A Detailed Look at the Evolution of Bruce Lee’s Workout Routine (1963-1971)

Ever since I was a child I had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.

–Bruce Lee

Through Bruce Lee’s workout routines and his dedication to health and fitness, he became an inspiration for generations to come. Bruce Lee was unarguably one of the most influential martial artists of the past 50 years. Bruce Lee inspired a paradigm shift in the world not just as a martial artist but an actor, film director, instructor, and philosopher.

What we didn’t see behind closed doors were the countless hours of rigorous workouts and commitment to daily training routines that Bruce Lee committed to.

Fortunately for us, records of Bruce Lee’s personal training diaries were kept by his wife, Linda Lee Cadwell. What unveiled were excerpts from Bruce Lee’s workout routines, training exercises, and workout schedule during 1968.

As readers, we can take note of the date, 1968—before Bruce became a Hollywood sensation and successful as his legacy has depicted. This allows us to measure the scope of his commitment that required for him to later become a fitness phenomenon to the world and a master of martial arts.

How Bruce Lee’s Workout Evolved Over Time

Bruce Lee was a true proponent of embracing various martial arts and fundamental training programs. His openness and flexibility to experiment with different fighting and training methods birthed his very own style, Jeet Kune Do.

He wasn’t married to the idea of “one glove fits all,” you can notice how his daily workout schedule evolved from 1963 to 1970.

Reviewing the sample of Bruce Lee’s workout schedules from 1963 to 1971 gives you an idea of how his training methods started to evolve as he grew more programmatically adept at choosing exercises and fighting techniques that best fit his training methods. Lee was training all the time, he was always looking for ways to maximize his potential.

1963

In 1963, Lee’s training methods were mostly done in a traditional fashion. From his training records, Bruce Lee’s workout consisted of punching and kicking exercises stemming from Wing Chun Gung Fu and Sil Lum Tao.

1963 was a period where Lee began showing his strong work ethic. He would spend 3 or more hours training on a wooden dummy and spend several days performing techniques of the first form of Wing Chun.

1965

Shifting gears to 1965, Lee began a cardiovascular routine in order to increase his endurance and stamina. His cardio exercises consisted of cycling, running, and jump roping. He began experimenting with barbells and employed specialized exercises to develop strength and effectiveness in his forearms and abdominals.

He added another Wing Chun technique to his martial arts handbook, a Western boxing technique called the “one-two” (right jab, left cross).

1968

At this point, Bruce Lee began steering away from more traditional styles of Wing Chun–specifically Sil Lum Tao–and began incorporated Western-style boxing techniques (hook, jab, uppercut, and cross) into his combat arsenal.

As we move closer to 1970, Lee’s influence on Wing Chun and his traditional martial arts practice begin to fade from his training routine and martial arts practice. It’s suggested that Lee began to assimilate into a more conventional method of training consisting of strikes and kicks that includes a supplementary training program to increase its effectiveness.

1970

Beginning in 1970, Bruce Lee became more adept at specializing each of his workouts into focusing onto every aspect of his martial arts training. He began supplementing his martial arts training with a heavy dose of weight training, heavy bag work, and speed bag work, and stretching techniques.

This workout routine that Bruce Lee started is popularly known as cross-training, a full-body fitness routine that combines aerobics, strength training, and flexibility.

Cross training is described as “taking advantage of the particular effectiveness of one training method to negate the shortcomings of another.” This form of training was an effective stimulus in helping  Lee maximize his potential by increasing his speed, strength, flexibility, and endurance.

As you’ll see below, Lee had broken down various bodybuilding and weight training exercises onto every other day of the week. Other days he would perform punching and kicking techniques. Abdominals and flexibility was a core asset to Lee since he did exercises for his abs and full body stretching every day.

Stomach and waist (every day)

  1. Sit-up
  2. Side bend
  3. Leg raises
  4. Flag
  5. Twist
  6. Back bend
Bruce lee workout for abs and core
Performing an intense core exercise

 

Flexibility (every day)

  1. Front stretch
  2. Side stretch
  3. Hurdle stretch
  4. Sit stretch
  5. Sliding stretch
  6. Front pulley stretch
  7. Side pulley stretch
Bruce Lee stretching for flexibility before a workout
Morning stretch before a workout

 

Weight training (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday)

  1. Clean and press–2 sets of 8
  2. Squat–2 sets of 12
  3. Pullover–2 sets of 8
  4. Bench press–2 sets of 6
  5. Good Mornings–2 sets of 8

or

  1. Clean and press–4 sets of 6
  2. Squat–4 sets of 6
  3. Good morning–4 sets of 6
  4. Bench press–4 sets of 5
  5. Curl–4 sets of 6

 

Bruce Lee workout weight training for the legs
Weight training for strength
Bruce Lee working performing a bicep curl exercise
Performing a bicep curl exercise

 

Kicking (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday)

  1. Side kick–right and left
  2. Hook kick–right and left
  3. Spin kick–right and left
  4. Rear front thrust–right and left
  5. Heel kick–right and left
Bruce Lee workout kicking heavy bag
Applying powerful kick on the heavy bag

 

Punching (Monday, Wednesday, Friday)

  1. Jab-speed bag, foam pad, top and bottom bag
  2. Cross-foam pad, heavy bag, top and bottom bag
  3. Hook-heavy bag, foam pad, top and bottom bag
  4. Overhand cross-foam pad, heavy bag
  5. Combinations-heavy bag, top and bottom speed bag
  6. Platform speed bag workout
  7. Top and bottom bag
Bruce lee working punching with finger jabs
Finger jabs for coordination, speed, and precision

 

Endurance (stationary cycling)

  1. Running (Monday, Wednesday, Friday)
  2. Cycling (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday)
  3. Rope skipping (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday)
Buce lee workout running with his dog
Bruce Lee running with his dog

How Many Days Did Bruce Lee Workout?

It has been noted in Lee’s personal training diaries that he wrote down exercises for days in advance for the upcoming week. Bruce Lee trained for 7 days a week and he would basically train the entire day. Once he wakes up, he’s off to the races. He’ll come home at night and finish off his daily workout routine with either an ab workout or forearms exercise.

Chuck Norris, who states that Bruce Lee was the hardest working man he’s ever seen,  said it best:

“No other human being had ever trained the way Bruce trained-fanatically. He lived and breathed it from the time he got up at six o’clock in the morning until he went to bed at night.”

Along with Bruce Lee’s workout routine, records of Lee’s training schedule during 1965, 1968, and 1970-1971 are detailed below.

The training schedule is referenced from the Bruce Lee book, “The Art of Expressing the Human Body,” a title that the author states that Lee coined to describe his approach to martial arts, documents the techniques he used so effectively to perfect his body for superior health and muscularity

Here’s a glimpse of what a week in Bruce Lee’s workout routine and training schedule looks like:

Some guys may not believe it, but I spent hours perfecting whatever I did.

—Bruce Lee

Days in the Life of Bruce Lee’s Workout Schedule

Monday, January 1, 1968

9:20–9:30 AM—Warm-up (leg & abs)
9:30-9:49 AM— Running
12:00–12:45 PM— 500 punches, 300 finger jabs
3:00–3:55 PM— Leg squat,  leg stretching (pulley, stand), hook kick (left & right, front & rear)
7:30–7:50 PM—100 finger jabs, 200 punches
9:00-9:30 PM— Sit-up 4 sets, side bend 4 sets, leg raises 4 sets

Total: 2 hrs, 59 minutes

Tuesday, January 2, 1968

9:20-9:25 AM— Warm-up (waist, legs, abs)
9:27-9:41 AM— Run
11:30-12:35 PM— 500 punches, 400 finger jabs
3:00-3:45 PM— Squat, 3 sets of punching with weights, 20 minutes with light bag, 3 sets of heavy bag (emphasizing left cross)
5:15-5:45 PM—Sit-ups 5 sets, side bends 5 sets, leg raises 5 sets
8:20-8:24 PM—Isometric training for forearms

Total: 2 hrs, 53 minutes

Wednesday, January 3, 1968

7:00-9:00 AM—Gung fu workout
9:00-9:15 AM—Warm-up (waist, leg, abs)
9:20-9:50 AM—500 punches (back fist), Skip rope 3 sets
10:00-10:30 AM—500 finger jabs
11:05-11:15 AM—Run
3:05-4:00 PM—4 sets of high kick stretching (left & right), 4 sets of side leg stretching (left & right) 4 sets, 3 sets of pulley hip extension 3 sets, 3 sets of right leading hook kick (heavy bag & paper), 3 sets of rear left hook kick(heavy bag & paper)
4:15-4:35 PM—Abs & waist (3 exercises of 4 sets each)

Thursday, January 4, 1968

10:35-10:45 AM—Warm-up
11:15-12:20 PM—500 left punches, 500 right punches
12:53-1:07 PM—Run
3:05-3:25 PM—Punching with weight and paper, skip rope
10:05-10:53 PM—Sit-up 4 sets, leg raises 4 sets, side bends 4 sets, isometric training for forearms/wrist

Friday, January 5, 1968

9:25-10:13 AM—500 right punches, 500 left punches
11:00 AM—Chi Sao (Wing Chun) practice with Chuck Norris
4:10-5:00 PM—Leg stretching (pulley & stand), straight & side, work on left side kick
8:30 PM—Sit-up 5 sets, leg raises 5 sets, side bend 5 sets, isometric training for forearms/wrist

Saturday, January 6, 1968

9:10 AM—Warm-up
10:40 AM—500 punches, 300 finger jabs
Rest of day—Ted Wong came over, running downtown, dinner in Chinatown with Cheree’s [Linda’s school friend’s] parents

Sunday, January 7, 1968

10:00 AM—500 right punches, 500 left punches, leg stretching, Chi Sao (Wing Chun) practice
11:30 AM-12:00 PM—isometric training for forearms
9:10-9:55 PM—Abs & waist, sit-up 5 sets, side bend 5 sets, leg raises 5 sets, stop by Chinatown gym

Bruce Lee’s Personal Training Routines (1963, 1965, 1968, & 1970-1971)

Bruce Lee Workout Schedule in 1963

1. Punching

  1. Air punching–3 sets of 50 each
  2. Sand plate-3 sets of 50 each
  3. Hanging bag—3 sets of 50 each

2. Leg stretching

  1. Forward stretch–3 sets of 12 each
  2. Side stretch–3 sets of 12 each

3. Kicking

  1. Straight kick–3 sets of 12 each
  2. Side kick–3 sets of 12 each
  3. Kicking form–3 sets of 12 each

4. Wooden dummy

  1. The classical form of 108
  2. Individual technique training
  3. Training in entering

5. Form practice

  1. Sil Lum Tao
  2. Hand techniques
  3. Wing Chun fist

6. Individual technique practice

7. Sticking hand training

8. Freestyle practice

Bruce Lee Workout Schedule in 1965

Day Time Activity
Monday 10:45 AM-12 PM

5 PM- 6 PM

Forearms

Abdominals

Tuesday 10:45 AM-12 PM

1:30 PM-2:30 PM

5 PM-6 PM

Punching
Endurance & Agility
Wednesday 10:45 AM-12 PM

1:30 PM-2:30 PM

5 PM-6 PM

Forearm
Endurance & Agility
Thursday 10:45 AM-12:00 PM

5 PM-6 PM

Punching

Abdominals

Friday 10:45 AM-12:00 PM

5 PM-6 PM

Forearms

Abdominals

Saturday 10:45 AM-12 PM

12 PM-2:30 PM

5 PM-6 PM

Punching
Endurance & Agility
Sunday 10:45 AM-12 PM

5 PM-6 PM

Rest

Rest

Bruce Lee Workout Schedule in 1968

Day Time Activity
Monday 9 AM-10 AM

11:30 AM

4 PM-5:30 PM or 8 PM-9:30PM

Exercise & Running

Hand toughening (fist, finger, Chi Sao)

Hand & Elbow

Tuesday 9 AM-10 AM

11:30 AM

4 PM-5:30 PM or 8 PM-9:30PM

Exercise & Running

Hand toughening (fist, finger, Chi Sao)

Feet & Knee

Wednesday 9 AM-10 AM

11:30 AM

4 PM-5:30 PM or 8 PM-9:30PM

Exercise & Running

Hand toughening (fist, finger, Chi Sao)

Hand & Elbow

Thursday 9 AM-10 AM

11:30 AM

4 PM-5:30 PM or 8 PM-9:30PM

Exercise & Running

Hand toughening (fist, finger, Chi Sao)

Feet & Knee

Friday 9 AM-10 AM

11:30 AM

4 PM-5:30 PM or 8 PM-9:30PM

Exercise & Running

Hand toughening (fist, finger, Chi Sao)

Hand & Elbow

Saturday 9 AM-10 AM

11:30 AM

4 PM-5:30 PM or 8 PM-9:30PM

Exercise & Running

Hand toughening (fist, finger, Chi Sao)

Feet & Knee

Sunday 9 AM-10 AM

11:30 AM

4 PM-5:30 PM or 8 PM-9:30PM

Abs & Flexibility

Weights

Hand & Elbow

 

Bruce Lee Workout Schedule from 1970 – 1971

Day Time Activity
Monday 7 AM-9 AM

12 PM

5:30 PM-6:30 PM & 8 PM-9 PM

Abs & Flexibility

Running

Forearm Exercises

Tuesday 7 AM-9 AM

11 AM-12 PM

5:30 PM-6:30 PM & 8 PM-9 PM

Strength & Flexibility

Weights

Legs

Wednesday 7 AM-9 AM

12 PM

5:30 PM-6:30 PM & 8 PM-9 PM

Abs & Flexibility

Running

Forearm Exercises

Thursday 7 AM-9 AM

12 PM

5:30 PM-6:30 PM & 8 PM-9 PM

Abs & Flexibility

Weights

Legs

Friday 7 AM-9 AM

12 PM

5:30 PM-6:30 PM & 8 PM-9 PM

Abs & Flexibility

Running

Forearm Exercises

Saturday 7 AM-9 AM

12 PM

5:30 PM-6:30 PM & 8 PM-9 PM

Abs & Flexibility

Weights

Legs

What’s Next

Like the Bruce Lee Workout Routine?

Share the workout with your friends or family who loves Bruce Lee or needs an extra push for their training.

Check out other Bruce Lee workout routines and training programs:

  1. Bruce’s Full Body Workout for Muscular Strength
  2. Bruce Lee’s Bodybuilding Workout for Muscle Growth
  3. Bruce Lee Lats & Back for Building Wide Lats
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