Weight Training

Bruce Lee's Aerobic Strength Training for MMA and Martial Arts

The need for anaerobic and aerobic conditioning is essential in martial arts and MMA. However, many times aerobic conditioning is thrown to the curbside. Bruce Lee did aerobic weight training three times a week. That is how essential it is for martial arts. You can't train explosive movement all the time and expect your aerobic system to develop. You need to train your slow-twitch fibers too! And the best way to do this is through aerobic strength training.

By doing aerobic weight training, you increase the strength of your slow-twitch fibers and boost your mitochondria. You can increase your mitochondria and slow-twitch muscle strength from about 30-50% more than just training your aerobic activity. For example, runners who train aerobic strength training will improve their aerobic capacity and speeds more than just training with running itself. In addition, it increases the resistance of fatigue. And the same goes for martial arts and MMA.

Understand mitochondria are cells responsible for increasing aerobic capacity. The more you have, the better. Also, slow-twitch fibers are not weak. They are just the weakest of the three fibers in our body. Slow-twitch fibers are constantly used in MMA, jujitsu, and martial arts.

How It Works

There are three systems in the body that produce energy. The first system is known as the Alactic system. It is the most powerful system but only lasts for 10 seconds of maximal effort. However, in about one minute, this system is 50% restored and 100% percent restored in three minutes. To keep the energy going during your performance, your body activates another system while the Alactic system restores its energy. This system is known as the lactic system. It activates from 10 seconds to 2 minutes to continue high-intensity work. These two systems are your fast-twitch fibers.

Your aerobic base is the foundation for your Alactic and Lactic system to be effective and explosive. The greater the aerobic capacity, the more explosive movement and performance can be with less fatigue. Therefore, your aerobic base is always active. However, the aerobic system is the most important of the energy systems when a match or competition lasts longer than 2-3 minutes.

On this graph, you can see the vertical lines represent the usage of fast-twitch fibers. However, the bottom horizontal line has more significant drop-offs in strength because of untrained slow-twitch fibers. The top line demonstrates the efficiency of transfer and slow-twitch fibers at a greater level of power. The weaker your slow-twitch fibers, the weaker your explosiveness will be. Also, you will get tired quickly. This is how your aerobic system supports your fast-twitch explosive capacity and intensity.

slow movement graph

Benefits of Aerobic Strength Training 

1. Strengthens stability, alignment, and posture.

Your postural muscles are mainly slow-twitch muscles because they maintain posture and alignment so they need to be fatigue resistant.

2. Increases time under tension.

Muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints become stronger by absorbing force and not dissipating it. Therefore, tendons, ligaments, and joints do not get stronger from fast movements. Instead, they get stronger from slow weight-bearing types of exercises.

3. Better neuromuscular control.

By slowing down, you're more likely to use your joint's full range of motion and produce proper coordination in your movements, as well as discover weak links to correct and have greater range of motion, mobility, stability, and strength.

4. Increases aerobic capacity.

Slow strength training increases mitochondria in your muscles. By increasing mitochondria, you enhance your aerobic capacity.


How to Do Aerobic Strength Training

  • Start by choosing 8-9 exercises and do each exercise for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  • Use about 50-75% percent of your 1RM.
  • After you do all the exercises, rest 1-2 minutes and do again. Perform 2-3 times.
  • Don't move fast. Move at a pace or slightly slower than pace to stimulate slow-twitch fibers. If you move fast, you will train fast-twitch fibers.
  • Bruce Lee did 8-12 reps in 30 seconds and altered from lower to upper body exercises. In doing this, it trained his cardiovascular system more effectively. It is called PHA-Peripheral Heart Action.

Bruce Lee's Exercise Selection

  • Pull-Up
  • Seated Leg Press
  • Standing Leg Thrust
  • Shoulder Press
  • Calf Raises
  • Bicep Cable Curls
  • Bench Press
  • Deadlift
  • Kneeling Lat Pull-Down Behind Neck
  • Triceps Push-Down
  • After Bruce did these exercises he would immediately do a short run as fast and as hard as he could for 1 and half minutes.
  • Standing Wrist Roller for 1 minute.
  • Neck Flexion/ Extension / Rotation all in 1 minute.

Bruce mixed in running with his aerobic weight training as you can see in the routine. After his run it looks like he did a few exercises as a means for active relaxation, before he did the circuit again. This strength routine is from the book: Bruce Lee- The Art of Expressing the Human Body- By: John Little

For more videos about Bruce Lee's training and other methods of strength training, visit my You Tube channel: The Balance https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcTdGuQFH48EgrCmyZ81mig/

If you would like to know how to increase strength and speed instantly check out my book INSTANT STRENGTH


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Bruce Lee Enter the Dragon
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Bruce Lee really did have the Midas touch when it came to training. Most people think Bruce was advanced and complicated, but he was the master of simplicity. He was not worried about doing the jump-up flip spin-around back kick. Not sure if there is one. But by the time you land, Bruce would just throw a simple kick or punch to knock you down as you landed to the ground. However, that is the point. Simplicity is often overlooked because of the coolness and the latest and greatest workout when simplicity produces the most significant effect. Super complicated does not mean superior. This is actually reverse in fact. We see super complex exercises that don’t need to be. Truthfully, if an exercise or method is not straightforward in its approach, then it probably is not good.
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I have a confession to make: I’m a romantic for cheesy martial art movies.

One of my favorite things to watch in kung fu cinema is a teacher tortu–er, training a novice student. Of course, it is easy to see how we fit in the script. Regardless of our level, it is important to have a mentor who can help guide us properly in our training.

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