T Nation

Bruce Lee Strength

I made a statement on another thread regarding Bruce Lee’s lower body strength that led some people to jump a little to conclusions. The following article by Christopher D. Hess is based on fact, and basically purports that it would indeed be suprising based on this data if Bruce could squat 200 pounds.

“Numerous persons have stated that Bruce Lee possessed in incredible amount of strength. Based on his exercise program, it appears
he was of below-average lower body strength. According to the strength training program Lee used during 1965 (Lee, 1989), he performed squats using 95 pounds with 10 repetitions. This would equate to an estimated 1 repetition
maximum (1RM) of 130 pounds (Wathen, 1994), which would place him below the 25th percentile for the 121-140 pound weight class among adult males.”

Another issue is that he could do one armed, or even two finger pushups. I personally say big deal. The man weighed a whopping 140 pounds. That said, I appreciate him for his martial arts ability, but less for his strength or body. Any comments?

who cares? he wasn’t a bodybuilder, he was a lean mean fighting machine (literally).

He may have weighed only 140lbs but he could kick your ass anyday!!! Also the comment on his lower body strength how do you know if he could or couldn’t do more the 90lbs? maybe thats the way he wanted to train. But I bet he could kick your ASS!!!

Wow, I can’t believe I’m getting this flak even after I gave the man props for his exceptional fighting ability and martial arts skills. I just wanted to provide some evidence that he was a lightweight in terms of lower body strength.

i’ve seen martial art programs that will use a wide variety of tempos and not much weight for lower body exercises. their main goal is not to build mass or a great deal of strength. lee was probably more concerned with speed and a little strength. speed is what it takes to be like lee.

consider this, getting kicked in the head hurts, it hurts a lot (I speak from experience) tho mostly afterwards if you survive hehe. Anywho getting hit in the back of the head doesn’t hurt much as that’s where your freakin skull is, however getting kicked in the neck will either kill you or really freakin screw with you. Now getting your foot up there is hard, sure you can condition your body to do it a crapload of times(take basketball players, those bastiges run up and down the court for a damn long time) martial artists are trained (least I was) to “explode” which meant go full steam till exhaustion on your opponent, I would last for about a min then be really freakin tired (euphoric tired… so tired I felt good, freaky yea) which would usually result in the opponent being dead or really screwed up. Anywho Bruce Lee probably understood this 100x more then I do, dood trained for this, he rewired his mind for this thru training, he became a genius at this, moving his body to do the attacks. So then why should the dood get more muscules, which require more everything on the body and heart and are harder to move due to the weight? It doesn’t make sense to me and I suppose it didn’t make sense to BL. Since the neck is very vonreable, even the head is vonreable and getting kicked there stuns you for a bit BL didn’t have to be really strong to be a deadly fighter. Man I’m rambling… better hit the post message button. Wait… there are many different kinds of strength, there’s the gold medal powerlifter strength, there’s Martin Luther King/Ghandi strengh, there’s the strength to go to the gym 4 times a week and to eat “right” and often. So saying BL had weak upper body… who cares? maybe he did maybe he trained solely for speed. I don’t know… tho I know that this was a strong man. A T-man.

I would rather, more than anything in the world, more than anything that the gym can offer me in terms of strength and a mucscular body, have just one iota of the ability that Bruce Lee had. You “must lift big weight to get real big…umph…” boys better expand your horizons a bit or be satisfied with what you gain in the gym and stop these li’l “he wasn’t so strong” statements. Bruce Lee was lean, incredibly athletic and had tremendous punching power. Raw talent. There’s more than being able to push a bar with weight plates - there’s also functional strength. I gain more and feel more by my training in the ring or the dojo than I do anyday in the gym. Period. Let’s face it, the man died in 1972 and yes, a bunch of people, Dan Inosanto, Joe Lewis, Ted Wong and others can all claim that they knew the man well. But truthfully, the only thing we’ll ever know is that he was way ahead of his time in terms of training for the martial arts.

Bruce Lee was an actor. He had great ideas about cross training but he wasn’t the great fighter people make him out to be. Just tell me who he beat that was considered a world class fighter?

Maybe he did explosive reps, or didn’t want to go heavy. It doesn’t say what intensity he used. I really don’t think that he could have been anywhere near failure. Personally, I think he would have been able to squat over 200, but that’s just my opinion.

I do believe that in that same article he also debunks the myth that Lee was the greatest martial artist of all time. Lee actually never fought in any international or national tournaments, although he was rumored to be an accomplished street fighter (though this was never co-oberated (sp?)). Like most cultural icons, the myth of Lee greatly exaggerates the reality. That being said, you have to give him credit for what he did for martial arts in North America.

I came across the article and you posted ONE paragraph of the article. Here are the next four.

Lee’s upper body strength is another matter altogether and, when understood
from a sport science perspective, partially explains his on-screen appeal.
Once again, according to the program used during his 1965 stay in Hong Kong,
Lee performed bicep curls using a weight of 80 pounds and 8 repetitions. This
would equate to an estimated 1 repetition maximum of 110 pounds and would
place him in the 100th percentile for the 121-140 pound weight class.From a
training perspective, one must question how a discrepancy of this proportion,
between his upper and lower body strength, evolved in Lee’s training.
Nevertheless, it demonstrates that his upper body strength was developed to
its maximum potential.

Numerous observers of Bruce Lee, such as deceased Kenpo master Ed Parker,
have stated Lee was perhaps the strongest “pound for pound” martial artist.
Sport science can confirm this possibility. Numerous assessments of athletes
throughout the past few decades have confirmed that smaller athletes are
proportionately stronger than larger ones.This is due to the fact that a
muscle’s maximum contractile force is proportional to its cross-sectional
area.In laymen’s terms, this means that a smaller athlete has a higher
strength to mass ratio than larger athletes.

Stated practically, as body size increases, body mass increases more rapidly
than does muscle strength. In a colloquial sense, it could be said this is
similar to the “law of diminishing returns.” Certain martial art film stars
such as Jean Claude Van Damme and Jeff Speakman may look better due to their
mass, but their actual strength, in proportion to body weight, would be less
than a relatively light person such as Lee.Incredible speed is inherent to
superior strength at a low body weight.

Since Lee never weighed more than 143 pounds yet possessed superior upper
body strength in the 100th percentile, this would account for the lightening
speed he demonstrated on film. With more mass, he would not have been as fast
and would not have appeared so on film.

The guy was an actor not some real life badass. How many real life verifiable streetfights did he get into? And who were his opponents? Oh, sure I know you’ll say he’d kick my ass. Maybe. But, based on what? His two inch punch? Yeah, and David Copperfield made the statue of liberty disappear. He was no more a badass than Van Damme is today. Actually, if I had to bet I’d put my money on Van Damme, and I think that he’s a wuss.

Maybe you mean, “could have” kicked my ass.

Molsonman and Moocow you guys dont know shit about the man, who the heck are you to attempt to degrade the man. He’s credibility of being a togugh S.O.B does not come from his movies, you dumbasses. He fought people in undergrounds and in private. Oh by the way two of his opponents at one time who he beat, remeber the kick he took while not looking in his back which put him out for a while, that guy was a two time WORL CHAMPION. I suggest you both read and research than claim that he “maybe” can kick your ass. No, he can whoop your ass.

Bruce Lee never claimed he could never be beat. He claimed he could never be beaten TWICE :P~ As a matter of fact when his brother learned fencing, he beat BL the first several times (I know thats more then twice). BL then later gathered his thoughts, analysed the style and then was never beat by that system again.

These “can a dead guy kick your ass” discussions are about as interesting and informative as those “Brad Pitt’s abs” dicussions. As in, NOT! And oh yeah, I can kick Bruce Lee’s ass! Just dig that little punk up and prop him up and let the ass kickin’ commense! (See how dumb that is?)

I was told by a local Tae Kwon Do instructor that there are about 50 “world championships” every year. I dont know if he was being serious or what.

Dirk, I have always been of the opinion that Bruce was the greatest fighter of all time but I have to wonder at what someone said: “Where do we really get the info?” Personally, all I know of him is from movies and stories people have told me, and taking into account the poeple telling the stories, well they may be false. So I really can’t say that I have really seen him fight in tournaments and kick ass. What first hand evidence do you have? I really would like to see some so I can keep saying he’s the best with no problem.

There have been other martial artists who’ve
done some crazy feats besides BL. Gichin Funakoshi, the father of Japanese karate,
was known for standing on his roof in Okinawa
holding a mat into the wind in typhoons.
Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido, stood
5’ 1" and was a very lean 185 lbs or so.
And, of course, Mas Oyama who would knock the
horns off of bulls with his hands.

Bruce Lee did much for the popularity of
martial arts, to say the least, but with a
lack of verifiable record who knows how he
compares to other MA greats?

Bruce was standing there, on camera, and flexed his lats, and MAN, he looked like a Cobra! I’ve never seen a better upper body than that shot!!! With his body and especially his mind, he was the most powerful man on the earth then, and maybe ever!