Bruce Lee – Principles, Workout, & Diet

Was he really that good?

…or was it the movies that made it look like it?


Bruce Lee was one of the most iconic movie star/athletes of all time.  I mention athlete for a few reasons that I will get into later on in this article.  He was the perfect combination of strength, quickness, power, and agility.  However I believe that one of the biggest reasons he was so respected was because of the principles he lived by rather than his attributes.  So that is what I will be primarily focusing on throughout this post.  It will be much more beneficial to you to understood why Lee did what he did rather than to only give you a few example workouts.  So afterwards you can take the information then get creative with your workouts based on everything you learn here.


Behind The Dragon


There are 5 main principles that I will be discussing on this article.

1.  The Core Is The Core!

Abdominals and lower back is where everything begins.  If you have a weak core then you are most likely going to have a weak anything else.  You will most likely be injury prone as well.  You need to main a strong core every single day.  With that said there a few things that need to be addressed:

  1. We are not doing ab exercises just to get a six pack, rather to maintain the strength
  2. Doing ab exercises alone is not going to get you a six pack

The reason that Bruce Lee was so incredibly ripped was because he had very low body fat.  If you want to have that type of muscle definition(including your abs) then you need to have very low body fat.  That should be your big area of focus if you are not at the physique that you want.  Then in addition you must be strengthening your midsection.

Keep this one thing in mind, that if you have a strong core that is built on a daily basis then it is going to expand into the rest of your body.  If not then it will have the opposite effect.

Here is a picture of one of Lee’s favorite ab exercise called the Dragon Flag


2.  Tension = Control

Contrary to what a lot of people think, tension is a good thing.  It will help you control your body far greater than if you don’t have tension in your body.

This might be a hard concept to grasp so let me explain it further.  Whenever you are doing a particular lifting exercise you will be able to have much more control on it if they rest of your body is tense as well.  For example if you are doing squats then you of course want your legs to be tight, but also you core, back, shoulders, and chest.  If you do that you will have much more control over the weight.

Just look at Bruce Lee’s famous finger thumb push ups.  The only possible way that he was able to accomplish such a feat was to keep his entire body tense and get efficient energy transfer throughout his entire body.  If he had only his chest tight then there would be absolutely no way he would be able to do it.

3.  Iso-Tension

To understand this principle you must first understand that one of the best ways to grow your muscles is to keep them under tension for longer periods of time.  This some what ties into the last principle, but one of the things that Lee would do after each exercise was to contract that muscle group and the surrounding muscle groups for at least 1o seconds to keep the tension.  Do this following all your exercises and you will have much more growth in your muscles.

4.  Lift What You Can Actually Lift

bruce-lee-workout-diet-routine-01One of Lee’s biggest pet peeves was seeing people attempting to throw more weight up than they were actually able to do.  We see this all the time in weight rooms.  People have these egos that they need to lift heavier weight than they actually can.

If you are doing something like this then you are going to start to develop bad form and use specific muscles that should not be used to do that certain exercise.  In addition you will not have the control you need nor will you be able to maintain the tension throughout your entire body.

It really is a combination of things that will not benefit you.  PLEASE ONLY LIFT THE AMOUNT OF WEIGHT YOU CAN.

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5.  Recovery

This last principle is obviously extremely important just as all of them.  I don’t feel like enough people take this principle as seriously as they should.  When you’re in the weight room you are constantly tearing your muscles.  If you just continually stay after that then you never give your muscles proper time to actually build back up.

You need rest days to properly accomplish that.  Every few days take a break so you muscles can grow.  Get the proper amount of sleep.

A few other things that will be highly beneficial to you is to cross train.  Basically a fancy name for keep a good variety in your workouts.  Don’t always do the same type of training.  Sometimes lift hard then other times go swimming.  Then go running then do some plyometrics.  After that come back to some weight lifting.  Obviously those are just examples, but again just keep it fresh.

Use supplementation.  This will help you exponentially increase your results.  Don’t just rely on workout and diet.  Lee was always constantly feeding his body a steady dose of protein.


Lee’s Diet


Now that we have the principles down we can get into more specifics of Bruce Lee.  As I just mention above he was always feeding his body steady doses of protein.  He would also incorporate other supplements like ginseng, royal jelly, as well as a large quantity of vitamins.

In terms of his actual diet it was rather simple.  He stay away from the items that were not very good for him like coffee and western cultured food that had high levels of proteins and fats.  Rather he would chow down on Chinese food un-apologetically 4-5 times per day.

He was able to maintain a diet like that because of the emphasis on carbohydrates from the rice and vegetables.  He would also drink tea regularly instead of the coffee that most people do.


Martial Arts Training


Of course Lee put a strong emphasis on his martial arts.  He took styles of Kung Fu and essentially molded his own called Jeet Kune Do.  He basically coined it a style without any style.  It was a practice to where you would be ready for anything and everything at a moments notice.

Here is an example heavy bag training regimen:

Punches: Monday/Wednesday/Friday

  • Jab-Speed Bag, Foam Pad, Top and Bottom Bag
  • Cross-Foam Pad, Heavy Bag, Top and Bottom Bag
  • Hook-Heavy Bag, Foam Pad, Top and Bottom Bag
  • Overhand Cross-Pad, Heavy Bag
  • Combinations- Heavy Bag, Top and Bottom Bag
  • Platform Speed Bag Workout

Kicks: Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday

  • Side Kick
  • Hook Kick
  • Spin Kick
  • Rear and Front Thrust
  • Heel Kick


Weight Training


Here are a few example trainings inspired by Lee


Workout A
Workout B

Example Ab Workout


Example Six-Day Program


30 minutes a piece.

Days 1,4

Fighting Practice

Abs Circuit

Days 2,5



Days 3,6

Fighting Practice


Bruce Lee’s Success


There were obviously so many reasons that made Bruce Lee so great, but there was one specific thing that I noticed that everything else was an offspring of…what was it?

He was a student.

No not a traditional school student.  He was a student of his craft.  He was never satisfied to where he was.  He was always looking to improve and get better.  He was always looking for better ways get quicker, stronger, and more powerful.  If there was a better way to do something than he would sure as heck figure it out.

I personally admire the heck out of people like Bruce Lee and I am always looking to get better.  I have a strong belief that if you’re not growing and getting better then you are shrinking and getting worse.  There is no such thing as staying neutral.

So its up to you.  Do you want to improve or decline?

Make the decision.  Everyday.


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Facebook Comments

  • Ghassan Alsalhi

    Nice Diccusion
    but how to know what is your weghit
    wegith that you can lift !
    the acctual one
    is it change depand on your exrices !

  • Ghassan Alsalhi

    we have heard Bruclee was dancing
    so is break dance good for musles to control it !