Bruce Lee is more famous today than he was when he died at the age of 32 in 1973. Nearly fifty years on people still marvel at, not only his superior martial arts ability but his phenomenal level of physical development. In fact, many pro bodybuilders were inspired to take up their sport by seeing Bruce’s ripped to the bone, marble muscled physique in movies like Enter the Dragon.
Bruce Lee Bio
Bruce Lee was born on November 27th, 1940 in San Francisco’s Chinatown. His father was a famous oriental actor who was touring the United States. Soon after Bruce’s birth, his parents returned to Hong Kong. His family was wealthier than most yet they lived in a dangerous part of the city.
As he grew up, Bruce became involved in street gangs. He got into a number of fights, usually coming off second best. This prompted his parents to enroll him in a martial arts school.
In 1957, at the age of sixteen, Bruce began studying Wing Chun under the guidance of master teacher Yip Man. Bruce’s speed and natural ability soon became apparent to all. A year earlier he had begun attending St. Francis Xavier’s College. It was there that he took up boxing.
In 1959, Bruce got into a street fight with a Triad member. He reportedly beat the gang member to a pulp. However, there was now a very real fear of serious retaliation. It was decided that Bruce needed to leave Hong Kong. Bruce’s birth in the US meant that he was able to relocate to California.
Eighteen-year-old Bruce arrived in San Francisco in the middle of 1959. After a few months, he relocated to Seattle. He worked as a dishwasher while he completed his schooling. In 1961, he enrolled at the University of Washington. He had begun teaching martial arts to westerners not long after his arrival in the United States. In 1964, he dropped out of college and moved to Oakland, California, where he opened a martial arts studio.
Over the next few years, Bruce developed his own unique approach to the martial arts. He also built up a clientele of celebrity students including Steve McQueen and Lee Marvin. In 1966, Bruce scored the role of Kato in the Batman-inspired Green Hornet series. He quickly superseded Van Williams, the star of the show, and became extremely popular for his kung fu fight scenes. However, the show was canceled after just one season.
In 1967, Bruce originated his fighting style, Jeet Kune Do. In 1971, he had his first starring role in a movie, that being the Hong Kong production, The Big Boss. The film was a massive hit throughout Asia. It was soon followed by Fist of Fury, which was even more popular. Bruce had total creative control over his third movie, The Way of the Dragon, which he wrote, directed, and starred in. This film co-starred American karate champ Chick Norris and became a minor hit in the US.
In the early months of 1973, Bruce filmed what would be his greatest and most successful movie, Enter the Dragon. However, he never saw it released. His sudden death on July 20th, 1973 at the age of 32 shocked the world.
How Did Bruce Lee Die?
Bruce lost an alarming amount of weight during the filming of Enter the Dragon. On May 10th, 1973, he collapsed while working on the editing of the movie. He was rushed to hospital, where he was diagnosed with a cerebral edema.
On July 20th, 1973, Bruce met up with producer Rayomand Chow at around 2PM. Two hours later, the pair went to the home of actress Betty Ting Pei. At around 4PM, Chow left to attend a meeting. Shortly thereafter, Bruce complained of a headache. He lay down on Betty’s bed and she gave him a painkiller called Equagesic. Bruce fell asleep at around 7:30 pm. Despite the desperate efforts of Betty and then Raymond Chow, who she called, he was unable to be awakened.
Bruce was rushed to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, but was announced dead on arrival.
Bruce Lee Movies
- The Big Boss (1971)
- Fist of Fury (1972)
- The Way of the Dragon (1972)
- Enter the Dragon (1973)
- Game of Death (20 minutes of Bruce Footage) (1978)
Bruce Lee Quotes
“Training for strength and flexibility is a must. You must use it to support your techniques. Techniques alone are no good if you don’t support them with strength and flexibility.”
“Speed also depends upon strength … the stronger the individual, the faster he can run .. . moreover, endurance is based on strength.”
As with all forms of strenuous exercise, you must take note of one point before you start your training: You should go to see a doctor and make sure that you do not have any health problems such as heart disease or tuberculosis. If you unfortunately do have one, you’ll have to stop your training and wait until you have cured it. Otherwise, the training will hurt you badly and may even result in death.
Bruce Lee Training Regimen
Bruce was obsessed with physical training. In fact, he would find a way to include some form of training into everything he was doing. His formal workout program included every aspect of training including strength training, muscle building, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility and muscular endurance.
Bruce would run most mornings for 3 miles with his great dane Bobo. He followed a traditional bodybuilding routine with an emphasis on higher reps in order not to get too bulky. Bruce generally followed a full bodyweight training workout, in which he trained 3X per week. He also trained isometrically, where he would strenuously push against an immovable object in order to build strength in a static position.
Bruce Lee’s Children
Brandon Lee was born on February 1, 1965. Bruce began teaching his only son Kung Fu from around the time he could walk.
Brandon was 8 years old when his father died. He began formally studying with one of his father’s students, Dan Inosanto, from the age of 9.
At the age of 18, he began taking acting lessons in New York. His first credited acting role was in Kung Fu: The Movie.
He went on to appear in a number of relatively successful films. His big break came in 1992 when he landed the lead role in The Crow. In an eerie mirroring of what had happened to his father two years earlier, however, Brandon was killed on the set of The Crow as a result of being hit by defective blank ammunition. He died on March 31st, 1993 at the age of 28.
Shannon Lee was born on April 19th, 1969. As a child, she studied Jeet Kune Do and Tae Kwon Do.
Shannon made her acting debut in the Biopic about her father’s life ‘Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.’ She has appeared in a number of other movies.
Shannon is now the president of the Bruce Lee Foundation and proudly oversees her father’s legacy.
A Typical Bruce Lee Workout
Here is a strength and muscle building workout that was taken directly from Bruce’s training journal in 1967, along with the actual weights Bruce used:
- Squat – 3 x 10 (95 lbs)
- French Press – 4 x 6 (64 lbs)
- Incline Curl – 4 x 6 (35 lbs)
- Concentration Curl – 4 x 6 (35 lbs)
- Push-Ups – 3 x 10 (70-80 lb weight on back)
- Barbell Curl – 3 x 8 (70-80 lbs)
- Triceps Stretch – 3 x 6-8 (3 lbs)
- Dumbbell Circle – 4 x AMRAP (16 lbs)
- Reverse Curl – 4 x 6 (64 lbs)
- Wrist Curl (seated) – 4 x AMRAP (64 lbs)
- Reverse Wrist Curl – 4 x AMRAP (10 lbs)
- Sit Ups – 5 x 12
- Calf Raises – 5 x 20 (bodyweight only)
How to Train Like Bruce Lee
To train like Bruce, you need to work hard and fast. As you can see, this workout is pretty long, so you need to keep the pace going. Bruce would only rest for around 30 seconds between sets and you need to do the same. That way you will be building muscle while also burning off fat and increasing your cardio endurance.
You might not be familiar with a couple of the exercises above, namely the Tricep Stretch and Dumbbell Circle. Here’s how to do them:
- Tricep Stretch – 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, which will rapidly increase the results.) From this position, bring the dumb, bell 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 – This 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.
Do the Bruce Lee workout 3X per week, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On the days that you are not doing your strength training, go for a 3-mile run. This workout may not make you as great a fighter as the King of Kung Fu, but it will definitely put you on track for a chiseled, muscular physique in the Bruce Lee mold!