Bruce Lee is rightfully a legend. His martial arts legacy, philosophy and artistic expressions still positively affect and inspire generations of people around the world till this day.
Bruce Lee began his training with the Wing Chun Kung Fu grandmaster Yip Man. He progressed in his training and knowledge of martial arts and eventually formed his own style of martial arts, known as Jeet Kune Do.
Bruce Lee described Jeet Kune Do as being different from other traditional martial arts in that it was fluid and flexible, not bound to specific moves, saying it is “a style without a style,” free flowing and adapting to whatever the adversary brings to the fight.
Bruce Lee practiced both technical martial arts moves and basic punching and kicking with the speed bag, foam pad, cross pad and heavy bag on a daily basis. Here as described in his notes is his martial arts drill routine:
Punches: Monday | Wednesday | Friday
4. Overhead Cross
6. Speed Bag Workout
Kicks: Tuesday | Thursday | Saturday
1. Side Kick
2. Hook Kick
3. Spin Kick
4. Rear and Front Thrust Kick
5. Heel Kick
Bruce Lee was not only a master martial artist who progressed martial arts by developing Jeet Kune do, he was also a firm advocate of physical fitness. For Bruce Lee, developing one’s physique was most importantly about functionality. For him, the development of a strong physique was the product of dedication to intense training and healthy living.
Bruce Lee innovated martial arts by applying his philosophy “absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is essentially your own.” His creation of Jeet Kune Do was the result this philosophy. Lee considered both martial arts and fitness to be a physical means for self improvement, personal growth and the development of inner strength and character.
You can apply Bruce Lee’s philosophy to your own fitness training. That is, you do not have to go by what everyone else is doing because that is the norm to do. Take what is useful for yourself, discard what is not useful for you and apply what specifically works for you. Give yourself the freedom to innovate in a way that improves your training.
Before Bruce Lee, martial artists did not train with weights. The idea was that weight training would make one slow. Bruce Lee did not buy into this concept and instead he integrated weight training, calisthenics and cardiovascular conditioning along with his martial arts training.
Bruce Lee’s weight training was simple yet highly effective. He trained with compound movements in a full body workout circuit. As others did endless reps of body-weight exercises, Bruce Lee trained with weights in the low 5-6 rep range to produce maximal strength and power while maintaining low body weight. This type of training style was truly innovative and ahead of his time.
For cardiovascular conditioning, Bruce Lee ran 4 miles three days per week and he skipped rope for 30 minutes and cycled on a stationary bike three days per week.
In addition, Lee put considerable focus on training his abdominal and core muscles hard for max strength, support and durability. Of course, for Bruce Lee, abdominal training had a significant importance. Having strong abdominal muscles acted as a shield to withstand punches and kicks to the guts.
It’s interesting to note that Bruce Lee never publicly unveiled his workouts. It was Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon Lee who many years later discovered her late father’s workouts written on notes of paper. Bruce Lee’s full-body workout routine and other training regimens were featured in Muscle & Fitness’s October 2014 publication.
In his training notes, Lee emphasized the role of flexibility, coordination, power, agility and endurance in a successful training protocol. He also noted the importance of rest and recovery.
In talking about fitness training, Bruce Lee said:
“Don’t allow your goals to be superficial. Think deeply about your motivations, and pursue them in ways that elevate your performance. Accept what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is essentially your own, and apply it to your workout.”
Bruce Lee created this weight training circuit called “power” that he used for overall strength and power for his martial arts training:
Being highly innovative and ahead of his time, Bruce Lee realized that training the muscles of his whole body in a circuit fashion was not only a more balanced approach but it yielded more strength and power gains than by splitting up muscle groups.
Bruce Lee created this weight training circuit called lean mass gains when he wanted to put on some more muscle mass while maintaining his agility and speed.
Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon called her father the Philosopher of Movement and explained:
“I guess when I say that he is a philosopher of movement what I really mean to say is that he physicalized philosophy. Philosophical ideas and sayings are great…but the next step is to take it and try to integrate it into some sort of personal action.” … “My father took it a bit further and fully applied his beliefs and thoughts to his training and his art… he physicalized ideas such as adaptability, pliability, freedom, efficiency and instinct.”