Why Bruce Lee Turned to Weight Training
The following material has been excerpted from the Ohara Publications
Inc. book Bruce Lee: The Incomparable Fighter, authored by M. Uyehara,
who was a close friend of the late martial artist.
Bruce Lee never bragged about his muscular body, but he was proud of it,
especially of his highly developed abdominal muscles. When Bruce wore
loose clothing, he looked like a normally built guy. But underneath the
clothing, he was a man with extraordinary muscles.
"I've seen many muscular bodybuilders," one of his fans said, "but never
like Bruce. He is built perfectly, not bulky. He has muscles on top of
muscles, yet he moves with the finesse of a ballet dancer. Those men with
bulky muscles can't move like that; they are too tight and clumsy."
Fred Weintraub, the producer of Enter The Dragon, gave this description
of Bruce: "...His body never had an inch of fat; it was pure muscle, like
Bruce had to work hard to develop those muscles. "l used to have a big,
soft belly," he explained. "My stomach protruded and I looked terrible
for a young guy. I decided to streamline my waist."
From that revelation, Bruce took up weight training. He was always a
bundle of energy. He was like a small kid who would never tire. If he had
his mind set to do something, nothing could have stopped him.
He combined weight training with his regular
He spent as much as four hours in his garage, hardly taking a
break, as he worked on the equipment, built by his students to his
specifications. He designed his weight-training workout to avoid bulky
muscles that might interfere with his performance. For instance, he did
not want muscles that restricted the movement of his elbows.
"You must tuck your elbows in quickly when a blow is directed to your
midsection," he explained. "Some bodybuilders are so bulky that they have
no way to defend the solar plexus area with efficiency. They can't cover
the area with their elbows, so when they use another method to protect
it, they leave other parts of their body open. Weight training is
supposed to help you, not screw you.
Bruce concentrated heavily on his abdominal muscles because he believed
that the body is "the biggest target and the least mobile. The more
muscles you have around your abdomen, the more blows it can take."
Bruce's body was covered with ripples of muscles. Broad-shouldered and
narrow-waisted, he was the envy of even bodybuilders.
To Bruce, training was a full-time job. Even while watching television,
he would be in motion. He would do his sit-ups very slowly, his body
descending slower than ascending. "You'll get more benefit by doing them
slowly," he said. "It's not the number of repetitions, but the way it's
When he wasn't doing sit-ups, he would be squeezing a rubber ball or
pumping a pair of dumbbells. Desiring accolades, many times he would ask
a friend or acquaintance to place a hand on his abdomen or leg to "feel
my stomach muscles" or "feel how hard my legs are."
Bruce wasn't particular about what he ate. He avoided cigarettes, wine
and liquor, but never refused a cup of hot tea. He would eat anything:
pork, chicken, fish, beef, vegetables. His favorite dishes were Chinese
Although he was small man, 5-foot-7 and 135 pounds, he had a voracious
appetite. In a restaurant, he always ordered an additional plate of food
for himself- one serving was not enough. He also drank a lot of water,
probably because he perspired so much.
Bruce took a daily amount of vitamin pills, apparently influenced by the
body-building magazine he subscribed to. He prided himself on being healthy.