Since discovering Bruce as a boy in his many Golden Harvest productions, Bruce Lee has always been an idol to me (and millions of others). Even before I had seen the front covers of muscle magazines and other body builder physiques, his whole being just ooozzzed perfection! He was a rock.
I’ve digested lots of reading material about Bruce Lee’s training methods, and you will see that he got to his prime shape from a pretty ordinary body. He was no genetic freak! He started weights with the primary aim of gaining size. Once he gained, he then really became ‘ripped’, but instead of going through this cycle he stayed super defined and ‘shredded’ for the remainder of his life! James Coburn once said Bruce’s muscle was like touching marble. Great news for all of us – regardless of your starting position, with hard work, you too can become a great athlete with a body to match! So Bruce Lee was rock hard, we know, but can we learn anything from his training?
His Training Was Varied
We know Bruce took to running about 6 miles daily, and whilst this isn’t possible or desirable for many of us, it shows that there was a place for CV fitness in his lifestyle. Further, he was always perfecting his fighting and combat skills which would recruit a huge range of his muscle fibres, leading to an all-round honed physique – no body part was left neglected!
Alongside this he had resistance training, and had his own favourite all-in-1 weights machine built for him by a friend. Bruce used compound exercises such as the Clean and Press as well as more specialised lifts like the Concentrated Curl for his biceps. Apparently he was always with his hand gripper working his forearms which would explain his outrageous forearm definition. The key point is variety – Bruce was always open to experimentation and borrowed from many ‘schools of thought’ if he believed it could help him to develop in some way. And so the mantra goes – try everything, keep what works, disregard what doesn’t work.
He Got His Nutrition Right
In understanding the importance of nutrition to his training, Bruce was well ahead of his time. His protein shakes were all-natural and whilst he had no set recipe, they usually comprised of raw eggs and their shells as well as peanut butter, Brewers Yeast, and wheat germ. I’ve used these ingredients myself with no problems but understandably we don’t have to go for raw eggs when there are readily available protein powders today. The key point is that Bruce knew the importance of re-fuelling in the post-workout 30 minute window, and this was important given the high intensity of training he did! Besides protein shakes, Bruce loved nutrient dense food like parsley, and always ate whole, natural produce.
Breathing for Great Abs!?
Thousands of turning kicks undoubtedly contributed to Bruce’s world renowned midsection but he also favoured:
• Sit-ups on the Roman Chair
• Leg raises
• Elevated V-sits (Very hard to perform!)
Personally I think we have learnt that crunches and sit-ups are not the best way to train your abs as they can cause back problems. Instead I prefer:
• Side planks
• Hanging knee raises
Bruce had a great breathing technique too which is less widely known. It requires breathing out through pursed lips and contracting your abs simultaneously (static contractions). This works the mind-muscle link so that your abs will be better recruited during other exercises. Read more on this interesting technique over at Rusty Moore’s Fitness Blackbook.
Ultimately, some think that Bruce overdid it and pushed himself too far in the end. Bruce did amazing things in his life and I will always respect that. I take away the importance of clean nutrition, experimentation and variety, and maximum effort from his training! We should all remember that Bruce dedicated himself to his training and whilst he had a film career and family, he committed to his training more than most of us ever will (wish to do so).
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