Here’s what Bruce Lee’s training routine looked like

Here’s what Bruce Lee’s training routine looked likeHere’s what Bruce Lee’s training routine looked like
via Movieclips (left), r/GYM via u/CWRM1992 (right)
A copy of Bruce Lee’s early training routine in Hong Kong has been circulating online for quite some time now, and it shows that the late legendary martial arts star had an insane workout regimen.
While the picture of Lee’s early training routine has been circulating on several subreddits, with the latest ones coming from r/ChunghwaMinkuo and a Facebook post, the snapshot of the gym card has been around online as far back as 2015 – or possibly even farther than that.
Bruce Lee gym card
The gym card appears to show Lee’s training on May 27, 1965. It was primarily focused on his arms, notably his biceps, with a few routines dedicated to his triceps.
The complete flow Lee wrote in his gym card at Hak Keung Gymnasium in Hong Kong, which he reportedly visited three times a week in 1965, was as follows:
  • Squat x three sets x 95 pounds (43 kilograms) x 10 repetitions (or reps)
  • French Press 1 x four sets x 64 pounds (29 kilograms) x six reps
  • Incline Curl x four sets x 35 pounds (15.8 kilograms) x six reps
  • French Press 2 x four sets x 64 pounds (29 kilograms) x six reps
  • Con” Curl (or Concentration Curl) x four sets x 35 pounds (15.8 kilograms) x six reps
  • Push Up x three sets x 70 to 80 pounds (31.7 to 36.28 kilograms) x 10 reps
  • Two Hand Curl x three sets x 70 to 80 pounds (31.7 to 36.28 kilograms) x eight reps
  • Triceps Stretch x three sets x three pounds (1.36 kilograms) x eight or six reps
  • Dumbbell Circle x four sets x 16 pounds (7.2 kilograms) x infinite reps or until failure
  • Reverse Curl x four sets x 64 pounds (29 kilograms) x six reps
  • Wrist Curl 1 x four sets x 64 pounds (29 kilograms) x until failure
  • Wrist Curl 2 x four sets x 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) x until failure
In addition to those routines, Lee also added sit-ups with 12 reps and calf raises with 20 reps for five sets each using his body weight.
The French press — not a coffee maker — is a type of exercise that targets the triceps muscle group. Another term used for this exercise is called the standing skull crusher.
Lee’s gym card came from an excerpt from his notes, which was later edited into the book “The Art of Expressing the Human Body” by John Little.
Some reports relay that the widely circulating routine was not his complete regimen, as this only targeted his arm muscle groups without working out his back or chest muscles. In today’s terms, this routine could be considered as Lee’s “arms day,” according to The Bioneer.
Bruce Lee
via Bruce Lee Mania
Lee’s exercise routine went through two evolutions throughout the years that incorporated simpler exercises.
The first set of changes involved almost identical sets and repetitions of two sets and eight to 12 reps for clean and press, barbell curls, behind-the-neck presses, upright rows, barbell row, bench press and barbell pullover. The only exception to this routine was the barbell squats, which Lee did for two sets with 12 to 20 reps.
After 10 years, Lee reportedly changed it again to as follows:
  • Clean and Press x two sets x eight reps
  • Squat x two sets x 12 reps
  • Barbell Pullover x two sets x eight reps
  • Bench Press x two sets x six reps
  • Good Morning x two sets x eight reps
  • Barbell Curl x two sets x eight reps
According to reports, Lee used the latter training program to tone his body for the movies “The Big Boss” (1971) and “Way of the Dragon” (1972).
In addition to the past weightlifting programs, Lee also started using the peripheral heart action (PHA) training method, a set of exercises developed by a former Mr. America, Bob Gajda, in the 1960s.
Lee reportedly learned this method while reading Iron Man, one of his favorite magazines about bodybuilding, weightlifting and powerlifting.
The late martial arts star used the philosophy of PHA, a full-body circuit that maintains blood circulation throughout the body instead of focusing on a single muscle or muscle group.
Some of the benefits of using the PHA method include burning off body fat, maintaining muscle mass and strength and improving cardiovascular fitness, such as the heart and lungs.
Here is what Lee used for this exercise routine without taking breaks in-between them:
  • Pull-up for 30 seconds
  • Seated Leg Press for 30 seconds
  • Bilateral Alternative Hip/Knee Extensions for 30 seconds
  • Shoulder Press for 30 seconds
  • Standing Calf Raise by using shoulder press for 30 seconds
  • Alternating Cable Curl for 30 seconds
  • Standing Unilateral Arm Adduction for 30 seconds
  • Bench Press for 30 seconds
  • Regular Deadlift for 30 seconds
  • Kneeling Pull Down Behind Neck for 30 seconds
  • Triceps Push Down for 30 seconds
  • Sprint for 1 1/2 minutes
  • Standing Wrist Roller for one minute
  • and Neck Flexion/Extension for one minute
Bruce Lee
via Samuel SB
Lee also continued honing his martial art skills alongside his weightlifting and cardio exercises.
Some of his routines include training for punching, kicking and practicing on a wooden dummy, which all consisted of three sets with varying repetitions. He also listed a couple of stretching exercises, such as forward and side stretches for three sets with 12 repetitions each, and mentioned that he also practiced his Sil Lum Tao, hand techniques and Wing Chun fist forms.
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