Bruce Lee was fast, and agile, and the most universally revered martial arts star in history, known to deliver kicks and blows that were so impossibly swift, some considered them unblockable. He sparred with legitimate full-contact fighting legend Chuck Norris, and though he rarely fought for real, he's probably as close as anyone will ever get to "unbeatable" in people's minds.
So we all know about his skill. But how strong was he?
Anyone who has seen Lee's fight scenes knows that the man relied heavily on his extreme speed and his ability to deliver swift, powerful attacks. But have you ever wondered how strong the Dragon was? If someone somehow managed to match his sheer skill and found a way to negate his fast-forward quickness, and it all came down to sheer physical strength, could Lee still prevail? After all, regardless of the man's combat prowess, he was still an extremely slight guy - a stick figure in a yellow jumpsuit, if you will.
Well, don't worry, because it turns out that Lee was also pretty darn strong too.
According to Martial Tribes, Lee didn't focus on gaining big muscles, but rather on muscle contraction and fine-tuning the nerves that control the muscles. As such, he was capable of releasing tremendous amounts of "twitch muscle" power in short bursts. While the laws of physics prevented his 5'8 frame from bench-pressing elephants, his intense training and sheer force of will still bestowed him with incredible strength.
He was built like a gymnast, had little body fat, and while he was no body builder, he was extremely muscular in the places that fit his needs - for instance, his lats were so massive that they actually stretched to his sides. As such, Lee could perform feats of strength that are usually well out of reach for a man his height and weight. He was reportedly known to hold a 75-pound weight outstretched in one hand while doing 50 one-armed chin-ups with the other.
Let's see the world's strongest man do that!
But Lee's entire philosophy was actually the opposite of most body builders. According to CNN, he became strong by deliberately making himself lean and lithe.
He turned his body into a compact package of power and prowess by following an absolutely "fanatical" training program, choking down raw meat smoothies and vitamin supplements for sustenance. As a result, Lee was capable of doing push-ups with only two fingers and delivering a devastating one-inch punch that has inspired actual scientists to study how a punch that strong can be thrown in the first place.
So how did he do it? According to BruceLee.com, Bruce Lee was big on experimenting with different fitness and workout techniques to mold his body into the kind of machine he preferred. He often made his own training equipment, and took a strict "function over form" approach to his body. To keep track of his methodology, he wrote down every single crunch he did, punch he threw, and mile he ran.
Lee's training program varied and he enjoyed experimenting, but it was generally some combination of weight lifting, cardio, stretching, jogging, and martial arts training. Reportedly, he particularly enjoyed meditation and jogging, which he described as an hour to his own thoughts.
And he always followed his strict training regimen to a T, saying
"Above all, never cheat on any exercise. Use the amount of weight that you can handle without undue strain."
One area where Lee did cheat, though, was his diet. Though he abstained from alcohol, caffeine and tobacco, and stayed away from dairy and refined flours, he ultimately believed in eating whatever he felt like - just in moderation. He said,
"Eat what your body requires, and don't get carried away with foods that don't benefit you."
Do that and maybe you too can one day be as strong as Bruce Lee.
But probably not!
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