How Bruce Lee Ruined the World (An Anecdote of Myofibrillar Hypertrophy, Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy, and Other Random Brain Flatulence)


With roots in the semi-martial arts industry (I never took formal martial arts), I grew up admiring Bruce Lee and abiding by the following mentality: stay light, fleet of feet, and fast. Adding muscle is a terrible thing. I mean, look at Bruce! If you want any hope to have crackling kicks and furious fists, you need to keep your body weight down like Bruce did.

This usually leads to being afraid to gain any muscle, as muscle is associated with the bodybuilder connotation of being muscle bound and slow. If you dig even further, it enters a discussion of myofibrillar hypertrophy and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. The latter being devastating to anyone with performance intentions, or so the story goes.

But does it have a rational backing?

Bruce Lee was a fan of the barbell

With respect to the man himself, Bruce didn’t botch the boat on this one. People that admire his physique and skills tell themselves a story about muscle and performance that goes something like this: strength should be obtained with as little body weight gain as possible. This is a fine idea…if it’s something you actually need. More often than not, it actually hinders performance. (More on this bit later.)

Those that tell themselves this story often forego physical training that can cause muscle gain all together. Perhaps they only do bodyweight exercises (which is another story, as bodyweight exercises can be a powerful muscle builder). But by all accounts of Bruce Lee’s training, he trained with barbells just like the rest of us.


This squashes the immediate fear-of-training bug, but it births the following idea: muscle, training, and strength is fine, as long as it’s the right kind. This is usually where the discussion of muscle fibers and functional muscle come into play (as if there’s such a thing as non-functional muscle).

What is functional muscle?

Bruce’s muscle was all go, no show…I mean, compare that to the inflated balloon muscles bodybuilders have. This, we soon learn, is what made Bruce so remarkable. It also explains the difference between myofibrillar hypertrophy and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

  • Myofibrillar hypertrophy is the growth of the actual muscle fibers. This is the growth that leads to stronger muscle contractions.
  • Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is the growth of the fluid elements. This is the growth that looks bloated.

When you’re looking to keep your bodyweight down and performance up, it makes sense to avoid sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. After all, it’s simply the fluid. Why add excess weight to something that contributes to more strength or power?

The two problems with myofibrillar hypertrophy

The difference between myofibrillar hypertrophy and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, in principle, lies within the type of training done. This is where comparisons between bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters, and powerlifters come into play.

If there’s one thing you should know about the body: it adapts to what it needs.

  • Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy comes about when you tax the sarcoplasm. When you get a stronger muscle pump or stronger response (need) to hold some kind of fluid, your body responds by better handling the fluid increase on a regular basis.
  • Myofibrillar hypertrophy comes about when you tax the muscles. When you make muscles stronger (increase their need to contract), your body responds by growing the muscle fibers.

We have two problems.

First, by all accounts of Bruce Lee’s routine, he trained with relatively higher repetitions (8 or more) compared to today’s recommendations for myofibrillar hypertrophy (less than 5). Second, our poster boy myofibrillar athletes probably aren’t all that anal about myofibrillar growth.

Let’s start with the first.

Higher repetition training and tone

The mass of mainstream fitness perusers would have you believe that higher repetition training tones muscles. As I talked about in Why Your 2 Pound Dumbbells Aren’t Doing Any Good, low-load higher repetition training doesn’t do anything of the sorts. The stimulus isn’t “dangerous” enough to convince the body to build muscle.

So, no, Bruce wasn’t “toning” his muscles. He was growing his muscles with strength training in a slightly higher repetition range. Quite a surprising thing to hear, I know.

Tone comes from two things: amount of muscle and subcutaneous body fat. The less body fat you have, the more pronounced your body shape will be.

  • Low body fat, no muscle = no tone
  • Low body fat, a little muscle = tone

Bruce had a low body fat with a smattering of muscle tissue (from his diligent strength training — not toning training).

With the zone Bruce trained in, he wasn’t training for preferential development of certain muscle fibers. He was just…training. You know, picking things up. Pressing them. Curling them. Probably in a decently challenging manner too.

Your myofibrillar examples are sunk

Those on the myofibrillar bandwagon will point to Olympic lifters (more so than powerlifters) to showcase the power of myofibrillar hypertrophy — you know, functional muscle.

Olympic weightlifters train for short term strength and power, they’ll say. They use lower reps and, as a result, they look denser and all around more functional than bodybuilders.

With the age of YouTube though, we get a glimpse of how some Olympic weightlifters really train. It’s not always with low repetitions. Some even use bodybuilding-esque isolation exercises.




Pretty wild, hunh? Here we have weight class athletes that aren’t afraid to add muscle mass.

Let’s take a look at why.

There’s no such thing as functional muscle: the best reason to not abide by the Bruce Lee story

Striving to always keep your body weight low handicaps you. Lee might have been smaller, but he still had muscle. His body grew to some extent.


If you’re DJ Qualls, there’s only so much you can do from a performance standpoint until you need to gain muscle. Muscle helps with a lot of things.

There’s a good chance everyone in a weight class sport is competing above their “natural” weight class because they gained muscle, which then improved their performance. If they didn’t, they’d be DJ Qualls, cruising into the lowest weight class their skin and bones allows…but they’d be getting mopped up by everyone in that weight class with extra muscle to back their performance.

There’s no such thing as useless muscle tissue. It all contracts the same.

And, as we see, the line between sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy isn’t anything like you believe it is. Don’t forget: more blood (sarcoplasmic influx) means a higher delivery of nutrients to the area. More nutrients could then make it better for myofibrillar hypertrophy. Just a thought to chew on.

…And now for the haters

You will hit a point in which more muscle might not be justified. Being an Olympic weightlifter is different than being a martial artist. I’m not stew-stew-stew-stewpid, Happy.

But let’s look at the take home points:

If you have performance intentions, it might be better to train primarily in the myofibrillar zone. But I wouldn’t be deathly afraid higher repetition training. Your muscles will grow from needing to contract more and more forcefully over time. As long as you do that — even you train in a higher repetitions zone — your muscle fibers are gonna grow.

After all, you have some of the strongest and most powerful athletes training with higher reps, yet still with the dense muscle look, without much kickback.

Perhaps the best thing to conclude from all of this:

  • If you need it, train for it. Don’t lift weights thinking it will magically make you kick like Bruce Lee. You still have to practice your kicks.  Complex stuff, I know.
  • Don’t think you’re going to permanently alter your skills overnight (ie: reach a place that’s “too bulky”) with strength training. Some quality strength training is probably the fastest way to improve your performance potential, provided your skill stays up to speed. (MMA fighters aren’t exactly small, and muscle certainly doesn’t impair them.)

And let’s not forget, just about every athlete under the big lights are using some kind of substance to help them out. Your gains will be even harder fought for. No one wakes up overnight too big. Your irrational fear about useless muscle is just that: irrational.

Trying to lose fat, build muscle, and build a body you’re proud of?

Maybe you’re a little lost right now.

Maybe you don’t have much motivation.

Maybe you don’t what program or diet to use.

I don’t know…

But what I do know is this:

Everything you need is inside of you.

You’re capable of more than know.

You just have to open your eyes.

My weekly column can help.

Just a small little honest note from me sent every Sunday.

Unless I’m hungover.

And then it comes Monday.

What I’m trying to say is that it’ll come Monday.

(These weekly columns don’t get posted to the site.)

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sebastian July 9, 2013, 9:24 am

    Bruce was also on the juice at some point which may be the only reason he had SOME muscle despite the fact his routine included an utterly insane amount of cardio.

    • Anthony July 11, 2013, 1:42 am

      Hah, I never knew about the juice. Where’d you hear that?

      • Zikk June 8, 2014, 5:59 pm

        Oh funny “Sebastian” didn’t answer. Just another internet troll saying “he’s on roid” without any proof. So what, after bruce lee (who is skinny), these trolls will say that anorexic women take roids too. These people should just shut up and train instead …

        • Anthony June 14, 2014, 4:57 pm

          Do you have any proof he wasn’t on roids?

          Just saying 😉

          • JB June 27, 2014, 6:09 pm

            And let’s now forget Justin Bieber, the lastest steroid user:)

          • Anthony July 3, 2014, 1:44 am

            Steroids did him some good.

  • james July 9, 2013, 4:44 pm

    Bruce knew exactly what he wanted to do and trained for that you’re completely ignoring the antagonistic muscle theory and the fact that he knew his body would react to it’s environment his goal was never to keep his weight down just to be as efficient in martial arts as possible so he eliminated the unessential similar to your article about Olympic lifting and athletics

    • Anthony July 11, 2013, 1:45 am

      Did you miss the part where I said this wasn’t Bruce’s fault? And I don’t discredit his methods? Read. Eyeballs, you have them. Read.

    • Paul Zografos December 5, 2013, 11:05 pm

      you need to hit on the second huge piece to the “gaining muscle” puzzle – caloric intake. Bruce could easily have trained in any range he wanted, but unless he ate with a caloric excess – his body would only produce so much muscle before it ran out of material to make the muscle from. Same with any weight class athletes – training in a higher rep range increases endurance and helps with nutrient shuttling, but unless they add 1000 calories to their post workout meal, they wont go up a weight class anyway.

      • Anthony December 12, 2013, 2:23 am


  • Shane July 9, 2013, 4:53 pm

    Great post!

    • Anthony July 11, 2013, 1:45 am


  • amila July 9, 2013, 6:50 pm

    Makes sense u know.. But I don’t think he really was on the juice.

  • Lenin July 10, 2013, 3:25 am

    Hmm, I think this was a bad topic selection, and setting Bruce as the center of some random critics (or just the typical envy) is never a good idea..
    I must say this article omits key points about how Bruce trained and developed his body, firstly He used to do a lot of cardio, he was a virtually a marathon elite athlete so by forgetting this detail makes this argument someway flaw, secondly Bruce preferred Chinese type of food, so his nutrition was obviously not what you use to eat.. and finally as we can notice Bruce was a Mesomorph body type so his natural balance between fat and muscle is adjusted nicely by this. Sorry bro, but as a suggestion never picture Bruce in this way again.. cya.

    • Anthony July 12, 2013, 2:22 am

      Who was envious? Who was critiquing Bruce?

      Gah, learn how to read. It’s attack on the people that think they’re training like Bruce, even though they aren’t in the slightest. Again, read before making a silly post, please.

  • Johnny July 10, 2013, 6:37 am

    good article.

    • Anthony July 12, 2013, 2:13 am

      Thanks man.

  • Mike July 11, 2013, 5:54 am


    Thanks for the post – this is exactly what I’ve been working on as a trainer in my own workouts and with my clients in recent months. I’d have to credit Pavel Tstatsouline with being the catalyst to getting me back to this path. Rather than thinking about reps and weights, I concentrate on tension, air and focus. I think the difference between sarcoplasmic and myfibrillar hypertrophy might lie in the intensity and quality of the muscle’s tension (regardless of the weight) rather than the number of reps performed. But obviously high reps means less quality in the tension.

    Without trying to give a lecture, I think it also pays to understand a little more about the difference between the strength trainer and the martial artist, whose aim is to kill an opponent, quickly. Essentially, MMA fighters and others such as Bruce Lee are/were incredibly impressive and skillful, but they depart from the purity of the martial arts that helped develop them.

    30 years ago I trained in a Shaolin-originated Kung Fu style called Chow Gar Tong Long. I remember Bruce Lee was a keen student of Wing Chun, which would be similar in the philosophies of power. The masters of ‘internal’ styles don’t give much a damn about muscle at all – they still maintain that it plays little/no part in generating explosive power. So it isn’t so much that the martial artist despises big muscles – they just don’t see the point!

    This isn’t to speak on behalf of all martial artists – your typical MMA fighter (I’m not a fan) appears to be an ‘external’ fighter – using their muscles, speed, flexibility etc to overwhelm their opponent. All martial artists have to start with this kind of power and some arts are based on it. But the student of the ‘internal’ art is looking for ‘chi’ based power – from air, bone, tendon, nervous system etc… and beyond that, the ‘shock’ power referred to in Chow Gar as ‘geng’ – Bruce Lee’s Wing Chun is famous for its ‘inch punch’ – developing deadly power from just one inch. I won’t go on about it because I can’t produce it and therefore can’t totally understand how it works.

    You only have to look at boxing, mma, wrestling etc – notice how they all have to be split into weight divisions? That HAS to mean that whatever goes on in the ring only works if you can match the ‘externals’ of the opponents to some degree. In the pure martial arts, it has to work in a vastly wider arena – different-sized opponents, multiple opponents etc. I’ll practice something that pokes your friggin’ eye out without even thinking about deadlifts. Add to that the necessity to retain your abilities into your 70’s… so the flashy stuff of Bruce Lee et al is probably not going to serve you well for very long. So the muscle-based approach is of limited use when applied over a lifetime. It would be interesting to see if Bruce Lee’s beliefs would have changed had he lived to 65 and beyond.

    So without getting too far off topic – once you move into the internal realm of power generation, you’re leaving the gym floor altogether. Bruce Lee had a foot in a few camps as he developed is Jeet Kune Do and shot movies – so I guess he ventured into the western ways of training that the Grand Masters don’t bother to mess with.

    If you want a laugh, here’s a video of the current Chow Gar grand master getting kicked in the nuts for fun – using the trained skill of retracting his genitals. His late father plays a great cameo at the age of 91:

    • Anthony July 12, 2013, 2:16 am

      Thanks for the reply. Genital retraction, nice.

      I mention the difference between Oly lifters and MA-ists, and I wasn’t arguing that. But good reply.

  • nick July 21, 2013, 1:38 am

    Functional muscle refers to movements that you use, in everyday life. Bicep curls, wrist curls and calf raises are nice additions, but you really don’t need them.
    Every day life functions are hip extension, thoracic extension, internal and external rotation of the shoulder. You could add in grip exercises, but those are the only “functions” you need.
    As for the differences is sarcoplasmic and myofibrullar muscle. Put a wrestler up against someone of the same weight, who just weight trains.
    You touched on practicing skill for strength as well, but when weight is equal, myo is king.
    If you need to lift heavy for many reps, then sarco is king. It’s max strength vs strength endurance.

    • Anthony July 22, 2013, 11:47 am

      You don’t need strong biceps in real life? Have you ever carried a box? Or helped someone move?

      There’s no such thing as NON-functional muscle.

      The only functions you need? So we don’t use plantar flexion when we jump?

      Your example of a wrestler is also unfounded. “Put a wrestler against someone that doesn’t wrestle…see what happens!” That’s like saying put a weightlifter against a wrestler in a weightlifting contest.

      • Dan May 7, 2015, 7:55 am

        This is something I’ve come to accept as completely true . I always remember grappling this unmovable guy . I just couldn’t budge his arms an inch . And he said ” damn I’m sore from super sets on my arms at the gym yesterday” . By All accounts his training is not functional bodybuilding style . Your telling me the same strength could have been achieved from kettlebell swings and squats ? . Nope he had unmovable arms because he had been battering them with various different rep ranges of high volume weight training for years . This notion of functional and non functional strength has become ridiculous

  • Richdad July 28, 2013, 3:57 pm

    I think you need both type of training, actually I used to heavy weights with low rep I started from 5 kg dumbell curls and progressed to 18 kg, i used to give 4-5 reps. Similarly my bench press increased from 20 kgs to 65 kgs @ 6reps. This was done in 4 months of time that great I know. BUt after doing low rep training for that duration I felt kind of weakness, I had headaches, my eyeback went in, dark circles started appearing around eyes and eventually I couldn’t take it and left the gym. Now after 8 months I have started back.

    It has been 1 month agian I am doing it in mix when I feel to do low reps I do it. When I feel to go for high rep with low weight I do it. I am more punctual and commited know and that is very important to make yourself fit.

    • Anthony July 29, 2013, 7:18 pm

      Low reps don’t give you headaches, haha. Nor dark circles.

      • Paul Zografos December 5, 2013, 11:12 pm

        sounds like classic overtraining. people dont realize how much strength training challenges your CNS because it doesnt “feel” as tiring as higher rep exercises.

        • Anthony December 12, 2013, 2:24 am

          Overtraining is quite rare, IMO, unless you’re doing a boat load of lactic stuff.

  • phil July 29, 2013, 12:01 am

    interesting article and certainly some good food for thought here, nice one. exemplars like bruce appear sadly to be preserved in aspic as far as their training regime and general approach to fitness is concerned, with everyone repeating verbatim what everybody else before them has said – thereby proving the old dictum that if you repeat something for long enough, regardless if it’s true or not, it will soon be accepted as the gospel truth. i think you’re quite right in your observation that bruce was far too multifaceted in his approach to allow his training to be corralled into a tightly-defined corner; instead, i’m sure he constantly experimented and varied his approach to seek the best possible outcome, ie the ideal ratio between bodyweight movement and muscular strength. remember, he didn’t have any of the type of ready resources such as the excellent et al to hand for ready reference and had to rely on constant training experimentation and variation to understand what works and what doesn’t. anyways, enough rambling from me, just to say that insightful articles like these make you stand out that little bit more, keep it up, cheers fella!

    • Anthony July 29, 2013, 7:19 pm

      Thanks, but even the best of today experiment, regardless of the information!

  • Daniel July 31, 2013, 4:02 pm

    The most important thing!, the sarcoplasm is limited by the sarcomeric, you can NOT advance in sarcoplasm without advance in sarcomeric. So as you say there is NON-functional muscle (maybe “more” functional).
    (The oppositive is true).

    Besides, liquids are less dense than muscle tissue, so in facto it is the opppositive, sarcomeric create more weight, due that is “real” muscle fiber that is much more dense that liquid!.

    Great article, you cand add these 2 things to the article!.

    Sorry for the English, not native.

    • Anthony August 6, 2013, 12:08 am

      Thanks for the reply.

  • Charlie Steffens September 4, 2013, 3:47 am

    Thought this article was awesome…a lot better than Men’s Fitness…

    • Anthony September 10, 2013, 3:47 pm


  • Henricks September 9, 2013, 1:53 pm

    This guy is clue less while he thinks he knows Bruce schedule of training! And real purpose!
    Too Muscle can get on the way of a movement….for speed or power !!! While been executed for offense or defense!

    • Anthony September 10, 2013, 3:56 pm

      Maybe you should learn how to form a coherent sentence before arguing. And maybe you should read the article again. Or maybe you should reply again so I can continue to make fun of you. Either option works for me.

  • john September 18, 2013, 9:08 pm

    This article was interesting but it is quite selective in studies, some references would be useful. Sarcoplasmic vs Myofibrillar is one of these endless discussions, and it’s a bit of a pointless one too. There is clearly a differences between the two, but you can’t train one without the other entirely. Strength does not equal size and vice versa. One thing that you don’t seem to acknowledge is neurological movement, with a strong neurology there are great movement patterns that can be utilised, and there’s also the factor of muscle activation, or rather, recruitment under contraction, but this seems more like an article of entertainment than of research and accurate studies and citations 😉

    • Anthony September 20, 2013, 1:38 pm

      What are you talking about?

    • JR November 6, 2014, 10:52 pm

      I agree with this article seems more for entertainment as it is selective in the information it is sharing. The article neglects to mention the Lee was a person who strived for all ALL areas of fitness from muscular strength to cardiovascular endurance. I understand you are poking fun at people who train “like” Lee to achieve his fitness, but then you should use those people as your target and not Lee himself. It would be like blaming the coach for the lose of a game and not attributing the loss to the players who performed poorly.

      • Anthony November 23, 2014, 3:54 pm

        Yes, but you’re missing one thing. If Bruce Lee didn’t exist, then no one would follow in his footsteps. He’s the catalyst, hence the fall boy. And that’s why I titled the article this way. Of course, if you read, I don’t hate Bruce Lee at all. And I titled the article like this just because I knew people would irrationally reply without actually READING the content. But you did, so kudos.

  • ssslayer October 3, 2013, 7:02 am

    I agree with the article to some extent.
    But isn’t it possible that say in spite of the bodybuilder rep range used in training by Bruce Lee and in spite of carb loaded food (noodles and rice) there is genetic angle which prevents you from putting on mass like a bodybuilder.

    I see quite a lot of people who are training in absolute low rep range but still turn out to be larger looking than few others who are hovering in the medium/high rep ranges …
    Due to genetics.

    The appropriate way to judge would be to compare Bruce Lee’s before and after physique

    • Anthony October 4, 2013, 2:38 pm

      There could be a genetic angle, but — by and large — humans are bound to epigenetics when it comes to muscle growth. Bodybudilders aren’t even in that category with the drugs they take.

  • ssslayer October 3, 2013, 7:04 am

    Also do check this out:

    Which seems to be a more logical way to look into myofibril and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy stuff.

    • Anthony October 4, 2013, 2:39 pm

      Yeah, the tone of the article wasn’t necessarily about this, but more so about the mystique of Bruce and how most people misinterpret his training.

  • OTownKidD October 7, 2013, 7:15 pm

    Hey dude. Enjoyed all the info here. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for a while and you helped shine some light.

    I’ve been doing traditional bodybuilding for three years plus and I’m happy with my results. I’m not necessarily puffy and since I have low body fat. My problem is I want to incorporate power into my training. I don’t want to become sluggish or continue in the mass building direction for too much longer. I also don’t want to lose my size or muscle shape and development. I’ve started doing reps as fast and safely as possible for speed and still incorporate the big lifts in all my splits at 5-6 reps a set while continuing other sets at 8-10. Is there any advice you can give me to incorporate explosiveness while retaining the aesthetics I’ve acquired through bodybuilding? Is it even possible to retain the muscle ive built with bodybuilding with different rep speeds and Olympic lifts?

    • Anthony October 8, 2013, 4:54 pm

      You might lose some things somewhere, but it will retain itself to the point of you probably not really noticing. I’d really ask WHY you’re training for power, as doing it in itself is rather a lone goal, and finding out what it all means will help put your training in perspective so you can program correctly.

  • Peter Davis October 19, 2013, 7:30 pm

    The guy going on about ‘internal’ martial arts might enjoy coming back to the real world, I will gladly take on any ‘internal’ martial artist who is smaller and lighter than me, he can try to poke me in the eye if he likes, can a strong muscular man not do the same? He should realize anyone can do this. Fairy land is a nice place to live but people who live there do not usually win fights. Please no special pleading about shoalin monks.

    One commenter mentioned the main problem with this article. The idea that you can try to build myrofibrillar muscle over sarcoplasmic and the other way around. This idea has basically no evidence supporting it and a lot against it. Anyone who references the idea usually goes back to the same place, power to the people.. in my opinion is one of the worst myth spreaders out there. The main difference between people who get big working out or do not isn’t the exercise, it’s the diet. As long as someone has a half decent work out then they will grow bigger if their diet is in order. If not, or if getting bigger is not their aim and they eat less, they will not grow, or not as much.

    Some detailed info summarized well:

    • Anthony October 22, 2013, 2:36 pm

      Well, to all credit to the body, some people will gain muscle with less an ideal nutrition. For most of us, however, you’d need to eat to fuel it to a certain degree.

  • Ralph Ruiz December 8, 2013, 2:13 am

    Great post! A+

    • Anthony December 12, 2013, 2:25 am


  • Ed Watson January 14, 2014, 3:50 pm

    No discussion of neural recruitment? Your article falls short of providing a more complete understanding the difference between myofibrillar growth vs sarcoplasmic growth because you ignored it.

    The ‘functional’ aspect of training and performance derives from the nervous system, not the muscle per se. Duh, the two are intertwined but everyone here basically danced around it unconsiously.

    One guy here mentions Pavel Tstatsouline ; I suggest you read it. Regardless of training for growth or strength, too many people fail to focus on and learn how to develop tension – when they want to. Only one person pointed this out. Plenty of power lifters of course do develop great tension, but at the expense of crappy biomechanics. The first video exemplified this.

    You ask if there’s a ‘rational backing’ regarding to train or not train growth. You mention ‘fluid elements’ but also fail to explain water moves in with glycogen. Duh… extra glycogen needed for high rep / endurance activity – not desirable for certain athletes at certain times.

    • Anthony January 15, 2014, 2:27 am

      Pretty sure you missed the entire point of the article.

      The point was: don’t be afraid to gain muscle, or do training that would typically be seen as muscle building, if you want to be fast. I didn’t talk about neural recruitment because it served little purpose.

      I didn’t mention anything about a rational backing for muscle training. I said people have an IRRATIONAL idea behind what constitutes muscle training and its effects.

  • Dudeguy January 15, 2014, 2:36 pm

    Good article,

    Whatever Bruce did, worked for him. I think he was just going crazy trying to develop a physical training routine that complemented his interests in martial arts. I’ve read alot of stuff where he use to contest big muscles weren’t necessary stronger, and then later in life he repeals it. The guy incorporated all types of training, from plyometric, isometric, weight training, endurance and used both high and low reps. His training routine was irregular to the max. He was a huge proponent of circuit training. Not to mention he had a really elaborate diet regiment.

    The guy probably would have had a different perspective about training but for his time and age, he was pretty innovative. After reading through all his stuff you can tell the guy wanted to know how to be the best. A damn shame he couldn’t live on to fulfill it. I would like to think the guy was notable just by some of his physical feats, some to name off that bat: bench pressing 270 pounds for 7 repititions (while weighing 125-135 lbs), 50 one-handed pull ups (unassisted by the opposite hand), extended V-Sit ups for 30 minutes plus.

    @Othercommenters: And when the hell did Bruce ever juice? There’s no searchable nor credible citations anywhere I can find where Bruce juiced… at all.

    • Anthony January 16, 2014, 8:25 pm

      Thanks for an actual reply that isn’t quick to judge based upon the headline.

  • Jacob January 16, 2014, 11:48 am

    Are you saying Bruce Lee didn’t gain weight.Make a post before you read more about Bruce lee.He did good weight training in his time and gain about 75kg of weight.But then his kick and punch movements were slow so he reduced his weight to 58-60kg.Check Bruce Lee with 75kg with his son.Its in Google images.Don’t Judge Bruce lee or compare him with stupid steroid body builders ,weight lifters and fitness models

    • Anthony January 16, 2014, 8:19 pm


  • alex January 31, 2014, 9:40 pm

    articles like this are too few and too far apart. how many time have i heard the “muscles make you slow/useful vs. useless muscles” b.s. and it almost ruined my training. its only after i started mma training and wrestling that i understood the truth of the matter.

    1. muscle actually makes you faster, given that you train the right way and adjust your muscle memory to the function you want it to have (i.e. kick). the heavier you lift, the faster and stronger you become. i experience this myself and its 100%

    2. being heavier puts you into another weight class, but it doesnt mean you cant compete in that class. you have to try and see how it works out for you.

    3. more muscle always has the advantage. the movies with images of skinny fast martial artists whooping big muscle heads to sleep with fancy spin-kicks is best kept where is belongs – the movies. big guys dominate. even expert level fighters have respect for muscle heads (especially tall ones that have better reach). both technique and muscle can only get you so far. you need a combo of both to perform optimally. i saw a fight between a body builder with no fighting skill and a skinny master martial artist. the body builder dominated this guy with his sheer weight and strength. his inability finally gave way and he lost the fight, but i was surprised at how the martial artist struggled to keep him in check. any lighter weight guy would have been desert within 20 sec.

    if you want to be strong and fight well, you have to lift heavy. there is not way around it. in fact, a lot of pro mma fighters are trying desperately to put on weight. but with the amount of cardio that we do, its hard to sustain muscle growth while practicing for optimal performance. i eat till i feel sick every day.

    myths about “useless muscle mass” have to be put in check. there is not such thing as useless muscle mass, only proper training and improper training methods.

    • Anthony February 4, 2014, 9:42 pm

      Thanks for the reply man, and thanks for actually reading this.

      To answer

      #1 there is a point in which it drops off, but most people won’t hit that within reason and without foregoing more specific training
      #3 it goes both ways, IMO. there used to be a russian fighter that dominated opponents because he had a crushing grip. it all depends on playing to your strengths, IMO. You can be a tactician and have a little less brawn or opposite. I think either works as long as it’s YOU.

  • alex January 31, 2014, 10:10 pm

    oh and another thing, most perople dont understand anything about weightlifting and what its all about so let me help clear that up….

    weightlifting got a bad rep partially due to professional bodybuilding. the reason for this is because people have no idea about bodybuilding as a sport and think all weightlifters are bodybuilders and vice-versa. there is nothing further from the truth.

    in order to understand the origins of the myth about “usless muscle mass” one has to understand the nature of bodybuilding as a sport (and by “bodybuilder” i mean someone who competes. someone who does not compete is not a bodybuilder, he/she is a weightlifter and/or and aspiring bodybuilder).

    bodybuilders performance is rated by the following: muscle size (not strength), individual muscle groups, skin tone, veinyness, posturing, smile, etc. etc. it is a purely aesthetic approach. while this cannot be achieved without weightlifting, it is only a means to an end. thus, bodybuilders focus on exercises that enhance those things. they take specific steroids that enhance muscle size, not necessarily strength. they perform exercises that focus on muscle isolation to improve the look, not the overall strength of the body (although you cant get big without getting stronger), often their muscles are inflated (literally) with liquid, they may have a lot less strength than someone smaller but more powerful because thats not what they are aiming for. thus, from a purely physical perspective, yes, they are indeed inflexible and many cant reach their own backs. that is the birth of the popular myth that big muscles dont do anything for you.

    on the other hand, weightlifting is a whole different animal, and people lifting weights to improve strength also exercise in a different way.

    when we lift weights for mma training, we focus alot of squats, deadlifts, benchpress, core strength and also some freeweight exercise. everything we do is geared towards maximum power. and full body exercises are king. you certainly get heavier, especially if you eat right, but you actually gain speed, not just strength and stay flexible because you train specifically for those qualities.

    i hope that further helps clear the air. good article btw.

  • phil March 30, 2014, 2:00 am

    The title is a little misleading and sensationalist don’t you think?

    • Anthony April 1, 2014, 12:38 am

      Absolutely. Which is why I included the parentheses.

  • dont worry about it March 30, 2014, 10:51 am

    The title of this article is irrational, little man getting mad some people don’t like his bias article haha

    • Anthony April 1, 2014, 12:38 am

      I’m so mad. But at the same time, you were mad enough to type in a name, email address, and reply to the post so let’s talk about our psychological problems over tea sometime.

  • Jeremie April 10, 2014, 9:33 pm

    You sound like you are stuck in one way thinking…. Did you wacth Lee train?

    • Anthony April 10, 2014, 11:10 pm

      If you dare, please respond telling me how this question has any relevance to the point this article makes.

  • Ryuuji April 16, 2014, 3:54 am

    Bruce Lee was a martial arts fighter not a body builder. He trained flexibility, stamina and maximal isometrics which is the act of using 100% of your muscle force against a fixed object in a short period of time and not working yourself for hours which only makes you big and slow, not fast… ‘functional’ muscle means he incorporated strength training(high weight, less reps) power(less weight, high reps) and speed (isometrics). Functional muscle gave him the ability to produce a massive amount of strength momentarily. He was also extremely strong in general.

    He did incorporate weight training, performing 8 reps of bicep curls at a weight of 80 lb (36 kg) for 3 sets was no challenge. he could hold a 75 lb barbell at arms length from a standing position, horizontally, in front of his chest, for 20 seconds. it has been said that he performed pushups with up to a 125lb of weight on his back. These are impressive feats for any man to accomplish, but Bruce weighed only 130lb. Regular punching bags would break, so he used a 300lb heavy bag. His kick would send you flying through the air. All of this because of functional muscle training.

    He was trained to end a fight and defeat the opponent as quickly as possible, usually defending/guarding and simultaneously attacking. nobody, and i mean literally nobody can punch him. He could grab a coin out of your hand, and replace it with another coin before you could close your hand.

    Big body builders don’t posses these powerful capabilities like Bruce had because they only train in strength, usually not isometrics, and don’t posses the dedication he had to functionality.

    There is much ignorance in your hypothesis.
    Not to mention:
    1.) You don’t know anything about Bruce Lee
    2.) You don’t train in martial arts
    3.) Because of this you have no valid arguement


    • Anthony April 16, 2014, 12:31 pm

      This post has nothing to do about training for martial arts, turkey. Nor does it have anything to do about criticizing Bruce Lee’s training. I suggest buying a pair of bifocals and re-reading it without such a biased mind.

      To be honest though, this little nugget from you discredits you from any sensible discussion we could have had: ” the act of using 100% of your muscle force against a fixed object in a short period of time and not working yourself for hours which only makes you big and slow, not fast… ”

      Working yourself for hours makes you big and slow.

      What does this even mean?

  • deternator May 21, 2014, 1:50 am

    good article

    • Anthony May 21, 2014, 3:04 pm


  • Terra August 24, 2014, 4:51 pm

    The article is OK, you tried to mix some science you learned from Wikipedia with your opinions. It’s not a well written article, that is why you have so many people commenting and confused. I’m not confused, I see what you are trying to do. However the Bruce Lee example is not necessary and doesn’t add anything to your point.

    • Anthony August 30, 2014, 5:47 pm

      Your reply isn’t very well written, but I get the point. Your personal attacks on me tell me a lot about you though, so I hope you get your life sorted out. Feel free to email me if you need any help along the way.

  • siva August 29, 2014, 12:12 pm

    I have to say, some of these comments pretty stupid. Some are pretty indepth but totally deluded… others have the right idea.

    I’d say it depends on what you have. Everything does. When your younger in ur teens, 20s, u have more potential for flexibility, the lower end of the strength scale, and stamina…

    when ur in ur 30s, flexibility is still pretty high, depending on when you began stretching, power/strength becomes potentially equal to their older counterpart in their 40s and stamina is/nearly is at its peak.

    40s, stamina is still around its peak, strength and power at its peak, flexibility pretty high, depending on when you began whatever you do.

    50, unfortunately its where u begin ur decline, but with training can be overcome for another decade.

    Helios Gracie is a testament to that. At age 50 he was able to grapple with a student 24/5 (forgot) , for nearly 4 hours, until he lost. That with his loss to Kimura- where – MMA fighters would know about the lock– the Kimura, sometimes pronounced Kormora lock comes from…

    60… no need to carry on.

    but its when ur in your 50s that technique is truly needed, with timing and strength, stamina and flexibility.

    So yeah that guy in fairyland- which he was- internal energy?- tendons- f off.

    that guy did have a point when he said it would have been interesting to see what Bruce Lees beliefs where if he’d lived past his 40s.

    I do have a lot of respect for the martial arts, the Shaolin monks, their dedication, way of life, heritage/ history… but for a westerner, unless he goes to china, this is impossible. work, money, lack of dedication, resources…etc

    to the guy who said the skinny martial artist had trouble against the bigger body builder,
    muscles do matter.
    but so does skill, timing, reflexes, confidence, training, power- the total amount of force released within a amount of set time, technique and so on.

    Trust me…

    To Anthony, if ur the guy that wrote the article:

    good article, quite informative.

    • Anthony August 30, 2014, 5:36 pm

      Thanks for the reply. But I’d argue with your timeline. 30 is the peak for most physical attributes. If a 50 year old is contending with a 30 year old, I’d say that what makes the 50 year old more dangerous would be technique/skill rather than physical capacity. You’ll peak at 30 rather than 40 from what I know.

  • Cathy September 2, 2014, 7:01 pm

    Interesting discussion – thanks for posting this! – Cathy

    • Anthony September 11, 2014, 9:06 pm

      Thanks Cathy.

  • Defaultanon September 17, 2014, 10:43 am

    Hello, I found this article on Google and would just like to say a few things and additions.

    Training types are all essential and necessary. These types are for strength, size, and stamina (muscle-endurance).

    Strength is trained at low heavy reps with longer rest periods. Muscle strength is actually fixed in the sense that each unit of muscle in a untrained or trained state exerts a constant force in any human. You can’t increase this, it’s the same number in anybody. What you can do is recruit more of these units through neural and movement adaptations. Strength athletes are stronger in this sense due to neural practice ie training, mechanical advantages, and other genetic advantages such as having a larger number of muscle fibers.

    Muscle size is pretty straight forward in terms of adaptations through damage, repair, protein synthesis, etc. The main thing to note is the stress and tension necessary for these adaptations. You need to be strong and lift heavy weights long enough to stress and damage or signal the need for adaptations. Regular heavy weights with 6-12 reps or so (not the 1-3 rep sets close to 1rm used for strength).

    Stamina training is what puts energy in your muscles. This training is what allows you to increase reps, sets, volume, frequency, etc. This is better trained with higher reps and more intense training. This sacrolplasmic hypertrophy only contributes about 20% mass which is not much but this mass holds the fuel that is necessary to contract the muscles. Without this energy low rep training will be weakened and mass will be less not only because of less strength but less reps and sets of whatever weight you can lift which is the only way to gain muscle size.

    You can make progress with a narrow training style but for example runners don’t do this. Sprinters run intervals, strength train, and run at different paces and distances. Marathon runners could not complete well without sprinting or intervals. All runners short or longer distance also train all the energy systems of the muscles as well as the cardiovascular system because it is the most efficient way to perform on their race focus.

  • Bruceleesecret November 30, 2014, 11:12 am

    no the reason he was so strong is because he did isometric training thats his secret he tried pulling a barbell chained to the floor tried his hardest to pullit of the floor until his muscles gave up this action made his brain want to recruit 100% of his muscle fibres his brain thinks that he has to get way stronger becaus he cant even lift it 1 cm so his brain recruits fast twitch muscle fibers which are the strongest and fastest

    • Anthony December 8, 2014, 9:04 pm

      This is not true, but I give up.

  • Dr Dre April 25, 2015, 2:32 pm

    The most important thing you failed to mention, especially from a performance standpoint, was the relationship between weight & VO2 max/lactate threshold.

    The reason some athletes don’t want to add “dead weight” aka size, is because it will negatively impact your VO2max & lactate threshold (VO2 is generally expressed in ml-kg-min, so more weight usually =’s a lower VO2max) which directly affects performance.

    Your average bro at the gym who trains for size, typically will measure poorly from a performance standpoint because of this.

    • Anthony April 25, 2015, 2:50 pm

      Yeah, but most athletes / people that are in this argument typically aren’t those that need worry about VO2…I’m talking about tricksters, as this was the person I had in mind when writing this.

  • Stan June 4, 2015, 7:01 am

    I think people believe that high reps = light weight = no gain. Chet Yorton use to bench 300 lbs for 10 sets of ten reps then finish off with one rep at 400 lbs.

    It’s easier to add reps than weight every workout and that leads to being add more weight than you would ultimately from just lower reps.

    I have modified my routine to a 5 rep, 10 rep, 5 rep, 10 rep set-up for about a total of six sets. The weight stays the same ( you do want a good warm-up with this set-up ) I will increase the rep range to 10 rep, 15 rep, 10 rep, 15 rep for the six sets then add some weight and start over. On the main lifts I will do what Chet did and add one rep at the end for a roughly 33% increase in weight.

    So at benching 100 lbs for reps you would finish at 133, working up to 200 lbs for reps you would bench 266 lbs for a single, at 300 you would bench 400 lbs, and so on.

    Of course you might be able to add a good bit more weight for your single at an earlier stage than at a latter, so how much you do is up to you.

    I have gained a lot of endurance with this arrangement and my strength is improving at a rather fast clip with no loss in mass. I would recommend this for anyone who is stuck at a certain weight for the big lifts that they just can’t seem to move past.

    • Anthony July 16, 2015, 11:31 pm

      Ha! High reps = light weight, and then you go ahead and cite someone benching 300 pounds? For 10 reps?

      High reps are pretty futile IF you’re using pink dumbbells. But when you’re strong, high reps are a different story.