Detailed below is the basic Bruce Lee weight training program Bruce Lee used from 1965 to 1970 in order to bulk up from 130 to 165 pounds, adding 35 lbs. of pure strongman muscle on a 5’7” frame.
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Eventually, he found the added mass from bodybuilding too cumbersome for his quick strike fighting techniques and in 1970 evolved his workout for pure strength instead of size. That “power without bulk” routine can be found on the Bruce Lee Training Workout for Muscle Definition, Strength & Power page.
With the assistance of two bodybuilding buddies in San Francisco, Lee devised a mass, bulk and size-focused three-day-per-week (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays) bodybuilding program that he used from 1965 to 1970. This Bruce Lee weight training workout for muscle growth emphasizes the legs, triceps, biceps, and forearms, all of these being the muscle groups used most frequently as a martial artist.
Bruce Lee’s 1965 Gym Card
The only record of Bruce Lee’s bodybuilder weight-training routine during this time is a 1965 gym card he filled out at the Hak Keung Gymnasium in Hong Kong.
The Bruce Lee weight training workout from his 1965 gym session, detailed below, was partially excerpted from the classic book “The Art of Expressing the Human Body” by Bruce Lee & John Little. You can buy it today from Amazon.com in the Bruce Lee Books section.
Bruce Lee Weight Training & Bodybuilding
Squats (3 sets x 10 reps, weight: 95 lbs.)
Squats develop the quadriceps muscle group (at the front of the thighs), in addition to the glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings, calves, lower back, trapezius, abdominals and shoulders. The quadriceps group is the most powerful in the body and these muscles can withstand a lot of work.
Place a barbell on your shoulders and lower yourself to a full squat position. From this position, rise to a fully standing one. Repeat for 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
French Press (4 sets x 6 reps, weight: 64 lbs.)
The French press develops the tricep muscle at the back of the upper arms. You can either stand or sit, whichever is more comfortable.
Place your hands on the shaft of a barbell, about two hand-widths apart. Raise the bar above your head, then lower it behind your neck. Be sure to keep your upper arms close to the sides of your head. Only your elbows are bent. From the lowered position, press the weight overhead by moving your forearms until your elbows are locked. Repeat for 4 sets of 6 repetitions.CAP Barbell 110-Pound Weight Set
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Bruce Lee and son, Brandon Lee, doing bodybuilding poses.
Incline Curl: (4 sets x 6 reps, weight: 35 lbs.)
With a dumbbell in each hand, lean back on an incline bench. Let the weights extend the arms to a natural hanging position. From there, curl the weight to your shoulders. Return to the original position and repeat until you have completed 4 sets of 6 repetitions.
Inclining the body isolates the stress of this movement to the biceps muscle on the front of your upper arms in this Bruce Lee weight training exercise.Weider Ultimate Body Works Incline Bench
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Concentration Curl: (4 sets x 6 reps, weight: 35 lbs.)
The concentration curl develops your biceps muscle (at the front of your upper arms).
Sit on a bench with a dumbbell in your right hand and the elbow of the arm holding the weight braced against the inside of your right thigh. Curl the weight to your shoulder. Do this movement slowly and watch your biceps while you work. Repeat for 6 repetitions.
Then transfer the weight to the opposite arm, reverse your curling position so that your left elbow is braced against the inside of your left knee, and curl the weight for 6 repetitions. Repeat this alternating process until you have performed 4 sets of 6 repetitions per arm.Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells (Pair)
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Two-Hand (Barbell) Curl (3 sets x 8 reps, weight: 70-80 lbs.)
This is a basic barbell movement that creates a tremendous amount of size and power in the biceps.
Start with your arms extended straight down. Curl the bar upward, bringing it as close as possible to your shoulders. The upper body may move very slightly. Form is a real priority here. Repeat for 3 sets of 8 repetitions for this Bruce Lee weight training workout.
Bruce Lee doing a barbell curl.
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Triceps Stretch (3 sets x 6-8 reps, weight: 3 lbs.)
The triceps stretch is a single-arm version of the French press.
Begin with a dumbbell held at arm’s length overhead. Lower the dumbbell to the back of your neck, keeping your biceps as close to your ear as possible. (This will keep upper-arm movement to a minimum). From this position, bring the dumbbell to arm’s length again. Contract the triceps vigorously as you extend the arm overhead. Lower and repeat until 3 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions have been completed.
Dumbbell Circle (4 sets x as many reps possible, weight: 16 lbs.)
This Bruce Lee muscle exercise builds strong wrists, forearms, biceps, triceps and brachialis muscles.
The dumbbells are simultaneously rotated in vertical circles in front of the body, with the wrists turned up at the bottom of the outward arc and turned down on the inner arc. Perform three sets of as many repetitions as possible (or as Bruce Lee wrote, “infinity”).
Reverse (Barbell) Curl (4 sets x 6 reps, weight: 64 lbs.)
The reverse curl affects the upper and outer forearm muscles, the brachialis muscles and the biceps.
Take a shoulder-width grip on a barbell, with your feet set shoulder-width apart. Stand erect, with your arms hanging down at your sides and the barbell resting across your upper thighs. Press your upper arms in against the sides of your rib cage. Without allowing your torso to move forward or backward, slowly curl the bar, bell upward in a semicircular arc, from your upper thighs to a point directly under your chin. Squeeze your forearms and upper-arm muscles as tightly as possible for a moment, then slowly lower the weight back along the same arc to the starting point. Repeat for 4 sets of 6 repetitions for this Bruce Lee bodybuilding workout.Bowflex Blaze Home Gym
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Push-ups (3 sets x 10 reps, weight: 70-80 lbs. on upper back)
Pushups are excellent for the chest, shoulders, and the back of the upper arms (triceps).
Place your hands approximately shoulder-width apart. Hold your body perfectly straight and exhale as you push your body up until your arms are straight. Pause. Inhale as you lower your body to the floor, allowing only your chest to touch. Your stomach should still be an inch or two off the floor when you touch with your chest, because your toes lift the body up a bit. Repeat for 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Bruce Lee doing a one-handed two-finger push-up.
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Wrist Curl (Seated) (4 sets x as many reps possible, weight: 64Ibs.)
The wrist curl targets the belly of the forearms, or the flexor muscles.
With your forearms lying on your thighs, your palms up and hanging over your knees, grasp a barbell with your fingers. Slowly curl the weight into the palm of your hand, and then flex the wrist as far as possible. Lower the weight and repeat for 4 sets of as many repetitions as possible.Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Bench Series 3.1
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Reverse Wrist Curl (Seated) (4 sets x as many reps possible, weight: 10 lbs.)
The reverse wrist curl targets the top or extensor muscles of the forearms.
Turn your forearms so that your palms face down. Grasp the barbell and then flex the wrist as far back as possible. As with the previous exercise, concentration on the task at hand is very important. Repeat for 4 sets of as many repetitions as possible.
Sit-ups (5 sets x 12 reps, body weight only)
Sit-ups are a good workout for the entire abdominal area.
With your knees bent (to prevent your thigh muscles from helping in the pull) and your hands behind your neck, raise your upper body until your head touches your knees. Repeat for 5 sets of 12 repetitions.
Calf Raise (5 sets x 20 reps, body weight only)
The calf raise adds size and power to the calf muscles of the lower leg.
Stand with your toes on a block. The block should be high enough to allow for a full extension of the calf muscles. Lock your knees and flex your calves until you are up on the tips of your toes. For the full Bruce Lee weight training “feel the pump” experience, repeat for 5 sets of 20 repetitions.
For those of us that don’t have to register our fists as deadly weapons, the muscle growth possible from doing the Bruce Lee weight training routine for beginner bodybuilding can work wonders for your body if the earlier-era Bruce Lee body with massive biceps and cobra-like lats is the physique you’re aiming to replicate.
Learn Bruce Lee Bodybuilding Techniques!A note to our Bruce Lee weight lifting readers:
On your Bruce Lee weight-training journey, remember to change the exercises to fit your needs. Don’t get into a rigid Bruce Lee bodybuilding routine. After a while, your body will hit a wall and an unchanged Bruce Lee weight training program won’t produce the same muscle gains it once did when you were weaker. It is essential to add new exercises and remix old ones. Change weights and reps. Use barbells or bands instead of dumbbells. Challenge your body! Bruce Lee’s training regimen constantly evolved throughout the years as he pushed his body to its limit. You should allow your home or gym routine to evolve as well.
If you lift with good form, the Bruce Lee Bodybuilding Muscle Gods shall reward you. Training long term with no injuries is both a blessing and a goal. Don’t sacrifice proper form for a few extra pounds in the set. Once you move on to heavier weights, your back will be forever grateful that you did.
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Use lifting aids like lifting straps, belts or liquid chalk to boost your grip strength and make sure that your back muscles stay safe and get pumped up to the max. Check out the Bruce Lee Weight Training Equipment section for the latest Bruce Lee bodybuilding workout gear.
Bruce Lee used a wide variety of exercises including weight training, body strength training, circuit training, isometrics, ab workouts, stretching, diet and cardio fitness. He used the best training equipment available to get that muscular Bruce Lee body in his classic martial arts movies. Bruce Lee’s perfect body, wisdom, charisma and kung fu skill inspired books on his life, philosophy & martial arts!
Visit the Bruce Lee Workout homepage for a complete breakdown on all the Bruce Lee training programs and Bruce Lee workout routines. Workout Like Bruce Lee!