Train Like Bruce Lee

“Absorb what is useful. Reject what is useless.” These legendary words are often attributed to Bruce Lee, and while it’s debatable whether they actually originated with him, there’s no doubt that they strike at the core of his martial philosophy. His legendary and eclectic fighting style of Jeet Kune Do, “the way of the intercepting fist,” focused on crafting his strikes around his opponent’s incoming attack, at a moment when anything extraneous would just slow him down with tragic results. As a result, he was as unpredictable as he was entertaining.

Openness and flexibility also defined how Lee approached his physical training. While trainers and his peers wasted their time with territorial squabbles and quests for one-size-fits-all training programs, Lee was receptive to a wide range of traditions. He took what he needed from martial arts, bodybuilding, and other styles of training. He was devoted to his barbell and kettlebells, but also loved his Nautilus-style Marcy Circuit Trainer. He practiced his kicks and punches daily with full intensity, but he also ran, cycled, and jumped rope.

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In short, he was an all-around athlete, and the result was a body that Joe Weider once described as the most defined he had ever seen. Over 40 years after Lee’s tragic death, people continue to be inspired by his special combination of speed, strength, and flexibility. The simple discovery of a few new photos of him shirtless is still enough to earn a cover story.

Of course, Lee never trained solely for the purpose of looking good. His aim was to develop a functional body, and the appearance was a byproduct of his training. Training, he said, was “the art of expressing the human body.” Here’s how he did it, and how you can do the same.