Let’s cut to the chase. Bruce Lee was one of, and possibly most influential martial arts and media personalities of all time. His compact, highly charged physique was only 135lbs on a five foot seven inch frame. I grew up watching Bruce Lee on the Green Hornet, Robert Conrad on Wild, Wild, West, Ron Ely on Tarzan, and Charles Bronson on the big screen. Cary Grant and David Niven didn’t cut it with me. I have early copies of Black Belt Magazine, two original copies of Bruce’s Chinese Gung Fu book, and ton’s of collectables. My copy of the Tao of Jeet Kune Do is from 1975. I have spent hours training with original Bruce Lee students, Dan Inosanto, Rich Bustillo, and Larry Hartsell. I took detailed notes and asked questions. I understood the quality of my knowledge was based in the quality of my investigation. Opinions vary, but an opinion can be based on faulty evidence. I needed the real thing.

Bruce Lee’s training methods are widely published. The Art of Expressing the Human Body by John Little is perhaps the most exhaustive study on Bruce Lee’s fitness methods. The Little Dragon was way, way, ahead of his time. He absorbed tons of research relative to improving his high level attributes. But times have passed and we have even more material. That does not mean it is better, or more advanced, but simply MORE. The ability to hack away the inessential is a task similar to the Labors of Hercules.

How would Bruce Lee had trained if he had some hard core strongman gear? What about kettlebells? What about understanding the effect of overtraining? We could ask the questions all day, but I’d rather try to answer them now. Following is a workout from Bruce Lee’s note’s. Then a workout from my own evil mind.

Abdominals

Waist Twists 4 sets of 70
Sit Up Twist 4 sets of 20
Leg Raises 4 sets of 20
Leaning Twist 4 sets of 50
Frog Kick 4 sets of ??

Forearms

Palm Up Wrist Curl 4 sets of 17
Palm Down Wrist Curl 4 sets of 12
Leverage Bar, A+B 4 sets of 15 each
Reverse Curl 4 sets of 6
Wrist Roller 4 complete windings
Leverage Bar Twist 3 sets of 10

Strength

Clean and Press 4 sets of 6
Squat 4 sets of 6
Pullover 2 sets of 8
Bench Press 2 sets of 6
Good Mornings 2 sets of 8
Curl 4 sets of 6

Aerobics consisted of Jog/Sprint/Walk intervals, then on opposite days, circuit training of bagwork, ropework, padwork, shadow work, and footwork.

The strength work was done three days per week. The forearm and abdominal exercises were set up in a circuit alternating ab’s with forearms. There was and A and B circuit. These were alternated for six days out of the week. Abdominals and Forearms were the transmitters for the power developed through low rep strength training and martial tool development.

Upon examination, we can see that on many fronts, Bruce Lee over trained since he was very driven and had an intense level of passion. His workouts were solidly founded in basics, like the squat, and clean&press, as well. Perhaps the commitment to “tool” development, attribute development and sparring limited his weight. According to his students comments, his neurological efficiency was off the charts. Rich Bustillo told me that he remembers Bruce dislocating someone’s shoulder with a slap block. Larry Hartsell had whiplash from holding the air shield. This is when Larry was 235 and Bruce was 135 lbs.

The question I want to answer is, can we use more contemporary strength applications, such as Hard Style training to build the framework for Bruce Lee’s type of development and practical efficiency? I think that answer is easily contained in Bruce’s own philosophy. That is to strip away the unnecessary to arrive at what is essential. How do you carve an elephant out of a bar of soap?? Chop away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.

The following workout is designed for general strength, hypertrophy of the forearms, conditioning of the abdominals, and training aerobic/anaerobic conditioning through a modified sprint program. It is communicated in the following format.

Day 1-“A” Workout
Day 2-“B1” Workout
Day 3-Rest
Day 4-“A” Workout
Day 5-“B2” Workout
Day 6-Rest
Day 7-Rest
Repeat

Work for three weeks and do a lower intensity/lower volume back off week for the fourth. Then train three more weeks using the same program. You have now earned a week off and then the need to change programs. Nothing works forever and this training will provide variety and stimulation. It may give you qualities that many followers of the Little Dragon seek. Here are the exercises and the dosages.

Workout A

1. KB or Dumbell Front Squat
alternate with Kettlebell Pullover, 5X5 each.

2. Clean and Press. KB, DB, or Barbell 3 min straight.

3. Kettlebell Crush Curl
alternate with KB Alternating Floor Press, 5X5 each.

Rest adequately, but don’t be lazy. Pace yourself to go 3 minutes
in the Clean and Press.

Workout B1

1. KB Racked Torso Twist
2. 1/2 Getup
3. One Arm, One Legged, Plank
Do each exercise for 1 minute (30/30 for single limb)
Repeat for THREE cycles.

Then Forearms. Use a ThickBar or towel wrapped bar.
1. Wrist Curl
2. Reverse Wrist Curl
15 Reps each, alternate these for THREE cycles.

Workout B2

1.Stability Ball Situp w/ weight
2.Knee Raise or Leg Raise
3.Russian Hot Potato
Do each exercise for 1 minute.
Repeat for THREE cycles.

Then Foreams. Use a ThickBar or towel wrapped bar.
1. Reverse Curl
2. Behind the Back Wrist Curl
15 Reps each, alternate these for THREE cycles.

Track Work. I’d suggest you do this on your “B” day.

You choose the distance and volume of each component. If you haven’t been running and running fast, break in slowly. This is highly individual. Use common sense.

Do things in this order. Do not deviate.
1. Joint Mobility and Warmup
2. Jog
3. Sprint at 70% of max effort
4. Walking Lunge
5. Recovery Walk
6. Repeat (Build volume and intensity slowly).
7. Warm down mobility
a-Russian Pump
b-Cossack
c-Kneeling Arch and Round
Do each of these for one minute straight.

As far as progression on the strength and forearm/ab work, get the necessary amount of reps then add weight. Small incremental increases will insure constant improvement.

Diet should be simple. Focus on lean proteins, leafy/colorful vegetables, and healthy fats. Reduce calories initially by “eating clean”, then practically by about 100 calories per day each week. Example,..Week one, 2400 calories per day, Week two, 2300 calories per day. Etc. We could discuss this all day, but keep these simple rules intact and follow the energy formula. To strip away fat (energy), your output must be increased,
(exercise), and input must be reduced.(calories).

You must get adequate rest on this program. It involves different types of training and if any one of those variables is new to you,…you will FEEL it.

Follow this plan, choose your parents correctly, and you may be on your way to being the next superstar. This workout is the mustard. Let’s see if you can cut it.