This is how Bruce Lee's training would look in 2017

This is how Bruce Lee's training would look in 2017

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How do you use what Bruce Lee was - a perfect, efficient combination of strength and athleticism - and how do you improve that? We take off the pink glasses and imagine how different Bruce Lee's training would be these days - and we even dare to imagine that he could have been even more violent.

How can you improve perfection? It is a question to which the answer would seem obvious, a rhetorical search to demonstrate the conceit of someone who would unnecessarily try to repair something that is not broken.

Bruce Lee and martial arts

It is easy to understand why so many people see Bruce Lee as perfect. Although he left us prematurely more than 40 years ago, even now there are very few people who are not familiar with this icon of martial arts. His films, his innovations in martial arts - he developed Jeet Kune Do - and his physics continue to positively influence and inspire Lee's ideas around the world since he died in 1973 at the age of 32.

In short: Lee is a legend and I understand that nobody wants to see a legend change. But I want to argue that Lee would train differently now. Before I developed my system, Training for Warriors (TFW), I was a graduate of Jeet Kune Do and I extensively studied Lee's training methods. I am convinced that he would have been even better as a result of the combination of current training methods and his progressive philosophy.


New training methods

Training methods have, like technology, been developed much more since 1973. To use a quick example, in 1973, IBM developed one of the first prototypes for a personal computer called SCAMP. That was revolutionary back then, but the phone that you now have in your pocket has about a million times more processor power than the SCAMP at the time.

In 1973, the unbeaten Miami Dolphins won the Superbowl, but if the current Dolphins were still to train like the Don Shula team, that would explain many of the franchise problems.

These examples show that science and technology have developed exponentially over the past 40 years. Don't you think the perfect student, Bruce Lee, would do the same if he were at his peak now? I think so. But to do this, he would have to look very closely at every aspect of what he did inside and outside the gym and then build a new program from scratch.

Training from Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee learned during combat that he had to improve his strength and condition to be a more effective martial artist.

Although he used the basic principles such as weights for strength, jogging for fitness and stretching for flexibility, these principles have developed considerably since the 60s and 70s. Nowadays, Lee would not look for the 'best', but would continue to look for 'better'.

Just like Lee did, the Training For Warriors system also uses a four-day physical training week. This system allows fighters to build strength and cardiovascular endurance, and also to save time for recovery and martial arts training. To achieve this, it must be possible to perform the following training sessions in an hour or less.

If Lee were to train now, the TFW methods would be perfectly tailored to meet his need for strength, fitness and recovery. You must keep in mind that in addition to his physical training, Lee was constantly training with martial arts.

In accordance with the philosophy of his martial art, Jeet Kune Do (also called "the style without style"), Lee would undoubtedly have been more involved in the martial arts that form MMA and take over what works best for today's champions . That would require more time to spend on martial arts in addition to working in the weight room. As a result, you see that the martial arts have been kept separate from its TFW training schedule.

The following overview of his new training will explain Lee's previous program and how and why it has improved.

medicine ball crunch

Warm up

This is a part where the training philosophy has improved considerably over the past five decades. Proper warming up can improve performance and reduce the risk of injury. Lee himself sustained a back injury - which he suffered from for years - after performing dumbbell good mornings without first warming up properly. Here we replace his outdated stretching method with foam rolling, elastic band work to prepare the muscles, increase the heart rate and stimulate the central nervous system. A complete warm-up can be found in the TFW text.

Weight training

Lee was one of the first martial artists to promote strength training. With this he broke with the general conviction of that time that strength training would make you heavy and slow. But instead of his total body training, I emphasized an upper body day and a lower body day. The weights used are heavier and the sets and total volume are more than two sets of eight to develop more mass and strength. Some basic bodybuilding exercises that he used get an upgrade to a more productive fight-specific version. Single leg lifts are added to improve stability and pedaling power.


In Lee's days, walking on the road and jumping rope were the gold standard for cardiovascular training for a fighter. While this can still be a good way to challenge the body and help a fighter change his mind, repetitive pounding can break a fighter. Instead, I have designed sprints and metabolic circuits to improve endurance, maintain strength and burn fat. These trainings take much less time and give you more room for recovery. These circuits use a number of tools that were hardly used in Lee's time, such as heavy ropes, a skill ladder, a sandbag and a slam ball.

mountain climber


Lee was a big fan of abdominal muscle work, but in his time most abdominal exercises such as sit-ups and crunches were performed with extremely many repetitions. You could often see Lee busy while he was doing hundreds of repetitions of abs exercises. These repetitions take time and nowadays there are more effective ways to develop nuclear power. To improve productivity and recovery, the thousands of body weight repetitions that Lee made have been replaced by heavier-loaded exercises that require both stability and rotation and help to transfer even more force to kicks and knocks.

Nutrition and recovery

Lee used vitamins and ate clean to reach his legendary physical. Yes, he had a great muscle definition, but he also had a body weight that fluctuated between 56 and 66 pounds on a 1,70 m frame. Today's growth in information about nutrition, supplements and recovery would have helped him gain mass to get.

Lee would certainly have stayed on top of this information and took advantage of these improvements. If he had been able to add creatine and hydrolyzed whey protein to his diet, and could have used current recovery methods, Lee could have looked even sharper.

sprinter sit up

Bruce Lee 2.0: the training

Perform these trainings once a week (in total there are four training days a week, excluding the martial arts training). Follow this program for four to six weeks. Various exercises are explained further after the diagram.

Upper body training day

Directions: perform on Monday or early in the week to accommodate martial arts training. Perform the exercises marked with A and B as supersets. Start warming up for 10 to 15 minutes.

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Valve: Corecircuit

Hints: perform twice.

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Lower body training day

Directions: perform on Friday or late in the week to fit in martial arts training and to recover maximally. Start warming up for 10 to 15 minutes.

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sumo deadlift

Valve: Core circuit

Hints: perform three times.

[Table id = 5 /]

Metabolic training day 1: TFW energy circuit

Directions: ideally performed on Tuesdays and done quickly, leaving energy for martial arts training. Make three rounds. In round 1 you work 40 seconds and take 20 seconds of rest. Round 2 you work 35 seconds and you take 30 seconds rest. In round 3 you work 30 seconds and you take 40 seconds rest. Rest in such a way that you can recover maximally between two rounds. Start with a general warming of 10 to 15 minutes.

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Metabolic training day 1: TFW Hurricane

Directions: ideally performed on Thursdays. The entire training must be completed in less than an hour. A Training For Warriors Hurricane is conducted over three rounds. Each round contains three sets. Each set consists of a combination of a sprint and two exercises. Rest after each set and fully unwind after each round. Start with a general warming of 10 to 15 minutes.

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[Table id = 8 /]

[Table id = 9 /]

rotational lunge

Exercises explained

TFW pseudo sumo deadlift

For this variation, place your feet outside shoulder width, lean back and grasp the bar with your hands between your knees. Stand up by stretching your hips, knees, and lower back.

Rope sidewinder

Grasp the ends of the ropes in both hands and walk to a point about halfway the anchor point. Stand in an athletic position and swing your arms from one side to the other. Create as many waves as possible between you and the anchor point. Do this as soon as possible.

Mixed-grip weighted chin-up

Grab a pull-up bar with a mixed handle - a hand over the bar and a hand underneath. Pull your shoulder blades back to pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar. Have yourself checked back to the starting position. Switch the hand positions and make the same number of repetitions on both sides.

weighted pull up

Zercher squat

Remove a loaded dumbbell from a power rack. Hold the barbell in the curvature of your elbows. Keep your biceps tense and your hands up. Drop deep and push your heels up to the starting position.

Med ball triangle crunch

Start on your back with the ball on your chest and your right ankle crossed over your left thigh. Keep the left leg straight and off the floor. Raise your left leg and make a crunch. Switch legs and repeat.

Dumbbell floor press

Grab a couple of dumbbells and lie on the floor with your elbows bent 90 degrees. Keep your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Push the weights straight up. When you get back to the starting position you have to stop completely.

Single-leg mountain climber

From a push-on position you sprint in position with one leg. In fact, you mainly hop on one leg forwards and backwards, while the other leg hangs in the air. Make an equal number of repetitions on both sides.

Plate rotational lunge

Hold the disc in front of your body, elbows straight. Step forward and lunge. If you lower your knee to the floor, turn your upper body to the front knee. Return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.

Sprinter sit-up

Lie on your back with your legs straight and your elbows bent at an angle of 90 degrees next to your body. When you come up, raise one knee and the opposite elbow forward while the other elbow goes back. Lower and repeat on the other side.

This article was written by Muscle & Fitness

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