“Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee rose from a poor boy in Hong Kong to the world best action movie star in 1970s. He stood at 5 feet 7 inches (about 1.71 meter) and weighed about 140 pounds (64 kilogram). He is lean, ripped and powerful. He had impressive physique that many celebrities including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan and Stephen Chow admired him. Bruce Lee has much influence in Stephen Chow’s movies such as Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer.
Bruce Lee and Bodybuilding
Bruce Lee was an avid devotee of martial art. A key turning point was when he fought with a challenger in San Francisco. The man picked a fight with Lee because Lee was teaching non-Chiense students martial arts. At that time in mid 1960s, Chinese community in US did not agree with Lee’s way of sharing Kung Fu skill with other nationalities. Lee took the the challenge and he managed to pin down his opponent in about 3 minutes, but Lee was not happy with his own performance. He was surprised how exhausted he got during the fight, despite it lasted merely 3 minutes. He acknowledged that something has to be changed. It was this fight that made Lee thoroughly thought about alternate methods of physical conditioning.
From that moment onward, Bruce Lee read lots of bodybuilding magazines and books. While bodybuilding is a norm nowadays, it was relatively new for martial art as these two seldom met. He subscribed to any bodybuilding publications he was aware of. He even attended bodybuilding courses to test how good they were. He was often spotted frequenting second hand bookstores buying books related to strength training, weight lifting and martial art. He has amassed huge amount of books in his persona library. His continuous pursue of bodybuilding knowledge resulted in his achievement of greater physical strength.
After reading many books and experimenting, Bruce Lee finally settled with a 3-day weekly workout program which he believed suit his need most. He did clean & press, squats, pullovers, bench press, Good Mornings and barbell curls. This alternate day workout allowed Bruce to work out on days when he was not doing his martial art training. From martial artist’s perspective, Lee tried not to over train as doing so would leave him weak to fight.
Bruce managed to increase his body weight from 130 pounds to almost 165 pounds. However, Bruce Lee was not really satisfied with the added muscle mass which made him looked like a bodybuilder. He felt that it slowed him down. He realized his mistake – stronger muscle is a bigger muscle. Once again, Bruce tweaked his workout routine focusing in functional strength. Instead of keep building the major major muscles, he paid much attention to connective tissues such as tendon and ligament strength. He incorporated stretching for flexibility, cardiovascular exercise for stamina and weight training for strength. Also, from isolation workout, he moved to compound exercise. One thing worth mentioning is about his injury. He hurt his back when he was performing weighted “Good Morning” back exercise. This injury caused tremendous pain to him and continued to haunt him until he died in year 1973.
Instead of just plain normal weight lifting, Bruce made use of the dumbbells in his martial art training. He would punch with small weight, 100 punches with increasing weight from 1 pound to 2, 3, 5, 7 and 10 pounds, then decreasing weight from 10, 7, 5, 3, 2 and 1 pound.
Even when Bruce was not at the gym, he would still hold a dumbbell in his hand doing curling while reading a book in one hand with a full side splits in the living hall.
He finally slimmed down, yet was stronger and more agile. He still could run, jump and kick quickly. He could did push up with single hand with only thumbs and index fingers on the ground. One arm chin-up is difficult but Bruce could did it 50 repetitions non-stop. He could hold a 125 pounds barbell with straight arms in front of him for several seconds (considering he weighed about 135 pounds). He liked thrusting Coca Cola can with his fingers and kicking 300 pounds bags against the ceiling. He could use do bicep curl with weight of 80 pounds with 8 repetitions. He could also maintained an elevated v-sit position for more than half an hour.
“If you always put limits 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 Lee
“Never cheat on any exercise; use the amount of weight that you can handle without undue strain.” – Bruce Lee
Because of Bruce Lee’s background, he paid much attention to form. In martial arts, form is very important. He applied the same approach in weight training. He advised his students not to cheat on the workout.
If you are really into Bruce’s training, check out these books authored by him.
Bruce Lee and His 6-Pack Abs
Bruce Lee has an incredible set of 6 (if not 8) pack abdominal muscles. He is a strong believer in having strong core muscles and abs was the foundation of it. He was crazy about abdominal workouts. He did crunches, Roman chair movements, leg raises and V ups. He even got his 3-year-old son, Brandon sit on his abdomen while he performed dummbell flyes for his chest muscles and leg raises for his abs, with television on.
Bruce Lee’s waist measurement was about 28 inches. Once, it was under 26 inches.
Bruce Lee and His Forearms
Bruce Lee always wanted to improve his gripping strength and punching power. Many people neglect forearm training, but Lee made extra effort to train on his forearms. He even seek his friend’s assistance to custom build few gripping machines which allowed him to add weight.
While watching television, he would lie his forearm on sofa edge and then did the wrist curls. His favorite forearm workout was Zottman curl.
Bruce Lee’s Cardiovascular Exercise
Bruce Lee liked jumping rope and he could jump 800 times after cycling. He also liked punching his fist into buckets of harsh rocks and gravel 500 repetitions a day, treating it as a cardiovascular exercise. The incorporation of cardiovascular activities in his training laid the foundation of his “Jeet Kune Do” later days.
Bruce ran a lot too. He built his stamina from running.
He liked moving around and can be considered hyperactive. He would park his car far away from buildings so that he walked more. He preferred to take the stairs.
Bruce Lee’s Diet
According to his wife, Linda Lee, Bruce had healthy diet plan. He took high protein drinks and consume green vegetables as well as fruits every day. He avoided junk food, sugary food, baked goods, refined flour. Between western and chinese food, he preferred the latter. Some of his favorite Chinese dishes include beef in oyster sauce, tofu and steak and liver.
Bruce Lee took about 4 to 5 small meals a day rather than the typical 3 big meals. He had healthy snack throughout the day. He liked carrots.
Bruce did not like diary food including milk. However, he knew that milk provides protein which is the building block for muscles. He still drank powdered milk instead of fresh milk. He preferred fresh vegetables and fruit juices, prepared in electric blender. He believed that the enzymes in the juiced veggies could ac as organic catalysts which help increase the absorption of nutrients. Because most of the enzymes are destroyed when vegetables are deep fried (in typical Chinese way), Lee would consume them raw.
Bruce Lee took dietary supplements Vitamin C sand E, Lecithin granules, bee pollen, Shilajit, rose hips (liquid form), wheat germ oil, Acerola – C and B-Folia.
Lee also drank ginseng drink and royal jelly as they contain vitamin B complex. He liked ginseng because Chinese believe that ginseng helps improve blood circulation and therefore allow quicker recovery after the training.
Bruce Lee’s Death
Bruce Lee passed away in year 1973 when he was only 32 years old. His unexpected demise at such a young age fed many rumors. Some said Hong Kong triads have murdered him and the government has done the cover up; some said it was caused by a delayed reaction to a strike when he fought with other Kung Fu master several weeks prior to his collapse. However, the coroner has concluded that it was “death by misadventure” caused by an acute cerebral edema due to a reaction to compounds present in Equagesic. In layman’s word, Bruce’s brain was found swollen by 13% after taking the painkiller (Equagesic). He took it when he suffered from headache.
What really caught my attention was the comment given by Don Langford who was Bruce Lee’s personal doctor in Hong Kong. He did not agree that painkiller was the one which kill Bruce. He did not show any signs of addiction to painkillers after all. It was the drug, Nepal hashish, that took his life. Three months before Bruce died, he collapsed at his studio bathroom. Langford managed to save him. According to Langford, Bruce admitted that he has been taking the drug.
You may wonder why Bruce Lee took drug. Bruce suffered from serious back pain after he injured his lower back during his workout (notorious Good Morning back workout). He had severely damaged the fourth sacral nerve. He was prescribed steroid for the back muscles and nerve system. After recuperating 7 months, he finally recovered and doctor has advised him not to do any dangerous stunt or training. Some people believe this incident got Bruce Lee into drug.
After the first collapse, Dr Langford was very worried that Bruce might not be that lucky if it ever happened again. At that time, he was about 126 pounds, which was 20 pounds down from the day he arrived in Hong Kong. He was very thin with about 1% body percentage left, which was considered unhealthy. Bruce did not have body fat to absorb any toxic chemical compound. He had also removed his sweat gland in 1972. By not sweating, the drug toxin build up in his bloodstream. The fluid buildup was pumped from the heart into his brain, resulting his brain to swell, coma and death.
People said that it was the insurance payout reason which kept his wife to keep mum about the truth. The authority was silence about it too. Many young kids worshiped Lee and the image of being a role model should not be changed.
The above rumor about Bruce Lee died of drug remains to be rumor until someone can show the proof. Bruce Lee is still a Kung Fu legend and one of the biggest action movie stars.
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