The Bruce Lee Workout Routine

Bruce Lee's Training Philosophy

"There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level."—Bruce Lee

The single most important thing about Bruce Lee's training style is that he was extremely driven and dedicated. He strove to constantly improve himself physically and mentally, and as such his workouts were well-rounded for what he felt he needed. As fans and followers know, he not only devoted a large chunk of his time to physical training but also to reading on a wide number of subjects. In other words, it wasn't just an issue of physical development but also mental. While the intellectual portion won't be covered here, it's worth bearing in mind that there is more than just physique involved in being a great martial artist.

If your goal is to be built like Bruce Lee but you're not interested in learning martial arts, this is not the workout for you. It is also not a beginner routine by any means, so if you're just getting started, you may want to start with a modified version or give yourself some time to build up.

Statue of Bruce Lee
Statue of Bruce Lee | Source

Proper Diet

The kind of routine being explored here requires a proper diet. Without enough carbohydrates, vitamins, protein, and other nutrients, we all know that even the best workout will likely do more harm than good.

Lee stuck to stringent guidelines and restrictions in his diet, eating four to five meals a day and favoring carbohydrates. He refused to touch anything that he felt would harm or inhibit him, including coffee. Also, he was not a fan of Western foods' emphasis on fats and protein, instead sticking with Chinese food thanks to its heavy use of rice and vegetables.

A Word of Warning

"You must have complete determination. The worst opponent you can come across is one whose aim has become an obsession. For instance, if a man has decided that he is going to bite off your nose no matter what happens to him in the process, the chances are he will succeed in doing it."

Before starting any workout routine, it's crucial to make sure that you have the necessary time and dedication to stick to it. Odds are, the full Bruce Lee workout routine is just too much for the average person today in terms of time consumption. In the interest of that, in the tables below I will offer a simplified routine while still detailing the full workout.

Lee trained for hours every day. Not all of us have the kind of time necessary for such a comprehensive routine, but our lives don't rely on our martial technique every day either. He made his living as a martial artist, and the amount of training time he devoted reflects that.

Bag Work

"When you're talking about fighting, as it is, with no rules, well then, baby you'd better train every part of your body!"—Bruce Lee, 1971

Lee trained by punching and kicking on alternating days with a variety of equipment, ranging from foam pads to the heavy bag. His philosophy on bag training was that it should be treated much like a sparring section. In other words, you should give it all you have and never lower your defense. Proper footwork, timing, rhythm, and distance control are crucial as well as the form behind the punches and kicks themselves. Train like you fight.

Core Workout

3 sets to failure
Hanging Leg Raises
3 sets to failure
Side Bends
3 sets to failure
Bruce Lee performed his ab routines daily. This particular routine he performed with 5 sets per exercise rather than three.

Weight Training

"Instead of dedicating your life to actualize a concept of what you should be like, actualize yourself."

Lee trained extensively with weights, employing two alternating routines on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays in addition to a daily core routine and his cardiovascular, as well as martial arts training. While raising a family, reading, studying philosophy, filming, and more. One has to wonder if the man ever slept.

I have left the core workout largely unaltered, only reducing the set count. The rest of the workout routines in the tables will be simplified versions that can be performed without the ability to manipulate the fabric of time itself.

Bruce Lee Weight Training

Barbell Curls
2 sets, 8 reps
Bent-Arm Pullover
2 sets, 8 reps
2 sets, 12 reps
Hamstrings, calves, lower back, glutes
Bench Press - Medium Grip
4 sets, 5 reps
Chest, shoulders, triceps
Lee did a much more comprehensive routine with more exercises, but the set and rep counts are the same.


Lee was a proponent of running, considering it his time to be alone and think. He typically ran a four-mile circuit in between 20 and 25 minutes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. He performed interval training during the runs, sprinting a short distance and then returning to a more comfortable running pace.

Cycling was done on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at high speed for about 45 minutes after about 30 minutes with the jump rope. These two workouts in conjunction emphasize the legs heavily along with overall endurance.

Cardio Routine

30 minutes
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Jump Rope
2 minute sets, five times
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
30 minutes
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

Attitude, Attitude, Attitude

"Choose the positive. You have a choice—you are the master of your attitude. Choose the positive, the constructive. Optimism is a faith that leads to success."

Lee, besides being extremely athletic and effective as a martial artist, devoted a lot of time to study. As a result, he developed his own philosophy on life that was largely centered around attitude. He believed that physical results stemmed from attitude and philosophy, teaching that one must maintain positivism in all things, not waste time with negative thinking. Learning to flow in the "living moment" rather than adhere to any stringent system was his priority, as can be seen in his martial art practice.


As always with these articles, I have to add a disclaimer about safety: If you do not know how to properly perform this workouts, then do what you need to do to find out before attempting them. I will not be held responsible for any injuries, physical or to the ego, that result from the use of this routine or information.

Hopefully, I've provided some helpful information and insight into the brass tacks of at least a portion of how Bruce Lee became one of the most prolific modern martial artists. There are any number of workout routines that can achieve the same results, but without learning to think like he did, being as devoted as he was, you will not obtain his level of effectiveness. In other words, if being like Bruce Lee is your goal then you have to train like Bruce Lee, and that is no easy task.


cmoneyspinner1tf profile image

cmoneyspinner1tf 22 months ago from Austin, Texas

Bruce Lee is incomparable. He can never be replaced. Just flattered by imitators, admired by loyal fans, and no doubt always loved and cherished by his family and dearest friends. Would like to have know him personally.

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Glutathione PRO 2 years ago

"3 sets to failure" already love it! This is the proper way to work out if you are truly looking to transform your body or gain muscular endurance. Awesome hub!

rasta1 profile image

rasta1 2 years ago from Jamaica

Many people think Bruce Lee was just an actor. However, he was a great philosopher and was the pioneer for mixed martial arts fighting.

buddhaanalysis 2 years ago

Amazing article.

I always wanted to know what this man does to be like as him.

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JG11Bravo 2 years ago Author

Thank you, madam!

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janshares 2 years ago from Washington, DC

Congratulations and well-deserved. I left comments already about how amazing I found this hub. I'm so happy that you received the HOTD nod.

howlermunkey profile image

howlermunkey 2 years ago from Tampa, FL

Perfect timing for me as I've just committed to hit the gym again. thanks for the motivation. "Choose the Positive"..awesome. Headin to the treadmill right now... woosah

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JG11Bravo 2 years ago Author

Anyone in the martial arts community should appreciate the contributions he made. He really revolutionized the way Westerners look at it.

Adityapullagurla profile image

Adityapullagurla 2 years ago from Sydney

Bruce Lee inspires every one to be extremely athletic and effective as a martial artist, and devote a lot of time to master the art. Really nice hub

WiccanSage profile image

WiccanSage 2 years ago

Very nice; what a tragic loss for us all when he died. It was fun learning more about him, great hub!

Danida profile image

Danida 2 years ago from London

Bruce Lee was crazy! He could do so many things previously thought of impossible, so impossible that they're still regarded as impossible. Remember the two-finger push up and one-inch punch? Wow.

He died too young unfortunately :(

luisj305 profile image

luisj305 2 years ago from Florida

Very interesting, it makes me wonder if his techniques of pushing the limits of the human body to the point it can no longer continue is something that contributed to his cerebral cause of death.

He worked very hard, maybe a little too hard.

Great hub which has inspired me to get back to the gym!

JG11Bravo profile image

JG11Bravo 2 years ago Author

The value in martial arts both as a means of self defense and as a philosophy cannot be overstated. Thanks for reading!

MosLadder profile image

MosLadder 2 years ago from Irvine, CA

The man set the bar so high, it's always inspiring to read about him. And his quotes! I've started a separate Word doc. of Bruce Lee quotes to refer to. Great stuff, thanks!

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Say Yes To Life 2 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

My brother was a Bruce Lee fan as a kid. Once he was watching "Enter the Dragon" with two white friends at a movie theater in East Oakland, when they were beset by 5 black thugs. They calmly walked out, then took them on using martial arts. The 5 thugs ran for their lives. CLASSIC!!!

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JG11Bravo 2 years ago Author

The fight with O'Hara was epic indeed. A great example of his raw speed.

Thank you folks for the compliments, and I'm glad you enjoyed reading.

Aneegma profile image

Aneegma 2 years ago

What a fantastic hub! deserves HOTD, well done. I do wish Bruce was still alive. I remember watching Enter the Dragon and I practice the fight he has with O'hara over and over. Greatest martial arts dude ever!

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W1totalk 2 years ago

Great man but extreme methods which work. Great hub.

Hui (蕙) profile image

Hui (蕙) 2 years ago

A great man. Unfortunately, died young!

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JG11Bravo 2 years ago Author

My pleasure. I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I find it particularly redeeming to have fellow martial artists offer me compliments. Bruce Lee set a standard that any martial artist, athlete, student, anyone should probably take a lesson on. I wish I was half as dedicated as he was.

janshares profile image

janshares 2 years ago from Washington, DC

Great hub, JG11Bravo, nicely done. This is a well-written presentation of how to train at a high level, as Bruce Lee did, but from a realistic perspective. You did a good job on getting that point across. I find it very difficult to maintain a training routine as a student of tai chi. I sat out of tournament one year and told the Master organizer that my plate was too full. He told me I need a bigger plate. Sounds like he had a Bruce Lee philosophy. Thanks for an excellent hub, voted up and useful.

JG11Bravo profile image

JG11Bravo 2 years ago Author

Much obliged to all parties. We could all learn a lot from his dedication, I think.

Kukata Kali profile image

Kukata Kali 2 years ago

Awesome! V0ted up~

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CWanamaker 2 years ago from Arizona

Bruce Lee is awesome...just like this hub! He was really on another level. Everything he did was so intense, including his workouts.

electronician profile image

electronician 2 years ago from Birmingham, England

Bruce Lee was the man, and its great to have a Bruce style workout that can still be done in a reasonable amount of time. I'm probably still too lazy to do it though!

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