According to various sources on the internet, a 1996 article in Iron Man magazine revealed Bruce Lee’s training. In addition to his cardio and karate exercises, Lee lifted weights three times a week and performed the following routine:

cleans and presses 2 x 8

2×12 squats

2×8 bar pullovers

bench press 2×6

good morning 2×8

2×8 barbell curl

Unfortunately, he injured his back saying good morning, which almost ruined his career. Otherwise, his weight training was successful because it is credited with helping him add 30 pounds of solid muscle to his relatively small frame.

Although Lee is the most famous martial artist of all time, it is possible that the strongest was a man named Masutatsu Oyama. Therefore, it will be interesting to contrast Lee’s training with that of Oyama.

The karate bullfighter

Oyama was one of the first to bring Karate to the United States and founder of the Kyokushin style of Karate. His 1958 classic “What is Karate?” it was one of the first books on the subject written in English and designed to make the subject accessible to Westerners.

Oyama initially made his name with stunts such as Karate-style bullfighting. Unlike Mexican bullfighters, he would actually knock the bull to the ground and break one of his horns. (He wasn’t very popular with animal rights activists in Tokyo.)

Oyama strength training

According to Oyama’s 1958 book, strength and speed are more important than skill for karate, and speed is more important than strength. Also, he said it was very important to practice jumping.

Here are some recommendations that he gives in “What is Karate?” (He does not give an exact training.)

Running – 4 km per day

Jump rope – 20 minutes per day

Dumbbell arm exercise (shoulder press?) – 200 times

Dives – 100 times

Push-ups (with hands in fists) – 300 times

Incline push-ups – 100 times

Side kick vault on 4 foot vaulting horse

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

Exercises that require a partner:

Hitting the bag with the upper part of the elbow and the side of the elbow: 200 times each

Practicing bag jump kick

Neck exercises (with partner)

Leg exercise (squat with partner face up)

Back and abdomen exercises with a partner

Elsewhere in the book, Oyama said he would bench press 175 pounds 500 times a day.

Then there are the karate-specific drills, such as hitting straw, and drills that are specific to board and stone breaking skills. All this in addition to practicing forms, sparring, etc.

Comparing Lee and Oyama

Now, what seems to me to be the essential difference between Lee’s and Oyama’s training styles is volume. Lee’s weight training routine is relatively short, and he avoided lifting weights on days of intense martial arts training.

While Lee could do one exercise for 2 sets of 8 reps (which is pretty typical), Oyama would do it for hundreds of reps. Clearly, Oyama’s approach requires more time and a lot of dedication.

If you look at the photos of these men, they have quite different builds. For Lee, his training goal was apparently to add bulk. Before weight training, he weighed just 135 pounds and added 30 pounds of solid muscle.

Oyama, on the other hand, was obviously a beefier guy and talks in his book about losing weight during periods of intense training. Judging from the photos of him with other people, I’d say he was probably a bit taller than Lee (who was 5’8″). Although Oyama was of average height, he doesn’t look like a short guy when standing next to American wrestlers. professionals, boxers and strongmen.

possible findings

The point is not to compare them by saying that one was better than the other. I wonder what effect their training style had on the way they looked and how much was just genetic.

In any case, if Oyama had trouble keeping his weight down, it appears that high-volume training helped him do just that. Lee, on the other hand, seems to have been naturally thin and wanted weight training to increase (probably to look better on camera). Too much volume could be counterproductive to that goal.

So perhaps the lesson from this is that if you want to lose weight while also getting stronger, it might be worth considering an old-fashioned, high-volume workout routine, assuming you can put in that kind of dedication. On the other hand, if your goal is to look like Bruce Lee… well, all I can say is “good luck”!

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