Bruce Lee Workout Routine – The Art of Simplicity

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Bruce Lee Workout Routine – The Art of Simplicity

Bruce Lee – “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times”.

Simply watching a movie starring Bruce Lee or catching a glimpse of his physique is enough to inspire anyone. There were few people who possessed the ability and resolve to surpass any limit as Bruce did. Even mimicking a fraction of the way Bruce trained would be enough to make yourself more than just a man. In this article, I want to highlight just one of his profound teachings – the power of simplicity.

bruce lee workout

Simplicity is the Key to Brilliance

The study of martial arts was not only Bruce Lee’s hobby, but his true passion. It was through countless hours of vigorous training that he discovered how mastering a smaller set of moves was superior to practicing hundreds of different ones.

This is best illustrated for anyone who has performed or seen martial arts. There are an infinite number of techniques that can be executed such as take downs, hand strikes, kicks, knees, and elbows. However, only a small number of these are ever used during competitions or in a street fight (how often have you seen someone throw a spinning back kick in a bar fight?). Certain techniques are very flashy, but lack the simplicity and efficiency to be used in a real fight.


How does Simplicity play a role in Fitness and Building Muscle?

bruce lee workout routine

Through martial arts and fitness training, I soon realized that I was wasting time on trivial exercises and routines. Focusing on what worked and ignoring the rest was what I really needed to improve my training.

As always, many people will be tempted to target different body parts by adding a variety of exercises like bicep curls, abdominal crunches, and calf raises. Instead of spreading yourself thin, focusing on a smaller set of exercises will allow for faster strength (and size) gains with fewer plateaus.

Picture yourself trying to perfect 10 different kicks per week. They’d probably be sloppy and wouldn’t even be able to hurt a little girl. Unfortunately, humans are not programmed to multitask effectively and plateaus are inevitable.


Remodel Your Training

Select 5 movements to be your indicator exercises. 5 exercises per workout may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that it’s the intensity of the training that counts. Ideally, these exercises should be compound movements that work the full body. The goal is to continuously get stronger by adding more resistance to each exercise at a constant pace. Deterring from unnecessary exercises will allow you progress rapidly and build lean, functional muscle.


Indicator Exercises

These 5 exercises will effectively enhance your overall fitness, physique, and strength.

1. Squats

This is the bread and butter exercise for developing leg and core strength. Squats work your legs through a full range of motion which is beneficial for both sports and every day activities. Best of all, squats stimulate the most growth hormone out of any exercise. If you want to improve your bench press, do squats. If you want to deadlift more, do squats.

bruce lee weight training

2. Pull Ups

Pull ups have contributed most to the development of my back. Pull ups effectively target the lats and rhomboids as well as the biceps. Exercises like dumbbell rows and lat pull downs pale in comparison to the efficiency of pull ups. This exercise will dramatically increase your upper body strength.

Pull ups are also great for improving your core strength, grip strength, and muscular endurance. As the pull ups become easier, you can challenge yourself by adding additional weight to further increase the resistance.


3. Incline Barbell/Dumbbell Bench Press

Though there are tremendous benefits to doing the regular bench press, performing an incline press is far superior at developing the upper pectoral region. In most sport related movements such as throwing a punch, the arms extend at an upward angle rather than in a straight line. Therefore an incline press may contribute more to functional fitness.


4. Standing Barbell Overhead Press

bruce lee s workout

This is essentially the only exercise I do to develop strength and definition in my shoulders and triceps. In addition, it helps promote the square chest appearance by filling in muscle underneath the collar bone. Since this exercise requires immense core stabilization, the overhead press will also help develop your abs and back as long as you keep your core engaged throughout the movement. Alternating this exercise with the bench press will reduce the risk of shoulder injuries due to muscle instabilities.


5. Deadlifts

Deadlifts can pack on an abundance of dense muscle since it works the entire body with the heaviest weights possible. In addition to the lower back, this exercise targets your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and grip strength. Having a weak lower back, deadlifts have helped strengthen my core, improve my posture, and prevent injury.


Sample Bruce Lee Workout Routine

These exercises can be divided and performed three times a week in alternating patterns (Workout A and B). For both strength and a bit of size, aim for 5 sets of 5 reps per exercise. Rest 1-2 minutes between sets. Try to increase your work weight by at least 5% each week. The effectiveness of your training will depend on your progress with these 5 exercises. Throwing in some HIIT will also help you lose fat and build lean muscle along with numerous other benefits.

Workout Abruce lee training routine

  • Squats
  • Incline Bench Press
  • Pull Ups

Workout B

  • Deadlift
  • Overhead Shoulder Press
  • HIIT

Remember, simplicity is the key to brilliance. Focusing on these specific indicator exercises will enable you to build that lean, fit and muscular physique and overcome any obstacles. As Bruce Lee said, there aren’t any limits, only plateaus, but you mustn’t stay there. If you die, then at least you die trying. A man must constantly exceed his level.

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  1. Gavin - September 8, 2012 12:19 PM

    Compound movements are definitely better for athletes. Only bodybuilders should practice isolation! Muscles groups must work together to generate strength, and stabilizer muscles need to be well developed, otherwise your muscles will just give out. Thanks for writing a great article.

  2. Robin - September 8, 2012 6:03 PM

    Bruce Lee was truly inspiring. Thanks, it’s time to revamp my training.

  3. Lauren Campbell - September 9, 2012 2:08 PM

    Only a smiling visitant here to share the love (:, btw outstanding style. “The price one pays for pursuing a profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.” by James Arthur Baldwin.

  4. Grady Baylis - September 20, 2012 4:08 PM

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  5. JLee - October 19, 2012 12:00 PM

    Hey Kenneth,
    The gym at my work is in a small space and they don’t have a pull-up bar (I’ll have to check still if they have one to mount on the door frame). Do you have any suggestions for a good full back work out, particularly lower back? Even though I know keeping my core engaged will work my back (and I do feel it), I often feel like it’s not getting worked enough.


    PS. I really like your article on the foam roller, been using it for years now and I’m glad it’s finally getting the recognition. I haven’t seen one of those new rollers though.

    • Kenneth

      Kenneth - October 23, 2012 9:43 AM

      No pull-up bar?! That’s ridiculous! It’s hard to find a substitute exercise, but you can try cable machine pull-downs. However, this won’t develop your strength and size as effectively compared to using your own body weight. Definitely look into investing into a pull-up bar. It’s worth it.
      For lower back, I’d focus mainly on deadlifts. You can even try “Good Mornings,” but make sure you get the proper technique down as the chance of injury is high if you do it incorrectly. Bent over rows and the machine cable row are also great exercises that emphasize core stability and work your back.
      I responded to your foam roller comment in that particular article! Take care JLee.

  6. Brian - November 10, 2012 9:20 AM

    Great info !!!

  7. Steven - November 12, 2012 9:39 AM

    I want to add some muscle to my lower abs in order to give them more definition, can you build ab size without excess calories or does it require over compensation like every other muscle? thanks in advance

    • Kenneth

      Kenneth - November 12, 2012 3:18 PM

      Your abs will develop as long as you consistently train them and do cardio/HIIT to burn fat. The bad thing about ingesting excess calories is that you’ll most likely gain more body fat than you’d prefer. As a result, this layer of fat will cover your abs from showing. Work your abs with hanging leg raises 2-3x per week and keep your diet clean. You’ll notice results in a few months.

  8. Dylan - November 12, 2012 10:39 AM

    My brother recommended I would like your site. He was totally right. This post truly made my day. You won’t believe how long I spent looking for this information! Thank you!

  9. Brian - November 13, 2012 5:39 PM

    I want to develop a strong core any good ideas you can share ?

    • Kenneth

      Kenneth - November 14, 2012 11:45 AM

      Hey Brian,
      Personally, I’ve found that squats and deadlifts have been the most effective at improving core strength. Combine that with ab exercises like planks and hanging leg raises and you’ll be set.

      • Brian - November 14, 2012 1:16 PM

        Thanks for the advice !!!

  10. James - November 18, 2012 11:33 PM

    Is this program ideal for somebody trying to lose a great amount of body fat? Around 50 lbs?

    • Kenneth

      Kenneth - November 19, 2012 10:57 AM

      Hey James,
      This type of training is more focused on developing strength and muscle rather than helping to lose body fat. If you’re looking to lose around 50 lbs of fat, you may want to think of incorporating longer intervals of HIIT into your workouts. If you’re looking to get into shape, I’d recommend downloading my free KFX: Workout & Nutrition Manual. It offers a comprehensive set of workouts and diet plan. The diet is essential if you’re looking to lose weight. You can learn more about it here:


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