Bruce Lee’s Training – How’d He Get So Ripped?

by Caleb Lee on March 23, 2009

bruce-lees-trainingWanna know about Bruce Lee’s training? Specifically, how he got so muscular and ripped? Then congratulations, because you’re reading the right web page!

I don’t know about you but Bruce Lee’s physique was probably the one thing that REALLY motivated me to start working out so much when I was younger. I wanted to be really muscular and ripped like he was… get those abs… and have a really cool scream when I kicked people in the head.

Bruce Lee’s Awesomeness:

Some other reasons why Bruce Lee was awesome and worth studying:

  • He read “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill, and wrote his “chief, definite aim as “I will earn $10 million by being a famous American movie star” — and he did it on the timeline he set out to do it in.
  • He had an awesome mustache (rare pics of this are in this article)
  • When a lady on set saw him with his shirt off, she wanted to feel his muscles and Bruce (never a shy guy) happily gave her a flexed bicep to squeeze. She recoiled after grabbing it and remarcked it felt like “warm marble”
  • He was just flat out COOL. In fact, if you watch a fight scene from a Bruce Lee movie and a fight scene from a Jet Li, Tony Jaa or even Jackie Chan movie — you know for sure who is a better martial artist… but Bruce Lee just EXUDED Awesome and Win in a way no other martial arts superstar did/does.
  • He beat up a lot of punk-asses: there are at least two accounts of Lee breaking noses of guys that approached him while he was with his girlfriend(s). Friends said, “Lee didn’t suffer fools kindly”.

So I started studying a lot about ole Brucey, and reading all the books about him. One of the best books about Bruce Lee’s training methods is Bruce Lee’s The Art of Expressing the Human Body. It’s basically a book which was compiled from all of Bruce’s own notes about his training routines, his thoughts, philosophies, etc. Most accurate of all the stuff you’ll read about him.

So how DID Bruce Lee get so awesome?

It Started With Strength Training

bruce-lee-breathingWhich Bruce calls bodybuilding because in the 60′s weight training was relatively new. In fact, Bruce was one of the first martial artists to really start doing it.

You can go grab the book if you want to read his specific weight training routines, but you’ll find that in the very beginning Bruce started training with full body weight lifting routines because he felt you needed every body part to be strong to become a better martial artist.

One of his favorite weight lifting exercises was the Clean and Press because it hit almost every muscle in the body. Bruce actually hurt his lower back doing weighted “Good mornings” early on in his weight lifting career and his lower back pain was always with him until he died. Protect you lower back, read my ebook “Amazing Abs 101 – For people with back pain or who never want to get back pain” (it’s yours free just for signing up to my site).

Bruce Did A Lotta Cardio

Besides his daily martial arts training of hitting stuff, mostly punching (he recorded over 2,000 punches thrown one day) which is a form of cardio in itself — Bruce was really big on cardio training.

bruceleeThere was a reason for this, and it’s the same reason that got Bruce obsessed with “working out” in the first place. He accepted a kung fu challenge by a rival school because he was teaching us White devils “ancient chinese secrets”. He beat the crap out of the guy at first but the guy tried running away and he had to chase him down to continue beating his ass — and although the fight only lasted like 3-5 minutes or something — Bruce was REALLY tired.

That’s when he realized his training was emphasizing all the wrong things: traditional stances wasted time and energy in fighting (laying the basis for his thought of “Jeet Kune Do”) and if a 3 minute fight tired him out he would have to start training to get in better shape (instead of focusing so much on just his fighting technique).

ANYWAYS, Bruce was really big on running. He called running “the king of exercises”. He ran a lot. This was during the “jogging craze” of the 60′s so you can imagine how overboard he went with it.

Nowadays, we’ve discovered it’s not so healthy to run so much like that and there’s quicker, more efficient, and overall, more healthier ways to get your cardio in (like interval training!)

High Energy, Active Lifestyle

bruce-lee-wingspanBruce was a hyperactive kind of dude. He was always doing something. (I know an asian like this). If he wasn’t working out, he was recording his workouts in his notebook and planning his next session. He would park farther away from buildings to walk more, or take the stairs and stuff like that.

He was also a movie star doing action movies, so that in itself was a workout. He also had a mistress late in his life (that’s where his body was found) so I’m sure that was some cardio activity in itself (sorry if that sounds disrespectful).

Seriously though, Bruce was always doing something. One guy reported seeing Bruce laying on the ground doing leg raises while watching a boxing match on T.V. while bouncing his son Brandon on his stomach, while simultaneously doing chest fly’s with dumbbells. That was Bruce.

Bruce Ate Good Stuff

Bruce liked the more “balanced” Asian diets with lots of vegetables… but knew from his research that athletes needed more protein. So in addition to a lot of Asian food he drank 2-3 protein shakes a day.

His wife Linda was in charge of cooking all the food and she made sure he ate well and that everything was healthy. The main key to Bruce’s diet was he ate good, wholesome stuff, and enough of it to get him by. He didn’t eat a lot of sugar, sweets, etc.

Combine that with his VERY active lifestyle and it’s no wonder why he was so ripped.

Awesome Video Of Bruce Lee’s “Super Kick”

This is one of my favorites scenes from ANY Bruce Lee video because he absolutely OWNS this guy’s head (this is what I referred to earlier when I said I wanted to be like Bruce when I was younger and  “have a really cool scream when I kicked people in the head”)

That’s a primer on Bruce Lee’s training, like I said, if you want more info I suggest picking up The Art of Expressing the Human Body it’s a good read if you’re a Bruce fan or want to know how he trained.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Al S March 23, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Great Article. I have read the book and if anyone needs motivation to get in better shape, then this book will do it. There is a reason why Bruce was so ripped, he worked out like a mad man and did not eat crap: “EAT CLEAN AND EXERCISE”, the basic formula for all things fitness and health. For some reason millions of people do not understand this concept. According to the book, Bruce ate clean but it wasn’t “super clean”. he just stayed away from all of the crap food that we eat today.

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Caleb Lee March 23, 2009 at 5:18 pm

@ Al: no doubt man :)

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Justin July 1, 2009 at 10:30 am

Most of the article is correct, but correct is such a wrong term for this work of yours. Your writing about Bruce Lee is disrespectful and lacking any feeling, like it was just thrown together after you read some facts about him on wikipedia.

“He beat the crap out of the guy at first but the guy tried running away and he had to chase him down to continue beating his ass — and although the fight only lasted like 3-5 minutes or something — Bruce was REALLY tired.”

Here is a line I’d like to touch on. The man that issued that challenge came to Bruce’s Kwoon (Chinese Martial Arts School) and they did fight, but he never ran. After the four minutes (note how I say this with full assurance, not ending it with “or something”) it took Bruce to finally beat him, Bruce came to the conclusion that he was not physically fit enough as a martial artist ALL AROUND, not just with his cardio. It is this event in his life that gave Bruce the frame on to which he would later paint his picture of a perfect Martial Artist.

“He also had a mistress late in his life (that’s where his body was found)”
A Mistress? Where did you get that bit of information? If your trying to be funny, your not, you are highly disrespectful to a great man, husband, and father. July 20th Bruce Lee complained of having a terrible headache to which he took medication for and decide to lay down. Later that day HIS WIFE found him unresponsive in THEIR hotel room. She called for an ambulance to pick Bruce up, he was pronounced dead on arrival.

You need to get your facts straight before you attempt to write about anything every again.

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Caleb Lee July 1, 2009 at 12:02 pm

@ Justin: I LOOOOVEEE people like you Justin :)

It’s commonly believed Lee’s mistress was Betty Ting, check out the wikipedia page for her here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Ting and:

“On 20 July 1973, Betty unwittingly hit the headlines when Bruce died in her apartment at 67 Beacon Hill Road, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong.

According to press reports, Bruce Lee was going over the script of Game of Death in Betty’s apartment, a Golden Harvest film in which she was reported to have a lead role, when he complained of a headache. She gave him a single tablet of Equagesic, a strong aspirin-based drug that she often used herself. He then went to sleep, but when she could not wake him up for a dinner appointment with Raymond Chow, the owner of Golden Harvest, Betty called an ambulance. Lee was rushed to Queen Elizabeth Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Death was allegedly caused by an allergic reaction that resulted in brain edema (swelling of the brain). The coroner described his passing as “death by misadventure”.

I’m just sayin … the facts are facts …

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Sean August 22, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Justin is correct! You are very disrespectful, and your facts are a little twisted. Raymond Chow, Bruce Lee, where meeting at Betty Tings to go over the movie script, and then go out to dinner. Then at the last minute Raymond Chow had a emergency, and he could not make it to their engagement. When Bruce showed up at Betty Tings he had a horrible head ache, and then she gave him the tablet. Bruce laid down, and he then was gone forever. There is no proof of a affaire, and it is obvious you are trying to us a “attention getter” in your writing. Also their is a word that is not in your vocabulary and it is called “Class”. Please do us a favor and not write article’s about somthing you obviously no nothing about. You are not witty or sharp with your writing. When the reader is drown away from your article, because of bad grammer, taste-less remarks, and a sorry attempt at bring forth a great legends “way to success”. You have lost the reader, and your creditability as a writer. You are attempting to write a article about Bruce Lee and his success, but instead you have dishonored and insulted; Bruce Lee, his wife, family, friends, fanes, martial art community, and me! (“I’m just sayin …the facts are facts…”) They are not facts, they are speculations. The News is full of lies and speculations. That is want sells storys, but you should know that already RIGHT! You are not origanal at all, this article has been written so many times already PLEASE! Why would you disrespect Bruce Lee don’t you know that he is a hero to so many?

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Caleb Lee August 24, 2009 at 12:29 pm

@ Sean: I could see how you feel I’m being disrespectful, and maybe it seems that way to others who view Bruce as a hero …

… I too still see him as a hero, and the fact that he had a Mistress (which makes logical sense to anyone who reads about the whole situation) … does NOT take anything away from the man, the myth, the legend … so that wasn’t my intention.

Thanks for your comments and concerns about my writing and “class” too :)

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Kung Fu Kid September 30, 2009 at 2:21 pm

That’s a cool article, if somewhat different. I think it’s quite easy to jump on the ‘he must have been doing “something” behind the scenes’ bandwagon but he was constantly doing stuff.

There you go people, try doing stuff everyday! And eating well with it!

He’s one of the most inspirational people ever and someone to read about when times get ‘hard’.

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Caleb Lee September 30, 2009 at 7:45 pm

@ Kung Fu Kid: Bruce is inspirational, that’s fo sho’ …

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Lifter November 12, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Few people on this earth were bigger Bruce Lee fans than I am/was… I have a monster collection worth thousands of dollars, from a rare record to flip books, in the 70′s and through the 80′s I read and sought out anything and everything I could on the man.

After a LOT of searching managed to track down a guy who had inside information on Bruce, having been in the operating room when he passed away. He shared Bruce’s final moments, telling me the excruciating pain he was in… to be expected with celebral edema, his brain swollen 3x its size.

Out of respect I won’t delve into the devastating information I weaned out of the guy, but I will say fame got to Bruce in latter years, he became a “different person”. Regardless he was a one and only, there will never be another!!

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richard January 8, 2010 at 2:21 am

Caleb’s article is fine, I don’t expect someone to be perfect. I am too a fan, grew up watching and studying Bruce Lee. Lets worry about the big things, his achievements to society, humanity and to martial arts. I train in martial arts myself and expect perfection, but Caleb’s heart is in the right direction, he means no harm. There are plenty of articles out there to differentiate the truth from bs. None of us were there, so we shouldn’t say anything. Let the man RIP. Be strict to yourself first before others.

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Caleb_Lee January 27, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Richard,

Great comment — very well thought out :)

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bobs youruncle January 8, 2010 at 3:57 pm

hang about

your quoting wikipedia as fact, a website i or anyone else could go onto right now and change anything i or they wanted?

If wikipedia said the world was flat would you believe it?

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kid of new york May 4, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Bruce was the best period……..

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Testking 70-647 May 11, 2011 at 6:35 am

Very helpful post. Very clear commentary and suggested phrasing are most impressive, as are his and your generosity in sharing this explanation and example.

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Chase June 5, 2011 at 1:32 am

i would like to point out that that guy who bruce fought didnt tire him out, he broke his back and put bruce in a wheel chair for a good amount of time. it was a good article, it got the main point across but not all the facts are right, and i guess it would be crazy to expect them all to be correct. but overall good article!

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Caleb_Lee July 9, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Dude. That never happened. You got your facts crossed–that was only in the movie version of his life :)

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Hay July 16, 2011 at 7:55 pm

wish he never died…he was the man.

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Jja kson July 19, 2011 at 5:54 am

I dont want to mess with Bruce lee super kick

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Caleb_Lee August 14, 2011 at 3:55 am

Word

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