5 Fitness Training
Lessons from Bruce Lee By Denis Faye
From the Million Dollar Body Club - Join Today and Workout to
you always put a limit on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will
spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only
plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce
While some might hesitate to consider
Bruce Lee's films works of art, there are few who will deny the beauty and
grace of his physicality. Standing at 5'7" and weighing 135 pounds at his peak,
the renowned martial arts master was a temple of muscle. As Chuck Norris put
it, "He had muscles on muscles."
Of course, to reach this point took
devotion, perhaps even obsession, which few of us are willing to put forth.
That said, there's still plenty to be learned from the man whose short life -
he died at 32 of cerebral edema in 1973 - has influenced thousands of
bodybuilders, action heroes, and martial artists.
In the book Bruce Lee: The Art of
Expressing the Human Body, author John Little parsed through a vast amount
of material on or about Lee to come up with a concise interpretation of the
master's fitness regimen. At its core, Lee's plan consisted of anaerobic work,
weight training and isometrics balanced with aerobic work. His preferred form
of cardio was running. He combined all this with a clean diet. No surprises
there. However, when you look into the details, you'll find some interesting
On circuit training
devotion to what would eventually be known as circuit training started when he
read a series of articles in Ironman magazine by bodybuilder Bob Gajda
about The Peripheral Heart Action (PHA) System. The system moves from body
group to body group instead of focusing a long time on one particular group.
The benefit of this is that blood flow continually flows from muscle group to
muscle group, thus increasing muscular endurance and delaying of fatigue. It
also works the cardiovascular system. Lee loved the multiple benefits of this
On Lee's abdominals
had amazing abs, but he had to work hard to get them. His five basic stomach
exercises were sit-ups, leg raises, twists, frog kicks, and side bends. He also
understood that while you could do crunches until you were blue in the face, it
wouldn't matter unless you ate completely clean, avoiding sugar, starches, and
excess fats. Yes, there are people to whom a six-pack comes naturally but,
according to his journals, Bruce Lee, owner of one of the most amazing
six-packs in history, was not one of these people. So next time you're pushing
through Slim & 6-Pack, thinking about that grande mocha latte you skipped
this morning, just remember that Bruce Lee made the same sort of sacrifices.
believed in stretching every day for at least 15 minutes, his regimen was
basically to limber up at every available opportunity. He'd do it watching
television, reading, even in the sound studio while dubbing his films. While
few of us are in the movie business, that doesn't mean we can't work a few
thigh stretches into our coffee breaks, or work those shoulders and neck while
watching American Idol.
While he was a man of extremes, Lee
understood the importance of moderation in the stretch. Never bounce-stretch or
stretch too hard because overaggressive stretching can actually send a signal
to the brain to tighten up the muscle to protect it from damage.
On Asian food
Of the various aspects of fitness,
diet was the one Lee studied least. As his wife, Linda Lee Cadwell put it, "He
couldn't boil water" and therefore left culinary responsibilities to her. He
did, however, understand "junk in, junk out." Mealtimes in their household
weren't much of a focus - more of a time to fuel up.
He also preferred Asian-style cooking because it offered more
variety in a meal and a healthier ratio of veggies to protein. Keep in mind
that this was over 30 years ago, when American cuisine meant a potato and a
hunk of meat, as opposed to an Asian meal which could consist of shrimp,
chicken, veggies and tofu all on the same plate. He felt this variety led to a
more complete nutritional profile. While American cuisine has since
diversified, the message is the same, keep that variety up. Eating the same
thing every day probably means there are vital nutrients that you're
And no, Bruce Lee wasn't a saint. From
time to time, he'd indulge in steak or even McDonald's, keeping in mind that
super-sizing did not exist at the time.
On opportunities for everyday
the same way he stretched whenever possible, Lee felt it important to shove
exercise into his day as much as he could. Here are some of the tips he'd offer
- Walk whenever possible. Park
the car a few blocks from your destination and walk the rest of the
- No elevators. Take the stairs
- Practice balance by standing
on one foot when putting clothes or shoes on or just stand on one foot whenever
you choose to.
Fitness doesn't come from 60 minutes a
day. It's a lifestyle thing. Whatever workout you're doing now is great, but
take a look at the rest of your life. When can you walk instead of driving?
When can you hand-whip instead of using a blender? When can you run around with
your kids instead of watching television with them? Bruce's son Brandon was no
slouch himself. His dad clearly had a huge influence on him.
Bruce Lee accomplished an amazing
amount in his short life. Even if you follow his path, odds are you won't
accomplish as much as he did. On the same note, you probably won't win the Tour
de France even if you train like Lance Armstrong and you don't stand much of a
chance winning the California governorship, even if you lift weights like
But then again, maybe a defeatist
attitude like that is just the kind of "limit" Bruce Lee was talking about.
BONUS! The Bruce Lee Protein Shake
According to John Little, up to two
times a day, Lee would make a drink consisting of several of the ingredients
listed below. Unfortunately, he left no instructions for his magic elixir. We
can tell you this much, however - he did use a blender.
Non-instant powdered milk (which,
nowadays, he'd probably replace with whey protein powder)
2 raw eggs, occasionally with shell*
1 Tbsp. wheat
germ or wheat germ oil
1 Tbsp. peanut butter
Lecithin (in granular form)
* Eggs are healthiest
when eaten raw but poor-quality commercial eggs carry a risk of
salmonella infection. Unfortunately, these are the majority of eggs on
the market. The USDA does not recommend eating raw shell eggs that are not
cooked or undercooked due to the possibility that salmonella bacteria may be
For more about Bruce Lee, check out
Bruce Lee: The Art of Expressing the Human Body by John Little,
(Tuttle Publishing, 1998) $19.95.