Bruce Lee fitness: the earliest functional training

Behind a great Kung Fu superstar, there is usually an elusive training plan.

But if we talk about Bruce Lee's fitness method today, it is actually a kind of functional training-every muscle is not wasted, they serve for the full fight.

Bruce Lee almost collapsed after a duel at Zhenfan Guoshu Museum in 1964, this was the starting point for him to examine his physical shortcomings. In the golden age of bodybuilding, he also digs deeply into the value of strength training and is grafted with functional training that fits actual combat.

Until his death, Bruce Lee maintained functional training and achieved countless brilliance. Just like the Jeet Kune Do he created, it is more necessary to speed up the mobilization of muscles to achieve the function of a fatal blow.


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To explore the pioneering history of Bruce Lee's functional training, in a book "The Art of Bruce Lee's Physical Expression", his training notes, letters, diaries, interviews, etc. are recorded.

As a martial artist of the last century, Bruce Lee has made it clear that "if we need to break through technology, we must rely on power." Among his personal training manuscripts, static training and weight-bearing training may be the largest, and this is also in line with the current training philosophy of NSCA and other institutions with resistance as the core.

Even in the earliest training programs, there are training principles that conform to functional strength. For example, he regards the forearm as the core of punching extremely destructive punches, and his apprentice Li Hongxin specially made a weight-bearing grip for him to exercise the forearm flexors and present a more sturdy Cun-jin boxing.


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Of course, the more important thing is the training program. Bruce Lee also established an exclusive plan to improve his special fighting ability.

For example, starting in 1970, Bruce Lee realized the importance of coordinating all muscle groups and created a full-body circuit training that covered the main muscle groups such as arms, shoulders, and legs. The number of groups was 2 groups, 8-12 reps, and rated weight.

If it is said that the function of full-body barbell exercises in gym nowadays is to restore the ability of modern people to move freely, then the full-body circuit training created by Bruce Lee can further improve the fighters’ "one punch, one kick". ".

His functional training is a philosophy to control the body, and this is also one of his precious treasures.


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Bruce Lee’s actual combat weapons, a superman body half a century ago

Fifty years ago, Bruce Lee's superhuman body was a powerful combat weapon at that time.

In a 1973 "Dragon Fight and Tiger Fight", it may be the peak period of Bruce Lee's physical fitness. In the arena competition, the camera used to have kicking movements, but because the kicking movements were too fast to be recorded by the film machine, the speed of the machine was forced to slow down.

While in the previous several years of "The Raptors Crossing the River" and the cameo movie "Scandal Bleeding", there were shots of flying 8 feet into the sky and breaking the light bulb, and quickly hitting the opponent with a boxing 3 feet away.

In an era when special effects are rare, these are the best presentations of Bruce Lee's powerful strength and speed qualities.


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Without doubt, in real martial arts competitions, Bruce Lee's actual combat strength can be better reflected.

For example, at the Long Beach International Karate Championships in 1967, Bruce Lee continued to practice Wing Chun with closed eyes and hands, two-finger push-ups, inch punches, full-contact free fighting and so on. It is worth mentioning that when he demonstrated Jeet Kune Do Cun Jin Quan with his student Robert Baker, he showed an amazing hitting distance.


 Source: odieoreilly


Based on physical fitness, Bruce Lee also has a human muscle shape praised by bodybuilders.

Schwarzenegger, the bodybuilding superstar of the same era, believes that "Bruce Lee may be the athlete with the least fat in the world, and he has an unusually clear muscle contour." And what impressed Bruce Lee's close friend Kimura the most is that he showed the latissimus dorsi like a "cobra" at the Zhenfan Guoshu Museum.

"I seem to have touched warm marble." This more exaggerated description comes from Robert Clouse, the director's wife of "Dragon Fighting Tiger Fighting". When she saw Bruce Lee with a naked upper body in the crew, she became enchanted and asked if she could touch his biceps.

This Asian male with a height of 1.72 meters and weighing about 61 kg seems to have left a deep impression in the eyes of Westerners who admire strong muscles.


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But Bruce Lee's muscular body was not born for display, but more practical.

Strength is a physical quality that Bruce Lee believes is different from absolute strength. In his view, this is the ability to use strength effectively. In fact, he once had a conversation with a close friend outside The Dungeon, a traditional American gym, "Bodybuilders with strong arms may not be able to use large muscles effectively."

The reason for upholding the "muscle practical theory" is absolutely related to his personal actual combat experience since then, and even an opportunity to step into functional training.


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According to his widow Linda Lee Cadwell, as early as 1964, they received a letter from a Chinese martial artist requesting to stop teaching Chinese Kung Fu in Chinatown unless they win a martial arts duel. Shortly after the start of the competition, the Chinese martial artists who initiated the battle book rushed all over the field. After a long time of chasing, Bruce Lee knocked him down and won.

However, the confrontation at Zhenfan Guoshu Museum made Bruce Lee exhausted and re-examined his physical weakness. Bruce Lee found that pure martial arts training cannot guarantee the physical needs of high-speed and high-intensity combat.

Therefore, he is eager to use other training methods to improve cardiorespiratory function and muscle strength.


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Create exclusive functional training, shaping the global Kung Fu superstar

The creation of exclusive functional training is the decision that Bruce Lee made in the face of shortcomings in physical fitness.

Because the clear force is the core of all actions of the human body. The resistance training that was the first to be contacted became the first of Bruce Lee's functional training.

It was after 1960 that with the rise of North American bodybuilding culture, Bruce Lee applied resistance training programs. For example, at that time, he bought a large number of related books such as ‘The Father of Modern Bodybuilding’ Eugen Sandow "Power and How to Get Power".

It is even said that his student Yan Jinghai's greatest contribution to Bruce Lee was to teach Bruce Lee his own set of muscle training methods. Yan Jinghai was a weightlifter who had experience in resistance training and also helped design a series of resistance equipment.


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In Bruce Lee's view, shaping strength is the basis for improving body functions, but strength is not omnipotent. This is like the concept of "functional power" advocated by the author of "Functional Training in Sports" Michael Boyle-to develop the power that athletes can use.

Therefore, Bruce Lee's strength training is a base for improving attack speed and endurance. He found that the scholar of Springfield College in "The Application of Measurement Method in Health and Sports" summarized "speed also depends on strength", and further tried speed strength training, by recording whether the time to complete the action is shortened, as a quantifiable goal.

And this is just like the speed-based strength training VBT currently applied to special athletes. On the one hand, it can provide more intuitive speed monitoring. On the other hand, it can also use different speed ranges to develop athletes' speed and explosive power.

The functionality of this training is directly reflected in Bruce Lee's punching speed and strength.


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In addition, taking into account specific strength exercises and supplementing local shortcomings is also one of Bruce Lee's training concepts.

"My strength is produced in the abdomen. It is the midpoint of the body's center of gravity and the real source of strength." Although there was no "core" concept at the time, Bruce Lee realized that core stability has an important impact on power output. Therefore, sit-ups, leg raising, turning, frog kicking, and lateral bending are also included in the key abdominal special exercises.

Of course, on the basis of strength training, a complete functional training plan is needed as support.

From 1963 to 1970, Bruce Lee's training system gradually iterated, gradually absorbing advantages from sports science scholars, boxers and other professional athletes and integrating them into the training plan. 

One of the more typical applications is the creation of full-body circuit training, which includes what he thinks is a concentrated training method for each major muscle group. The target action often includes a heavy punch, a kick, an effective combination to lure the enemy, and even it is a dodge action.

There is only one reason for Bruce Lee to create this training method: all muscle groups need to be coordinated so that they can exert their strength correctly.

This concept is just like the new view created by physiotherapist Gary Gray in 1990: muscle function is not the traditional anatomy of the starting and ending points of joint flexion, extension, adduction, and abduction, but a brand new power chain. Both the subsequent adjacent joint hypothesis and the fascia chain theory are actually based on this concept.

Simply put, Bruce Lee's training program treats the human body as a chain. Only by strengthening this whole-body "chain" can we achieve flexibility and rapid force.


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Let’s look at Bruce Lee’s training plan specifically. Arms, shoulders, legs, back, and chest are the five main muscle groups. Perform circuit training in one training session.

In order to be "simplicity first" and focus on the body functions most in need of development, Bruce Lee also established an additional 20-minute strength and body shaping plan, taking into account flexibility, strength, and cardiopulmonary function. At that time, he spent $500 to purchase a "Maxi brand" cycle. Training equipment makes the training process more convenient.


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The fitness philosophy that controls the body, Bruce Lee's precious wealth

The functional training program created Bruce Lee's perfect body and excellent martial arts performance in his later "Brother Tangshan", "Jing Wu Men", and "The Raptor Crossing the River".

And on top of Bruce Lee's functional training, it contains the philosophy of controlling the body.

"Like water, my friend." Probably the most representative sentence of Bruce Lee's philosophy. Because running water does not rot, in his opinion, what he needs to do is to control the body and keep the rhythm, as impeccable as water-"When the body movement is needed, it is there."


Source: Browithafro


Not wasting every muscle training and serving for the full fighting afterwards is also the fundamental logic of this fitness philosophy.

Bruce Lee's functional training concept can actually be applied to daily life. The origin of functional training is to improve the body's movement ability, and for more people, it is to make daily activities free.

Fitness may not need to use complex mechanical equipment, but by practicing basic running, jumping, climbing and other sports skills to make daily actions freely. Compared with blindly "training to exhaustion", scalability and gradualness are the practical ideas for fitness.

Compared with functional training programs, the fitness philosophy of controlling the body is also a valuable asset left by Bruce Lee.

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