Bruce Lee is one of those larger than life characters whom time will remember forever. He successfully bridged the gap between weight training and athletic training. In fact, he was the original “athletic coach.”
In the last article, I presented some of the key triceps movements Bruce Lee used. In this article, we’ll go over how Bruce Lee built his biceps.
Standing Barbell Curl
The standing barbell curl was the basic movement used by Lee. This movement is far more effective than curling with Dumbbells, as it forces you to move more weight at the same time. Here’s how you do it:
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These are a strange exercise that you don’t see many people performing. To perform the movement, pick up light dumbbells and perform full, flat circles in front of the body. The wrists are turned up at the bottom and outward arc, and turned down on the downward and inner arc.
Chin-up (Palms Up)
When you perform Chin-ups with your palms turned in towards your body, you train more of your biceps. Pull-ups tend to work more of your back, although both variations train both back and biceps effectively. Here’s a good video to help you perform chinups:
Bruce Lee’s Arm Workout
I’ve presented to you a few exercises, however how does one put all these movements together for a specific arm workout? Well, one of Bruce Lee’s first workouts was designed to emphasize the Triceps, Biceps, and Forearms. Lets take a look at it
- Squat: 3 sets of 10 repetitions (weight: 95lbs) – Starting off with a squat for your arms routine is genius, as we all know that getting big arms is a matter of putting on mass all over your body, and the squats are the best mass builder.
- French Press: 4 sets of 6 repetitions (weight: 64lbs) – Notice that he only performed 6 repetitions, meaning that his goal was more power and strength rather than size. However, you can easily modify the program and perform 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
- Incline Curl: 4 sets of 6 repetitions (weight: 35lbs) – After a triceps movement, Lee performs a biceps movement, instead of a triceps movement. Once again, this is pretty smart program design. Train the biceps and allow the triceps to rest.
- Concentration Curl: 4 sets of 6 repetitions (weight: 35lbs) – Follow up with another great biceps movement. You normally see bodybuilders perform higher repetitions with isolation movements. However, Lee modelled his workouts based on what he read in muscle mags back in the day. It’s clear this was similar to how the old strongmen and bodybuilders trained.
- Push-Up: 3 sets of 10 repetitions (weight 70-80 lbs. placed on the upper back) – After exhausting the arms with isolation movements, Lee placed heavy weights on his back and perform pushups for reps. This is most likely how he built up to performing one-arm pushups for reps.
- Two-Hand (Barbell) Curl: 3 sets of 8 repetitions (weight: 70-80 lbs) – We finally see the repetitions changing. 8 repetitions brings you closer to mass building while still working on strength. We know that Bruce Lee was obsessed with building big and strong forearms, and the barbell curl is one of the best movements to achieve this.
- Triceps Stretch: 3 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions (weight: 3lbs) – These are triceps extensions with one hand behind the neck – seated or standing. I’m thinking Bruce Lee’s triceps were so sore after heavy pushups and french presses, that he used the lightest weight he could find (unless that’s a typo).
- Dumbbell Circle: 4 sets of as many repetitions as possible (weight: 16lbs) – It’s strange to perform a movement for max repetitions in the middle of your workout. Yes, I said the MIDDLE of the workout. After this movement, you’ll be doing 3 more movements laser-targeted for the forearms.
- Reverse Curl (Barbell): 4 sets of 6 repetitions (weight: 64lbs) – The reverse curl is the opposite of the Barbell Curl. You take a palms facing away from you grip and curl the weight towards your body.
- Wrist Curl (seated): 4 sets of as many repetitions as possible (weight: 64lbs) – You’re going to have Popeye forearms once you’re done with this workout! This movement targets the belly of the forearms, or the flexor muscles.
- Reverse Wrist Curl (seated): 4 sets of as many repetitions as possible (weight 10lbs) – The reverse wrist curl targets the extensor muscles of the forearms. Grap the barbell with an overhand grip and flex the wrist as far back towards your body as possible.
- Sit-up: 5 sets of 12 repetitions (weight: body weight only) – I’m not a huge fan of situps, but Bruce Lee loved them. Clearly, it worked for him. In a later article, I will go over his entire abdominal routine.
- Calf Raise: 5 sets of 20 repetitions (weight: body weight only) – For the final movement, you will be doing simple calf raises, which add size and power to the calf muscles of the lower leg.
This was a really comprehensive workout. But if you’re looking for something really advanced focused on building athletic power and strength, along with increasing lean muscle mass, then I recommend checking out Craig Ballantyne’s Muscle Massacre. Click here to learn more.