Bruce Lee Workout
"Although you have the right attitude,
It's not enough to avoid a strife.
Although you have a heart of fortitude,
It's no assurance of saving your life.
You may have spent years in training
In the art of fighting you love so much.
But if you are winded in a sparring,
It proves that your condition is such
You need plenty of workout on the road,
Running two, three or more miles a day
Until your body can take more load.
Then comes a day you see the light,
You look up at the sky and then relay:
"Skill in performance is all right,
But it's not enough to prove your might."
One of the most neglected elements of martial artists is the
physical workout. Too much time is spent on developing skill in
techniques and not enough on physical participation.
Practicing your skill in fighting is important, but so is maintaining
your overall physical condition. Actually both are needed to be
successful in a real fight. Training is a skill of disciplining
your mind, developing your power and supplying endurance to your
body. Proper training is for the purpose of building your body
and avoiding activities or substances that will deteriorate or
Bruce Lee was a specimen of health. He trained every day and consumed
only the proper food. A1though he drank tea, he never drank coffee
- instead he normally consumed milk. He was a martinet who never
let his work interfere with his training. Even when he was sent
to India to find suitable locations for filming, he took along
his running shoes.
Lee's daily training consisted of aerobic exercises, plus others
which were patterned to develop his skill in fighting. He varied
his exercise to avoid boredom. One of his favorite exercises was
running four miles a day in 24 to 25 minutes. He would change
his tempo while running - after several miles of constant, even
strides, he would sprint several feet and then return to easier
running. Between changes in running tempo, he would also shuffle
his feet. Lee was not particular where he ran: at the beach, in
parks or woods, up and down hills or on surfaced streets.
Besides running, Lee also rode an exercycle to develop his endurance,
legs and cardiovascular muscles. He usually rode full speed -
35 to 40 miles an hour - continuously for 45 minutes to an hour.
Frequently, he would ride his exercycle right after his running.
Another aerobic exercise that Lee scheduled in his routine was
skipping rope, which you can adopt. This exercise not only develops
your stamina and leg muscles, but also improves you, makes you
light on your feet. Only recently, physiologists have learned,
by several tests, that skipping rope is more beneficial than jogging.
Ten minutes of skipping rope is equivalent to 30 minutes of jogging.
Both are very beneficial exercises for the cardiovascular system.
Skipping rope properly is one of the best exercises for developing
a sense of balance. First, skip on one foot, holding the other
in front of you, then rotate your foot, skipping on the alternate
foot with each revolution of the rope, from a gradual pace to
a really fast tempo. Minimize your arm-swing; instead, use your
wrist to swing the rope over. Lift your foot slightly above the
ground, just enough for the rope to pass. Skip for three minutes
(equivalent to a round in a boxing match); then rest one minute
only, before you continue for another round. Three rounds of this
exercise are sufficient for a good workout. As you become conditioned
to skipping, you can omit the rest period and do the exercise
for as long as 30 minutes straight. The best rope is made of leather,
with ball bearings in the handles.
Additional endurance exercises are shadowboxing and actual sparring.
Shadowboxing is a good agility exercise which also builds up your
speed. Relax your body and learn to move easily and smoothly.
At first, concentrate on your form, and move lightly on your feet
until it becomes natural and comfortable - then work faster and
harder. It is a good idea to start your workout with shadowboxing
to loosen your muscles. Imagine your worst enemy stands before
you and you are going to demolish him. If you use your imagination
intensely, you can instill into yourself an almost-real fighting
frame of mind. Besides developing stamina, shadowboxing increases
your speed, creates ideas, and establishes techniques to be used
spontaneously and intuitively. Going several rounds is the best
way to learn proper footwork.
Too many beginners are too lazy to drive themselves. Only by
hard and continuous exercise will you develop endurance. You have
to drive yourself to the point of exhaustion (you will be out
of breath, and can expect to feel muscle aches in a day or two).
The best endurance training method seems to be a lengthy period
of exercise interspersed with many brief but high-intensity endeavors.
Stamina-types of exercises should be done gradually and cautiously
increased. Six weeks in this kind of training is a minimum for
any sports that require considerable amounts of endurance. It
takes years to be in peak condition, and unfortunately, stamina
is quickly lost when you cease to maintain high-conditioning exercises.
According to some medical experts, you lose most of your benefit
from exercises if you skip more than a day between workouts.
To warm up, select light, easy exercises to loosen your muscles
and to prepare them for more strenuous work. Besides improving
your performance, warming-up exercises are necessary to prevent
injury to your muscles. No smart athlete will use his hand or
leg violently without first warming it up carefully. These light
exercises should dictate as closely as possible the ensuing, more
strenuous type of movement.
How long should you warm up? This depends on several aspects.
If you live in a colder area, or during the cold winter, you have
to do longer warm-up exercises than do those who live in a warmer
climate. A longer warm-up is recommended for the early morning
rather than for the afternoon. Generally, five or ten minutes
of warm-up exercises are adequate, but some people need much more.
A ballet dancer spends at least two hours. He commences with
very basic movements, gradually but consistently increasing the
activity and intensity, until he is ready to make his appearance.
Bruce Lee learned that certain exercises can help you greatly
in your performance, and others can impede or even impair your
execution of techniques. He found that beneficial exercises are
those that do not cause antagonistic tension in your muscles.
Your muscles respond differently to different exercises. During
a static or slow exercise such as a handstand or lifting heavy
weights such as a barbell, the muscles on both sides of the joints
operate strongly to set the body in a desirable position. But
in a rapid activity such as running, jumping or throwing, the
muscles that close the joints contract and the muscles directly
opposite elongate to allow the movement. Although there is still
tension on both muscles, the strain is considerably less on the
elongated, or lengthened one.
When there is excessive or antagonistic tension on the elongated
muscles, it hinders and weakens your movement. It acts like a
brake, causing premature fatigue, generally associated only with
new activity - demanding different muscles to perform. A coordinated,
natural athlete is able to perform in any sporting activity with
ease because he moves with little antagonistic tension. On the
other hand, the novice performs with excessive tension and effort,
creating a lot of wasted motions. Although this coordination trait
is more a native talent in some than in others, all can improve
it by intensive training.
Here are some of the exercises that you can adapt to your daily
training. For flexibility, place your foot on a railing or other
object, keeping your leg horizontal to the ground- it could be
slightly lower or higher, depending on your flexibility.
For the beginner, do not attempt any strenuous exercise. Instead,
after placing your foot on the railing, just move your toes toward
you, keeping your extended foot flexed straight. After a few minutes,
rotate your foot. In a few days, as your leg muscles are limbered,
you can proceed to the next step. Press your knee to keep your
leg straight and lean forward from the hip as much as possible
without injuring your muscles. From this exercise you then proceed
to the next step. Keeping your extended leg straight, push your
hand downward. As you progress, you'll notice that you are also
beginning to lean forward, putting more stress on your leg muscles.
Finally you are able to touch your toes. After some months, you
may be able to wrap your hand around your foot even with the support
Other leg flexibility exercises include leg splits and hanging
leg raises. To do this exercise, use a long rope supported by
a pulley. A noose encircles your foot. Pull the other end of the
rope to the maximum height your leg muscles will bear without
hurting yourself. Try to keep your foot horizontally aligned throughout
the exercise. This exercise allows you to execute high side kicks.
You should rotate your legs in all these exercises.
Advanced students who like to do exceptionally high kicking can
progress into trampoline exercises. Lee uses two light dumbbells
and jumps high to develop both balance and springy legs. Once
he can control his body on a trampoline, he attempts leg splits,
a high front kick, and a flying side kick.
Other limbering exercises include body stretches. After you have
developed elasticity in your leg muscles, you should be able to
stretch your body as far back as possible, then bend forward as
far as possible, until your head is touching your knees.
No one could help but notice Lee's abdominal muscles. "One
of the most important phases of fighting," he used to say,
his your midsection." To do this, Lee concentrated on several
exercises that you can also adopt. The most popular are the sit-ups
on a slant board. Secure your feet, bend your knees and after
placing your hands behind your head, lift your body toward your
feet. Do as many as you can until you feel the strain around your
abdomen. After reaching 50 to 100 repetitions, you can place a
weight such as a dumbbell or barbell plate behind your neck and
do your sit-ups.
Another excellent way of doing sit-ups is to sit at the edge
of a bench, have someone secure your ankles, and lower your body
as far down as possible toward the floor. This exercise stretches
your mid- section much more, but it is more difficult to do. If
you have a chinning bar, you can also develop your abdominal muscles
by hanging onto the bar with both hands and slowly lifting both
legs until they are extended horizontally. Keep them in that position
for as long as possible and try to beat your last record each
time you do the exercise. Buy a kitchen timer to help you keep
track of time.
Another excellent exercise is the leg raise. Lie on the floor,
keeping your back flush to the floor by pushing in your midsection,
and lift your head slightly until you can see your feet. Keep
your legs together and straight. Then lift them upward slowly,
as high as possible. Then slowly return them to the floor.
To get the most out of this exercise, do not let your feet touch
the floor. Keep them about an inch above the floor and start to
raise them again. Do as many repetitions as possible. If you have
a weight lifting bench, you can do it with the legs extending
beyond the board. This exercise is also good for your lower back
One advantage in executing an abdominal exercise is that it can
be done while you are doing another activity. For instance, Lee
used to watch television while lying on the floor with his head
slightly up and keeping his feet spread out and slightly above
To toughen your midsection, get a medicine ball and have someone
drop it on your abdomen. To vary your exercise you can also have
someone throw it directly to your midsection. Let the ball hit
your body before catching it.
If you do your workout alone, you can use your heavy punching
bag as a substitute for the medicine ball. Swing the heavy bag
and let it hit your body. You can adjust the spot of impact either
by moving forward or backward. If you want a heavier impact, swing
the bag harder.
In your daily life, there's always an opportunity for more supplemental
exercises. For instance, park your car several blocks from your
destination and walk briskly. Avoid the elevator and use the stairs
instead. While climbing the stairs, you can have a good workout,
either by running up or by skipping a step or two.