Bruce Lee's Back Exercises

Bruce Lee fitness

Bruce Lee Birth Anniversary: Looking Back At 'Way of The Dragon', And Why It's the Most Underrated Movie Of This Martial Artist

Bruce Lee's Back Exercises for Explosive Punching Power and Speed

Did you ever wonder why Bruce Lee was so focused on training his back muscles?

The back is like the core. It stabilizes the spine and shoulders. It also connects the power of your hips and arms to push, pull, rotate, and punch.

The force of your punch relies on your body, not just your arm. The power of your punch is generated by moving the mass of your body. The tension your muscles can create will determine the force and speed they can produce. There are many factors involved in developing your punch. However, strengthening your back is a good place to start and you will see instant changes in speed, power and explosiveness of your punching technique.

The Back is the Foundation

The back is the foundation for all pressing movements, for example, the chest and shoulders. When you do chest press or a shoulder press, the back stabilizes their movement. So, the strength and stability of the back is essential to develop your chest and shoulder press as well as your punching speed and power.

The purpose of Bruce Lee's back training routine was to strengthen his upper and lower back muscles as well as strengthen the rotational elements in his punching movement. You can see how and why he tweaked exercises. For example, when he did cable rows, he would rotate his palm up and down. In his bent over rows, he would rotate his spine at the top of the row to contract his opposite oblique of the arm doing the row.

Bruce's ways of back training produced size and strength of his back and the neuromuscular pattern of his punching technique- all three things needed to be fast and explosive. Understand, when it comes to big muscles, if you notice in photos of Bruce Lee, had a back like a cobra. It was wide and big. However, his shoulders were not. Big shoulders will slow you down.

Training your pulling motion is important to throw those fast 1-2 repetitive punches. When you throw or release your punch, you have to pull that arm back and rechamber the arm to punch again. So, you pulling motion will improve that, not just pressing. Also, the lat muscles connect the shoulder to the hips to transfer power effectively and maximally.

How to do Back Movements Effectively

  1. Retraction: squeeze your shoulder blades together. When you row for example, try to touch your shoulder blades together.
  2. Depression: pull your shoulder blades down. For example, when you do a lat pulldown, keep your shoulders down or focus on pulling them down.
  3. Elevation: when your shoulder blades rise up. For example, when doing upright rows and shrugs, you shoulder blades will lift up.
  4. Stabilization- is when your shoulder blades are in a neutral position. For example, when doing kettlebell suitcase carries or overhead carry walks. The purpose is to stabilize the shoulder blades.

The Bruce Lee Back Workout Routine

1. Bent over barbell row

2. Punching with dumbbells

3. Chin-up (overhand)

4. Chinning to the back of the neck

5. One-arm low-pulley row

6. One-arm kettlebell row

7. Behind the neck pull-down

8. Good morning

9. Hyperextension

10. Deadlift

11. Stiff-legged deadlift

To see Bruce Lee's exercises, click on the video below and like and subscribe to see more videos of Bruce Lee's training as well as fitness, strength, and nutrition.


Lee focused on 8 to 12 reps for all the exercises, except when punching with weights. Punching with weights he would use about 2-3 pounds and punch repeatedly for 100 reps.

A rule of thumb to keep in mind when training your back.

  • Train your pulling and rowing movements with 8-12 reps. You want to develop speed and strength in your arms.
  • Train your lifts like deadlifts, between 5-8 reps to develop stability strength of the back.
  • Train your carries with endurance.

If you would like more info about strength training, check out these books.

Introducing Martial Arts School Listings on Black Belt Mag!
Sign Up Now To Be One Of The First School Listed In Our Database.
Don't miss a single issue of the worlds largest magazine of martial arts.