Bruce Lee's 3-Minute Workout

Shane Trotter

Coach

Mansfield, Texas, United States

Strength and Conditioning, Kettlebells, Youth Development

Life in the 21st century is busy. Between work deadlines, traffic, taking the kids to their various activities, keeping the house from falling apart, and, of course, our constant accessibility to the immediate needs of other people (thank you, smartphone for that 8 pm work email), it can feel like life has gotten out of your control.

 

This is why routines are essential for mental and physical well-being. They offer control, peace, and the ability to define what is important. By using routines, you are able to show up at the same time each day to honor that part of yourself.

 

 

In this modern day, lives are revved into a sedentary overdrive. Our frenetic pace occurs within an environment of previously unimaginable luxury, and it is killing us. Absent of a need to ensure our own survival, the greatest threat to our own health becomes lack of movement, poor nutrition, and, paradoxically, stress. Millions of hard-working people having no concept of how to take care of themselves. They arrive at home exhausted from a hard day’s work and, understandably, opt for the couch.

 

3 Minutes to Better Health

Having witnessed this pattern in many good people, I’ve developed a fascination with finding ways to exercise inside the constraints of modern life. Ideally, daily life would be your exercise. That isn’t our world. Whether you’re a new parent or strapped to a cubicle, there is always a way.

 

Of all the methods I’ve come across for fitting in fitness, none are as convenient and easily applied as Bruce Lee’s morning static contraction circuit, detailed in John Little’s book The Warrior Within. Upon waking each day (this is important because it offers a consistent cue) he’d do the following routine:

 

  • 5 Full Body Stretches: Lying on your back extend your arms and legs as far you can as if your reaching both to the opposite wall. Hold for three seconds, relax for two, and repeat.
  • 5 Back Arches: Sit with your hamstrings on the back of your calves. Leaning back, slowly push your hips toward the ceiling as your glutes contract. Hold each arch for three seconds, relax for two, and repeat.
  • 12 Leg Tenses: Slowly extend your legs as far as you can and violently contract the muscles of your thigh. Hold for 3 seconds. Rest and repeat.
  • 10 Abdominal Tenses: Maximally contract your abdominals (may resemble using the restroom). Hold each contraction for three seconds, relax for two, and repeat.
  • 5 Sit Ups to Toes: Lie back on your mattress with your arms overhead. Slowly raise up and reach all the way to your toes. Return to the lying position and repeat.
  • 5 Bent Leg Raises: Lie back on your mattress with your arms overhead. Slowly bend your knees towards your chest, pausing once they’ve been pulled back as far as they can go. Return your legs, and repeat.

 

Because each is held for seconds, I recommend integrating your rep count into the second count for each rep. For example, my leg tenses would be counted as:

 

  • 1-2-3
  • 2-2-3
  • 3-2-3
  • 4-2-3
  • 5-2-3
  • Etcetera

 

Bruce Lee believed the most important thing was to train his core because it transferred energy through the entire body. Tim Anderson of Original Strength has echoed this sentiment, referring to the body as an “X” and pointing out how the core is the centerpiece that unites all appendages. This routine is perfect for creating a strong united “X.” All of the exercises should create tension through the entire body working from the core out.

 

Take a Dose of Fitness

Three minutes of static isometric contractions may not be enough to turn you into Bruce Lee. He complimented this daily routine with a diet of resistance training, running, and, of course, martial arts.

 

Still, this daily discipline is a convenient effective way to build greater strength, muscular control, and mind-body awareness. For the ardent exerciser, it shores up weaknesses and builds resiliency. For the sedentary, it offers an essential dose of fitness and reconnection to the vessel in which you reside.

 

 

Imagine if you did this routine three times a day. In effect that would be three sets of all the exercises. That is a workout. Pavel Tsatsouline has popularized this style of daily exercise. He calls it Grease the Groove Training and has repeatedly proven its utility for creating tremendous improvements in physical fitness.

 

Static contractions are a portable method of muscle training that has been around for decades. The legendary Charles Atlas even developed a system called “dynamic tension” that worked by pushing muscle against muscle. By fighting yourself, max effort sets are always available to you.

 

Similarly, many hotel-bound fitness enthusiasts have discovered the power of trying to move immovable objects. The point is simple: fitness is essential and we can all fit it in if we allow ourselves to creatively innovate, adapt, and overcome.

 

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