How Strong Was Bruce Lee?

Sure, Bruce Lee was fast, and agile, and the most universally revered martial arts star in history. He was the master of the world-famous one-inch punch, and was known to deliver kicks and blows that were so impossibly swift, some considered them unblockable. He sparred with legitimate full-contact fighting legend Chuck Norris, and although he only ever had one single official fight (a victorious boxing match in his youth), he's probably as close as anyone'll ever get to "unbeatable" in people's minds. 

However, anyone who has seen Lee's fight scenes knows that the man relied heavily on his extreme speed and his ability to deliver swift, powerful attacks. Have you ever wondered how strong the Dragon was? If someone managed to match his sheer skill and found a way to negate his fast-forward quickness, and it all came down to sheer physical strength, could Lee still prevail? After all, regardless of the man's combat prowess, he was still an extremely slight guy — a stick figure in a yellow jumpsuit, if you will. Let's find out precisely how strong Bruce Lee was. 

Bruce Lee was deceptively strong

Turns out, he was pretty heckin' strong! As Martial Tribes attests, Lee didn't focus on gaining big muscles, but rather on muscle contraction and fine-tuning the nerves that control the muscles. As such, he was capable of releasing tremendous amounts of "twitch muscle" power in short bursts. While the laws of physics prevented his 5'8 frame from bench-pressing elephants, his intense training and sheer force of will still bestowed him with incredible strength. He was built like a gymnast, had little body fat, and while he was no body builder, he was extremely muscular in the places that fit his needs — for instance, his lats were so massive that they actually stretched to his sides.

As such, Lee could perform feats of strength that are usually well out of reach for a man his height and weight. Reportedly, he was known a hold a 75-pound weight "horizontally in one arm," and do 50 one-armed chin-ups. Let's see the world's strongest man — or, for that matter, anyone — do that.

The Dragon school of bodybuilding

Some bodybuilders bulk up to become powerful-looking. As CNN tells us, Bruce Lee did the opposite: He became strong by deliberately making himself lean and lithe. He turned his body into a compact package of power and prowess by following an absolutely "fanatical" training program, choking down raw meat smoothies and vitamin supplements for sustenance. He was a bodybuilder, in a sense, but the body he built was the original lean, mean fighting machine. As a result, Lee was capable of doing push-ups with only two fingers and delivering a devastating one-inch punch that, as Popular Mechanics reports, has inspired actual scientists to study how a punch that strong can be thrown in the first place. So, yeah. While he might not have been able to lift trucks (as far as we know), we think it's fair to say that he was a strong, strong dude.

Bruce Lee's peculiar fitness program

According to,  Bruce Lee was big on experimenting with different fitness and workout techniques to mold his body into the kind of machine he preferred. He often made his own training equipment, and took a strict "function over form" approach to his body. To keep track on his methodology, he wrote down every single crunch he did, punch he threw, and mile he ran. 

Lee's training program varied and he enjoyed experimenting, but it was generally some combination of weight lifting, cardio, stretching, jogging, and martial arts training. Reportedly, he particularly enjoyed meditation and jogging, which he described as an hour to his own thoughts. Motley Health also points out that Lee was very strict about form, and allowed no cheating when training with weights. "Above all, never cheat on any exercise," he said. "Use the amount of weight that you can handle without undue strain."

Fueling the machine

It's easy to imagine that the kind of peculiar training that made Bruce Lee, well, Bruce Lee would require a pretty strange and religiously maintained diet to fuel the Dragon's flames. Weirdly enough, this wasn't true at all. Sure, Bruce Lee's diet had its share of peculiarities. He abstained from alcohol, caffeine and tobacco (though he was fine with weed) and stayed away from dairy and refined flours. On the other hand, he was known to put everything from fruit to raw hamburger meat through a juicer for his power drinks, and was a giant fan of supplements. 

Ultimately, though, Lee believed in eating what he felt like, as long as you don't overdo it. As the man himself put it: "Eat what your body requires, and don't get carried away with foods that don't benefit you."