Bruce Lee Strength Training Myths

Posted on 14 May 2011 15:33

Bruce Lee has had a profound influence on all manner of cultural pursuits. He impacts the world of fitness as much as he does the world of martial arts. His legacy, to me, is unmatched. And one thing that Lee was, if he was anything, was an idea man. Dismissing things out of hand was not something he did, nor did he blindly keep following paths that lead to nowhere.

He trained his body in many different ways and was a voracious researcher and experimenter. Unfortunately a number of myths have sprung up about Lee's attitudes and beliefs concerning strength training. Some of these myths are used to promote certain ways of training. The leader in this is isometric strength training. In truth, Bruce Lee trained in many, many different ways. Isometrics were only one part of it.

Bruce Lee Only did Isometric Strength Training

The myth is that Bruce Lee ONLY used isometric strength training and that this was how he got all his strength and power. Hogwash. Much of Lee's "power" and quickness would have come from the actual martial arts practice. As far as strength training though? Lee did all sorts of things, including lifting weights.


Bruce Lee grip trainnig with heavy plate device

Bruce Lee Grip Training. That Ain't Isometrics



Some of the ideas and methods Lee used may have been wrong and misguided. For instance he liked the idea of "weighting the limbs" such as holding dumbbells and punching the air with them. He relied heavily on research and it is quite likely that Lee's training would have changed when emerging science illuminated more about training specifics, such as training for speed, versus strength or power.

From Lee myths people get such gems as isometric strength training will give you quickness and power and that he got this exclusively through isometric training. I've even read an article expressing the idea that Lee had "tendon power".

Brue Lee one arm two finger pushup

Bruce Lee One Arm Pushup.
Also not Isometrics

Brue Lee one arm two finger pushup

Bruce Lee One Arm Pushup.
Also not Isometrics

Tsatsouline, a big Bruce Lee quoter, has made a lot about 'wiry strength' in his perpetual campaign against "muscular bulk." To be clear, Lee absolutely did not believe that isometrics was the only useful type of resistance training for himself and he certainly saw the value in using weighted implements, barbells and dumbbells, carried through full ranges of motion, which he used regularly. And of course, he did a whole lot of body weight training including his famous "two finger pushups" and of course his one-arm one finger pushup!

Bruce Lee lifting barbell overhead press

I Think This is Called
Weight Training.

Bruce Lee lifting barbell overhead press

I Think This is Called
Weight Training.

Lee has been quoted as saying weight training increases muscle size and that this may not be desirable for a fighter but that is a far cry from saying that he was afraid of weights because he thought they would make him bulky and slow.

He sustained his back injury from doing heavy Good Mornings with a barbell, which plagued him the rest of his life. No, it was not from getting kicked in the back by a big evil Chinese kung-fu monster like in the film "Dragon - The Bruce Lee Story". Even so he reportedly decided that heavy good mornings, which even then were highly promoted, were not necessary and that light weights would suffice. Isometrics only? I don't think so! You didn't really think that Bruce Lee was so one dimensional, did you? Of course not. I would have advised him to ditch the good mornings, to be honest. High risk. Low reward in terms of his goals (for a pure strength goal heavy GM's, performed carefully, have their place!). But it illustrates the point.

Now, I wonder if he would have been welcome at Planet Fitness?


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This page created 14 May 2011 15:33
Last updated 21 Jul 2016 21:14

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