How To Build a Physique Like Bruce Lee’s

Bruce Lee was a legendary martial artist and a movie star. He was famous for his feats of strength, power and aesthetic body that many people would like to build. In this article, I will present you a plan designed to get you there.

Note: In order to get as close as possible to the original, we must build our program around principles rather than specific exercises and myths.

How big was Bruce Lee?

Height: 5′ 7.5″-170 cm
Weight: 135lbs-61 kg
Body fat: 5-8%


Is it possible to acquire similar physique naturally? Yes. The natural potential of the human body allows it. Nonetheless, you will not look exactly like Bruce Lee, for different people have different body structures and muscle insertions.

build-a-body-like-bruce-lee

I. Lose body fat

The number one reason why Bruce Lee’s physique looks so aesthetic is his low body fat. According to some sources, he had the lowest possible body fat level a man can have – 3%. However, since there are many speculations and exaggerations regarding Bruce Lee’s physical abilities, it’s safer to assume that his body fat was about 5-8%.

Your diet is the key to getting lean. There may be thousands of diet books, but at its core losing body fat is very simple. All you have to do is consume fewer calories than your body needs.

Many experts disagree on various subjects. Some say eat carbohydrates, others say don’t…It’s easy to get confused. That’s why it’s always best to stick to the basics when elaborating a powerful nutritional plan that will help you lose body fat.

1. Cut all the junk food.

This is the most important part. You have to stop overloading your body with sweets, ice cream, McDonald’s sandwiches…etc. You don’t have to always eat clean,though. 90% of the time will do it.

2. Be careful with your carbs.

Back in the day, the bodybuilding trainer Vince Gironda was the first to bring the ultra-ripped (shredded) physique to the bodybuilding stage. Gironda was sometimes called – ‘too lean’. Believe it or not, there was such thing as ‘too lean’ at the time. People were just not used to seeing so much muscular definition. Gironda was even punished received lower scores for his leanness.

His diet? Low carbs. He advised lifters to eat high protein, high fat, low carb foods such as meat, eggs…etc.

Undoubtedly, the low carb diet is one of the fastest ways to get ripped and shredded. Unlike the scam diets sold today this one works even for natural drug-free bodybuilders. However, the requirement for achieving a caloric deficit still stays. If this condition is not met, you will never lose a significant amount of body fat.

vince-gironda-low-vard-diet

Vince Gironda

Keep in mind that low carb diets are not zero carb diets.

The zero carb diet is very difficult to sustain, and most people will feel lethargic on it. That’s because the human brain operates mostly on carbohydrates, and once you take all the juice out, your mental health has no choice but to revolt. Limit the carbs but don’t eliminate them.

3. Don’t worry too much about protein.

When you follow a low carb diet, your protein intake will be high no matter what. That’s because most of the foods high in fat are also high in protein. Focus on your total caloric intake.

Unless all you eat is butter, your protein needs will be covered. Tracking every single macronutrient and risking a mental explosion is not always advisable.

3. Don’t expect miracles and be consistent.

You won’t see a change in two weeks. Don’t worry and don’t quit. Be persistent with your diet, track your overall food and be patient. Before you know it, you will lose body fat.

4. Do some cardio

It may surprise you, but cardio is on the bottom of our list when it comes to losing body fat in order to fit in Bruce Lee’s clothes. If you have the time, you should definitely do some cardio but don’t count on running to compensate for an atrocious diet consisting of Coca-Cola and Sneakers.

II. Build some muscle

Bruce Lee was not a big guy. However, his muscles were very dense, thick and elastic. You can’t just starve your way to Bruce Lee’s physique. You have to spend some time in the gym to build up the body.

1.Torso

lats_bruce_lee

Judging by Bruce Lee’s pictures, he had a mediocre chest, strong latissimus dorsi (wings) and big forearms. That’s why the presented upper body routine contains heavy back work.

Assembling the Routine

Part 1: Upper body

Day 1

Ring pull-ups – 3xF
Dips – 5xF

Day 2

Deadlifts – 1×5
Push-ups – 3×8
One arm dumbbell row/Australian pull-ups  – 3×5-12

The routine above requires you to train two times a week. On day 1, the exercises are ring pull-ups and dips. The ring pull-up is performed for 3 sets. Perform as many reps with good form as you can. Once you can do more than 12 reps in a set, add weight.

The next movement is the dip. The dip is chosen over the bench press because it’s a safer exercise that can be done at home without much equipment and a spotter. Perform 3 sets. Once you can do more than 15 reps in a set, add weight.

The next day consists of deadlifts, push-ups and rows.

The deadlift is performed for one work set of 5 reps. If you complete all sets, add weight (no more than 10lbs – 5kg) to the bar the next workout. Once you hit a wall, lower the weight and start climbing up again.

The push-ups are performed for 3 sets. Do as many as you can with good form. Add weight or resistance bands once you get over 20 reps for each set.

The other back exercise is the one arm dumbbell row. You can replace it with Australian pull-ups if you want.

2. Arms and forearms

bruce-lee-forearms

Bruce Lee did not have the biggest arms, but he is well-known known for his superior forearm strength and development.

According to various sources, he used to train his forearms every day with a single goal in mind – to develop a vicious grip and wrist strength. Eventually, his training produced some serious thickness in that area too.

However, you can’t just jump straight into daily forearm work unless the intensity and volume are very low. At the beginning, it is better to stick to the regular routine for a couple of months without doing any arm or forearm isolation work. After you’ve built a foundation, you can add biceps curls and rotations with a wrist roller.

3. Abdominals

bruce-lee-dragon-flags

Bruce Lee’s razor sharp abdominal muscles are one of his symbolic attributes.

And while he trained them religiously, the key to ab definition is still dieting. If you are consistent with your diet, you will eventually get to see your abs. Crunches, dragon flags, hanging leg raises, and planks can not compensate for consuming too many calories every single day. If you want to get cut, you will have to be in a caloric deficit for a while.

Having said that, there are many good ab exercises such as planks, weighted sit-ups on a decline bench, cable crunches…etc. You can add them to your routine. Just don’t forget that muscular definition is a direct result of nutrition.

bruce-lee-leg-raises-razor-sharp-abs

Bruce Lee doing hanging leg raises

4. Lower body

Part 2: Lower body

The lower body of Bruce Lee was built mainly through kicking, running, bicycling, jumping and squats. The execution of those exercises resulted in elastic“ and explosive legs.

I propose the following lower body routine:

Day 1

Squat – 2×5 (work sets) + 1×8 back-off sets; Skipping rope

Day 2

Deadlifts – 1×5 (work set); Skipping rope

The routine consists of two training days. The first day, you squat (quad focus). The second day, you deadlift (hamstring focus). Each exercise is followed by rope skipping. The goal is to develop agility and explosiveness. You may add other exercises such as box jumps if you want.

III. Programming

All of your training should be focused around cycling your weights.

What is cycling?

Simple.

  1. You start with a light weight that allows you to do 10 clean reps.
  2. You build up until you can no longer do the prescribed repetitions and sets.
  3. Then, you reduce the weight to a number that’s a little higher than your starting level.

Example:

Part 1

Workout 1: 200lbs x 2 x 5
Workout 2: 210lbs x 2 x 5
Workout 3: 220lbs x 2 x 5
Workout 4: 230lbs x 2 x 5
Workout 5: 240lbs x 2 x 5
Workout 6: 250lbs x 2 x 5
Workout 7: 260lbs x 2 x 5
Workout 8: 270lbs x 2 x 4 {missing reps – time for restart}

Part 2

Workout 1: 220 x 2 x 5 (Notice that the starting weight is 20lbs higher than before)
…..
Workout 8: 280 x 2 x 4 {missing reps – time for restart}

Note: If you want to know more about cycling, check out my book Training Focus (it’s free for subscribers).

IV. FAQ

How long will it take?

A lifetime. Just kidding…or am I?

If everything is going according to plan, and there’s no cheating, it will take about 3 months to see visible results. The fatter you are, the more time you will need to get leaner.

How much weight should I add to each exercise after completing the prescribed sets and reps?

Add 5lbs/2.5kg to the squat, 10lbs/5kg to the deadlift and 2lbs-5lbs/1-2.5kg to the dip and the pull-up.

What exercises should I do for my forearms?

The most user-friendly forearm device seems to be the wrist roller. Make sure that you roll in both directions to avoid forearm imbalances. Two to three times a week should be enough.

Bruce Lee training with a wrist roller

Bruce Lee training with a wrist roller

Should I do finger and knuckle push-ups?

You could, but it’s not a requirement. Those exercises don’t have an effect on your appearance.

Will my new looks attract a lot of girls? I heard Bruce Lee was a womanizer.

bruce-lee-womanizer

Bruce Lee and Wende_Wagner

It depends on where you live, your bank account, your people skills, and your motivation. Having a good-looking body will certainly help you, but it’s not a guarantee for domination.

Was Bruce Lee natural?

Probably not in the purest sense of the word. He was a training fanatic obsessed with success. Rumor has it that he used stimulants during his training. However, this does not mean that his size and conditioning cannot be achieved without steroids

What will be the hardest of all?

The diet.

A lot of words, but how does the final routine look like?

1. Put yourself in a slight to a moderate caloric deficit. Avoid carbs (especially simple ones) and junk food. Don’t starve yourself because you will stall on the lifts very quickly.

2. Do the routine below or something similar to it.

Progression mechanism: Start with a light weight. Add weight every workout. When you stall and begin to miss reps, reduce the weight and build back up again to a new personal record.

Never sacrifice form.

Disclaimer: You should consult your physician or another health care professional before starting this or any other lifting program. NattyOrNot.com holds no responsibility for any injuries that may occur during the practice of the techniques above. Be smart. Listen to your body! This is the only way to protect your health.
References:
All web-pages retrieved on May 2, 2014.
www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/vince-gironda-man-philosophies
www.gabrielfontana.weebly.com/3/post/2013/05/get-bruce-lee-forearms-for-less-than-5.html
forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=146842383
www.dieselsc.com/bruce-lee-quotes/
es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Lee
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Lee

4 comments

  1. Michael Love

    Hey man, I love your physique like Bruce Lee post great fundamentals and an easy program for me to follow. I had been lifting alot in the past but have been moving countries and find it hard to be consistent. What did you mean about the mobility/flexibility training? Is that just stretching?

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