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One of Bruce Lee’s Secret Training Regimens

Bruce Lee practiced strength training faithfully, just like martial arts. However, he was very secretive about his training. The programing Bruce created for himself was specifically designed to keep him lean and fast. He experimented with power, endurance, coordination, agility, flexibility, nutrition, and even the amount of time he could rest before training again. Speed and power were Bruce’s essential outcomes, so he focused on training that would produce minimal hypertrophy. Bruce had specific training regimens that he researched extensively through practical application.

“Research your own experience. Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own.” Bruce Lee

Bruce trained three days a week, basically every other day. The purpose of doing this was to develop his strength conditioning using circuit training. Using all his muscles in different movements, the routine that Bruce did develop his neuromuscular pathways for his body to function maximally. If you want your nervous system to adapt, you must train repetitiously. If you’re going to build your strength, you have to do it more often. However, the trade-off for this type of training is using minimal sets each training day and not pushing with heavyweights.

“Above all, never cheat on any exercise: use the amount of weight you can handle without undue strain.” Bruce Lee

You can train every day, but the problem society thinks is that every workout should be intense to be beneficial. This is far from the truth. If you don’t do enough, there is no stimulation to advance your body. On the other hand, if there is too much stimulation, negative feedback mechanisms are activated to decrease your strength. So, you have to do just enough without causing too much force on your muscles if you are training every other day. This way, you will progressively increase strength and adapt your nervous system over time.

Bruce Lee’s Routine

Perform every other day. Do one exercise, then move to the next. After completing all the exercises, rest for 1 minute, then do it again for a second set. He only did two sets in circuit-style training. Perform 8-12 reps for all exercises except legs. Bruce did 12-20 reps for leg exercises.

  • Clean and Press
  • Barbell Curls
  • Behind the Neck Presses
  • Upright Rows
  • Barbell Squats
  • Barbell Row
  • Bench Press
  • Barbell Pullover

“If you are talking about sport, that is one thing. But when you are talking about combat-as it is- well then, baby, you’d better train every part of your body.” Bruce Lee

Variation Routine using Agonist and Antagonist Exercises

  • Deadlift
  • Clean and Press
  • Barbell Pullover
  • Upright Row
  • Squats
  • Bent-Over Row
  • Bench Press
  • Barbell Curls

Here is a variation of Bruce’s routine using agonist-antagonist principles for some upper body exercises. The great thing about alternating lower and upper body exercises and using agonist and antagonist pairings like pull and push is hemodynamics. By doing different exercises for different body parts, the blood has to flow back and forth rather than stay in one muscle. This will strengthen your heart and train the blood to flow faster back and forth. Similar to martial arts training. As the demand for blood is shifting from muscle to muscle, it improves the speed and transference of blood back and forth. Therefore, it enhances mandatory cardiovascular effects that augment strength and endurance for sport or training.

Bruce Lee was more focused on speed, power, and agility. As for size, he wanted lean muscles, not so much hypertrophy. When you focus on training muscles in a circuit rather than one muscle at a time, you will not create hypertrophy. When you add an aerobic element to strength or weight training, it has a different effect. Straight sets training one muscle will build size. Also, training agonist-antagonist muscle pairs are excellent for developing your neuromuscular strength and speed.

Lean muscles and hypertrophy all come down to two signals in the body called mTOR and AMPK. mTOR is anabolic, and AMPK is catabolic. So, when you add cardio to weight training, it reduces mTOR and switches to AMPK, reducing hypertrophy. It is the same as doing cardio after strength training. To maximize strength training and hypertrophy, it needs to be done separately or 6 hours apart if you are doing cardio and strength training in one day. So, if you want lean muscles rather than size, do the circuit, HIIT, or strength conditioning training. It is the best way to prevent hypertrophy and create lean muscles, strength, and endurance.

By Jason Kelly

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