same mistake. You only have one body. It doesn’t come with cheap spare parts. Always exercise safely. It’s not what you have; it’s what you do with it. According to his wife, Bruce Lee was not an especially genetically gifted youngster. Lee’s mother remembers that “Bruce was a skinny little kid”. Little says that the book “should forever put to rest the misbegotten notion that Bruce was somehow a “natural” who didn’t have to work - and work hard and often - to obtain every ounce of muscle he developed”. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar noted that “he didn’t weigh that much but he got the most out of what he had. He was very strong and the weight that he did have was all muscle.” This is such an inspiration for so many of us who have less than perfect bodies. It’s not what you have; it’s what you do with what was given to you by Mother Nature. There is always room for improvement. The turning point in Bruce Lee’s career in terms of fitness came in 1965 when he had to fight with a kung fu master to defend his right to teach martial arts to non-Chinese people. At that time, the traditional belief was that martial arts should only be taught to fellow Chinese. Lee quickly finished off his opponent but like Linda Lee says, “He was surprised and disappointed at the physical condition he was in. Although it took all of three minutes, he thought that the fight had lasted way too long and that it was his own lack of proper conditioning that made it such a lengthy set-to. He felt inordinately tired and winded afterward.” Bruce Lee was in top physical shape and yet was humble enough to accept that there was still room for improvement and that he would have to look outside his sport for the answer. Have a scientific approach towards fitness. In Lee’s search for alternative methods of exercise, he used the scientific approach. Little writes that Lee did not only subscribe to every commercial muscle magazine he could get his hands on but also bought exercise science books written by professors of physiology and kinesiology. He was an avid student of anatomy. Lee quickly learned to cut through the “hype and sales pitches” of the magazines and retain only the knowledge that he could confirm through scientific research and his own experiments. Never stop learning. As more research comes along, remove the old and adapt the new. Don’t get stuck with your same old exercise routine simply because “that’s the way I’ve always done it”. Bruce Lee’s exercise programs were constantly evolving as he learned new information. Linda Lee comments that “with the explosion of the fitness-health-wellness industries in the past decades, there certainly is a great amount of information available to the inspired student. Bruce would have immersed himself in the new research and would encourage you to do likewise.” Apply what you learn. All the knowledge in the world will not help you achieve a fit body unless you apply what you learn. Bruce Lee said, “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.” If you want results, expect to work hard. Little cautions the readers of his book not to “expect Bruce Lee-like results unless you’re willing to put in Bruce Lee-like hours to achieve them.” Linda Lee says, “Bruce built up his outstanding physique through sheer application and willpower; through intense training.” Make time in your schedule. When people would ask Linda Lee how her husband was able to find the time to do all those hours of training, she answered saying “that was how he decided to spend his time. The choices he made in each of his 24-hour days included devoting several hours to training his body and mind in order to be the best that he could be.” I am not saying we should spend hours a day in physical training, but we can learn from Bruce Lee by “choosing” to set aside time in our daily schedules to keep our bodies fit. In short, the choice is ours. No matter how busy we are, we can keep fit if we make fitness one of our top priorities.