Moviestar, martial arts master, and fitness icon Bruce Lee trained hard and fast all his life. This week, his full-body workout from 1965 has resurfaced, and it’ll make you rethink your training split.
We’ve covered the workouts and body transformations of some of the biggest names in the fitness industry here at DMARGE; from Chris Hemsworth to David Goggins, we’ve tried them all. This week, however, Bruce Lee’s training split from back in the day has emerged, and it’s making us rethink everything.
In a rare glimpse into the training regimen of the late martial arts legend, an early gym routine has surfaced, revealing a truly intense workout that totally defies today’s fitness conventions. Captured on a gym card from 1965, it showcases Lee’s dedication to sculpting his body as well as honing the many skills required for martial arts, including cardio, flexibility, and stability.
WATCH: What do you think the Martial Arts Godfather would’ve made of this?
As reported by Next Shark, Lee’s training routine — dated May 27, 1965 — centred heavily on his arms, particularly targeting his biceps and triceps. However, the routine also makes sure to hit all of the main muscle groups in a single workout, which Lee would have followed at the Hak Keung Gymnasium in Hong Kong.
Meticulously documented on the card, the workout can be broken down as follows:
- Squats: 3 sets x 10 reps x 95 pounds (c. 45 kilograms)
- French Press: 4 sets x 6 reps x 64 pounds (c. 30 kilograms)
- Incline Curl: 4 sets x 6 reps x 35 pounds (c. 16 kilograms)
- Push–Ups: 3 sets x 10 reps x 70-80 pounds (c. 30-35 kilograms)
- Two Hand Curl: 3 sets x 8 reps x 70-80 pounds (c. 30-35 kilograms)
- Triceps Stretch: 3 sets x 6-8 reps x 3 pounds (c. 1.5 kilograms)
- Dumbbell Circle: 4 sets x infinite reps x 16 pounds (c. 7 kilograms)
- Reverse Curl: 4 sets x 6 reps x 64 pounds (c. 30 kilograms)
- Wrist Curl 1: 4 sets x until failure x 64 pounds (c. 30 kilograms)
- Wrist Curl 2: 4 sets x until failure x 10 pounds (c. 5 kilograms)
On top of this, Lee rounded out the workout with included sit-ups and calf raises. Later in his career, he experimented with different routines, focusing more on compound exercises like clean and presses, squats, bench presses, and many more to achieve the enviable physique he shows off in hit films like The Big Boss (1971) and Way of the Dragon (1972).
Later still, Lee embraced the now controversial Peripheral Heart Action (PHA) training method, which maintained blood circulation throughout the body by engaging in a series of resistance-based exercises without taking any breaks between.
This unique approach aimed at improving cardiovascular fitness while simultaneously burning body fat and preserving muscle mass. It reminds us somewhat of Jason Momoa’s ‘barbarian’ workout.
In addition to all of this remarkable fitness work, Lee continued to refine the martial arts skills for which he became so immensely famous. Incorporating stretching along with practising punches, kicks, and a swathe of other MMA techniques, Lee’s commitment to a holistic training regime is still pretty much unrivalled to this day.