How to get a body like Bruce Lee
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It doesn’t really matter how old you are, you’ve heard of and admire Bruce Lee.
His legendary skills in the martial arts, amazing action movies and his quotes and philosophy still live on with us today.
His small yet shredded physique is also held at marvel by many.
And, as you probably know from my youtube videos, I admire the Bruce lee type physique over the big steroided up bodybuilder physique. After all, my famous line is that my channel is all about helping you look more like Bruce Lee and less like Lee Priest.
But what exactly is a Bruce Lee body and how can you get one?
The first thing to acknowledge is Bruce Lee’s body type.
Bruce Lee’s body is the epitome of an athletic physique. Lean, muscular and functional. There’s no unnecessary bulk or cumbersome weight. It is pure form.
Now, before we talk about how to develop a bruce lee physique we have to understand a few things.
First of all, genetics plays a huge role.
Secondly, Bruce Lee’s life was devoted to the study of and the advancement of the Martial Arts, he had a lot more time to train.
He also was around in a time where science wasn’t as clued up on exercise and nutrition as we are now so training the way he did or eating the way he did may not be advisable in today’s context.
That being said, let’s take a look at a few things we can do to sculpt that shredded bruce lee physique!
Reports on Bruce Lee’s body fat percentage vary from as low as 5% to around 8%. If we take the median of the different ranges being purported, it’s safe to assume that Bruce lee probably had a body fat of around 6%.
He was also said to be 61Kg and stood 5’7 tall.
This would mean he had a fat mass of only 3.66kg which means that his fat free mass was around 57.34kg
How does knowing that help? I am not sure, it just sounds impressive… anyway, back to how you can get a Bruce Lee Physique.
So, the goal is obviously going to revolve around getting to single digit body fat levels. This is in no way an easy task if you’re not naturally a lean individual.
Diet is going to play a huge role.
It’s important to see where you are now on a body fat percentage so you know your starting point and an idea of what the journey ahead will be for you. The best way to do this is to get your body fat measure by a professional.DXA scans and Hydrostatic weighing are the most accurate ways but are very expensive and hard to come by. A trainer that can do a caliper test will be your next best bet otherwise, you can just guestimate your body fat levels by comparing yourself to the following image.
The other thing you’re going to need is the right training.
If you compare a bodybuilder at 5% compared to say someone that does martial arts at around 8% you’ll see a big difference.
In the following image I have taken A body builder, bruce lee and Buakaw who used to walk at around 8% bf.
As you can see, both bruce lee and Buakaw have a leaner physique. I’m not sure what bodybuilder Jamie Alderton’s height is but when I met him, he was significantly taller than me and I am the same height as Buakaw and Bruce Lee.
This means your height will come into play relative to your weight but also that you’re not going to be focussing on packing on too much muscle.
This doesn’t mean you won’t be doing any weights, far from it, but the focus isn’t going to be on adding a lot of mass which means no drugs!
Natural trained athletes and bodybuilders are in a good place to get the Bruce Lee physique.
In order to ensure you keep body fat to a minimum, you’re probably going to need to be doing cardio as well as High intensity training (Boxing, muay thai or a martial art would be an ideal one here!)
Unless again, you’re an absolutely lean individual who has found it very hard to gain muscle mass in the past.
Remember, the body will adapt to the stimulus you give it, in other words, if you train like a bodybuilder who wants to gain mass, you’ll look like a bodybuilder who wants to gain mass (okay, it’s not as easy as that because there are other factors in place that determine how big you get)
So what did Bruce lee’s training regime look like?
His training evolved as he got more sophisticated with his approach. Towards the later end of his career, he seemingly switched from the “bro set” to combining weight training utilizing the peripheral heart Action training method (PHA) which is very commonly used today by trainers for fat loss which sees a full body workout with supersets of differing body parts to maximise expenditure.
According to reports on his training leading up to enter the dragon, Bruce Lee would do circuit based weight training sessions where he would do a 30 second set of each exercise with as heavy a weight he could use for 8-12 reps with no breaks between sets.
Bruce Lee would also do a lot of cardio including running, sprints skipping and cycling. He would also incorporate a lot of HIIT training along side his martial arts training.
Of course, his training was more than the average person can find time for or should be doing anyway.
I always advise people the minimum effective dose when it comes to training, that is, the least amount of training to facilitate a change in your body and physique.
This has a few advantages including making sure your recovery is prioritised as well as allowing you time to do the more important things in life.
In an ideal world, I would suggest 3-4 days of weight training with 3 cardio days, one of which being a HIIT training day. This could be martial arts training. If your fit enough and have the capacity to recover fast enough, you could double up on cardio days with extra martial arts training but don’t push it too much!
I’m hesitant at this stage to give a detailed training plan or prescription because I firmly believe that people should be assessed and a training plan be individualised for each client but that being said, an example could be a 3 day split such as:
A2 Chest Press
B1 Leg Extensions
B2 Shoulder Press
C Incline Press
D Lateral Raise
E Tricep Press Downs
A1 Romanian DeadLift
A2 Seated Row
B1 Hamstring Curls
B2 Lat Pull Downs
C Rear Delt Cable Rows
D Close Grip Pull ups
E Bicep Curls
A1 Leg Press
A2 Incline Chest Press
B2 Shoulder raises
C Face Pulls
D Seated Lateral Raise
And then for Cardio, one HIIT training session of a circuit or Sprints or Tabatas with 2 recovery based Lower intensity steady state workouts such a a 30 minute jog or bike ride.