How To Build A Physique Like Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee was a legendary martial artist and a movie star. He was famous for his feats of strength and power. However, many people are not really interested in beating other life forms and just want to have his physique without all the tricks. This article will present you an example of how one could achieve the physique of Bruce Lee naturally.

We are well aware that there are many examples of what Bruce Lee supposedly did to build his body. Our version presents you an approach that targets the average person and does not require you to do some sort of mystical exercises.

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


Height: 5′ 7.5″ – 170 cm
Weight: 135 lbs – 61 kg
Body fat: 4-5%

build-a-body-like-bruce-lee

I. Lose body fat

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

The number one thing for losing body fat is diet. To lose body fat you need to consume less calories than your body needs.

Imagine that you have a bank account and for some unexplainable reason you want it all gone. That fastest way would be to make your expenses higher than your income. It’s the same with body fat loss.

There are about 5, 655, 655 different diet books on the planet. That’s because the fat loss market has always been large and profitable. Many experts disagree on different subjects. Some say eat carbohydrates, others say don’t…It’s easy to get completely 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 one of all. You have to stop overeating with sweets, ice cream, McDonald’s sandwiches…etc. You don’t have to always eat clean but at least 90% of the time.

2.Be careful with your carbs.

Back in the day the bodybuilding trainer Vince Gironda was one of the pioneers who brought the super ripped physique to the bodybuilding stage. Gironda was so ripped that he was sometimes actually called – ‘too lean’. Believe it or not there was such thing as ‘too lean’ back in the day. People were just not used to seeing so much muscular definition. Gironda was even punished at a contest and received a lower score. The interesting thing about him is that he also had very innovative ideas about dieting one of which was that low carb diets are the best.

Gironda advised lifters to eat high protein, high fat, low carb foods such as meat, eggs…etc. Without a doubt the low carb diet is one of the fastest way 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. Without that condition being met, you will never lose significant amount of body fat.

vince-gironda-low-vard-diet

Vince Gironda

Keep in mind that low carb diet does not mean zero carb diet. 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.

If you are a vegetarian, following a low carb diet becomes very hard but it’s still doable. You will have to eat nuts, cheese, yellow cheese, milk, fruits, veggies, peanuts…etc.

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 that fall under the low carb, high fat requirement have high protein content. Keep focus on your total calorie intake. Unless all you eat is butter, your protein needs will be more than satisfied. Tracking every single macro nutrient and risking a mental explosion is not going to get you anywhere in your quest for Bruce Lee’s physique.

3.Don’t expect miracles and be consistent.

You won’t see a change in two weeks. Don’t worry and most of all don’t quit. Be persistent with your diet, track your food intake 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 somehow fix and compensate your atrocious diet consisting of Coca-Cola and Sneakers.

II. Build some muscle

Bruce Lee was not a big guy. Not at all. 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 to weak chest, strong lats and big forearms. That’s why the presented upper body routine will be focused around building the back with less emphasis on the pectoral muscles.

After all, this is a guide to achieving Bruce Lee’s physique and not becoming Mr. Good Proportions.

The routine

Day 1

Deadlifts – 2 x 5;
Barbell rows/Australing pull-ups  – 3 x 5;
Weighted push-ups – optional;

Day 2

Ring-pull-ups – 3 x F;
Dips – 5 x F;

The routine above requires you to train two times a week. The deadlift is supposed to be done heavy. There are two working sets of 5 reps. If you complete all the sets, add some weight (no more than 10lbs – 5kg) to the bar during the next workout. Once you hit a wall and cannot do all your reps lower the weight and start building up again. The deadlift builds thickness in the lats and upper back.

The other back exercise of choice is the barbell row but if you don’t have weights, you can substitute it for the Australian pull-up. Use a back pack to make it harder, if you have to.

After a day or two of rest you will do the next upper body routine. It’s meant to be done at home in order to save time and money. The first exercise is the ring pull-up which is the most elbow friendly version of the movement. You will be doing 3 sets of as many reps you can do with good form. The pull-up will build your lats and biceps.

The final exercise is dips. This is the only pushing exercise in the routine and that’s why it should be done for five sets in order to build up some volume. The dip was chosen over the bench press because it’s a safer exercise that can be done at home without much equipment and a spotter.

Note: If you want a bigger chest, we recommend that you add weighted push-ups during the first day, right after the barbell rows.

2.Arms and forearms

bruce-lee-forearms

Bruce Lee did not have the biggest arms but he is well known for his superior forearm development. According to the sources he used to train his forearms every day in order to develop vicious grip and thickness in that area. However, you don’t have the luxury to dedicate so much time to working out. On top of everything you are risking elbow tendinitis, if you murder your forearms on a daily basis. There’s other work to be done as well. Who’s going to pay the bills?

That’s why it’s advisable to stick to the regular routine for a couple of months without doing any arm or forearm isolation work. After you’ve built some foundation you can add barbell biceps curls and wrist roller exercises.

3.The abs

bruce-lee-dragon-flags

Probably the most well known body part of Bruce Lee were his super cut razor sharp abdominal muscles. He is famous for doing difficult core exercises like the Dragon Flag. However, we want to build the Bruce Lee physique, not his skills.

The thing that will give you ab definition is not exercising. It’s the diet. If you are consistent with your diet, your will eventually get to see your abs. There’s no amount of crunches or other gimmicks that will give you ab definition. It’s simple – the body stores fat in the mid-section and you decrease those fat cells through caloric deficit as a result of a diet.

The recommended exercises for abs that do not require a lot of flexibility while being effective are: planks for time and hanging leg raises. Perform a couple of sets after your lower body workouts. You can even do some ab work on your rest days. It shouldn’t take more than 10-15 minutes.

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

Bruce Lee doing hanging leg raises

4. Lower body

The lower body of Bruce Lee was built mainly through kicking, running, bicycling, jumping and some squats. The performance of those exercises resulted in elastic and explosive legs. Since not many have the luxury to train all day we will have to settle for a less sophisticated routine that promotes similar development.

Day 1: 

Squat – 3 x 8;
Leg curl – 3 x 8;

Day 2:

Sprinting – 3-5 sprints of 50-150 m / Box Jumps / Uphill bicycling

The above routine consists of two days. The first day is meant to promote knee health and strengthen the muscles around the leg joint. It’s not supposed to make you the best squatter in the world. In fact, you are required to use moderate weight and get some pump. There’s no need to kill yourself. You are not a powerlifter. The leg curl was added to the mix in order to work the hamstrings a little more and in a  different fashion. It’s meant to be used and seen as a rehab exercise – don’t lift too heavy.

The second day consists of sprints. The sprints are the cornerstone of this routine. It may blow your mind away but sprints will murder your legs and build them up – especially the hamstrings. Start slowly and build up. If you disrespect sprinting and rush too fast into it while being in poor shape, you will most likely injure yourself. Be careful.

If you are not in a condition to do sprints there are two other options – box jumps and uphill bicycling. Of course, if you have your own preferences for explosive lower body drills you are welcome to use/add them as you see appropriate.

III. Programming 

All of your weight training should be focused around cycling.You start with a certain amount of weight.You build up until you can no longer do the prescribed repetitions and sets.Then you reduce the weight to a number that’s a little more than your starting level.

Example:

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

Workout 1: 220 x 2 x 5;
…..
Workout 8: 280 x 2 x 4; {feels terrible} – time for restart;

The bodyweight exercises part of the program can be programmed in many different ways. The most generic would be to simply add more repetitions or weight once you are able to do the prescribed numbers.

IV. FAQ

How long will it take?

A lifetime. Just kidding…

To see results on this program and diet you will need about 3 months. If everything is going according to plan and there’s no cheating. The time to your goal body depends mainly on how fat you currently are. If you are 30% body fat, it will take at least six months to get ripped and about the same time to get as shredded as Bruce Lee.

What exercises should I do for my forearms?

As mentioned, you first need to build a base before adding a bunch of isolation exercises to the mix. The most user friendly forearms exercise seems to be the wrist roller. Make sure that you use it both ways in order 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

What about my calves?

Don’t worry about your calves. All the jumping and sprinting will hit them pretty hard. You may add some prehad exercises for you calves and shins in order to prevent injuries. It’s not mandatory to do so.

Should I do finger and knuckle push-ups?

You could but it’s not a requirement to build Bruce Lee’s physique as far as looks are concerned.

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. There are plenty of people who often have very attractive female partners while spotting huge beer guts and double chins. Having a good body does not equal abundance of female attention. However, without a doubt women and girls will be more interested in you, especially if your new physique comes with more self-confidence.

This program does not look special at all. It’s the same old exercises. Stupid much?

It’s not supposed to be. Achieving a physique similar to Bruce Lee’s is not as complicated as you may think. On top of that the presented exercises have been proven as effective over the course of time. If you want to add a bunch of useless bodybuilding movements, you are free to do so, but it’s not a necessity nor a requirement for success.

Was Bruce Lee natural?

Probably not. He was a training fanatic obsessed with success. Most likely he used some sort of stimulants during his training. This however does not mean that his size and conditioning cannot be achieved without steroids. It’s quite possible and he was actually a little underweight according to our guide for natural bodybuilders.

What will be the hardest of all?

Following the diet will be very hard. Low carb diets are notorious for making people go crazy. That’s why we don’t recommend that you obsess over it and try to kill yourself if you happen to eat a little chocolate. Don’t worry and just make sure that you are on point 90% of the time. It’s better to screw only 10% than trying to be 100% perfect all the time only to end up binge eating and hating life.

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

Day 1:Squat 3×8; Leg curl – 3×8; Hanging leg raises – 3 x 10;
Day 2:Rest;
Day 3:Deadlifts 2x 5; Barbell rows – 3×5 ;
Day 4;Rest;
Day 5:Pull ups – 3xF; + Dips;Hanging leg raises – 3 x 10; Wrist roller work;
Day 6:Rest;
Day 7:Rest;

Note: You can change the days you do the different exercises according to your preferences. You can also switch the places of the movements. However, never do deadlifts and squats on the same day or with less than one day in between.

Good luck.

Disclaimer: You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other lifting program. NattyOrNot.com hold no responsability for any injuries that may occur during the practice of the above techniques. 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;

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