How To Stretch And Be As Flexible As Bruce Lee
Long before Chuck Norris, Jet Li and the Ultimate Fighting Championship – there was The Master. His physique and physical prowess was (and IS) what legends are made of. Just one look at his photos or movies and you know the extreme discipline it took to pull off those moves.
His physical exploits are so legendary in the world of martial arts that when it came time for him to make movies, EVERYONE wanted to make a name for themselves by taking a run at him. Imagine trying to act, produce and being “the freaking man” while every guy opposite you in a fight scene is acting only SOME of the time!
To stay at the very top of the martial arts world for over 20 years (on and off the set), Bruce Lee had masterful stretching and flexibility skills. Besides wicked physical strength, freakish cardio ability, and speed only replicated by machines – flexibility and agility were his top priorities.
Consider some of his unequaled feats:
- Lee’s striking speed from three feet with his hands down by his side reached five hundredths of a second
- Lee’s combat movements were at times too fast to be captured on film at 24fps, so many scenes were shot in 32fps to put Lee in slow motion. Normally martial arts films are sped up
- In a speed demonstration, Lee could snatch a dime off a person’s open palm before they could close it, and leave a penny behind
- Lee could perform push ups using only his thumbs
- Lee performed one-hand push-ups using only the thumb and index finger
- Lee would hold an elevated v-sit position for 30 minutes or longer
- Lee could throw grains of rice up into the air and then catch them in mid-flight using chopsticks
- From a standing position, Lee could hold a 125 lb (57 kg) barbell straight out
- Lee could break wooden boards 6 inches (15 cm) thick
- Lee performed a side kick while training with James Coburn and broke a 150-lb (68 kg) punching bag
- Lee could cause a 300-lb (136 kg) bag to fly towards and thump the ceiling with a side kick
- In a move that has been dubbed “Dragon Flag”, Lee could perform leg lifts with only his shoulder blades resting on the edge of a bench and suspend his legs and torso perfectly horizontal midair
- Lee could thrust his fingers through unopened steel cans of Coca-Cola, at a time before cans were made of the softer aluminum metal
- Lee could use one finger to leave dramatic indentations on pine wood
Each and every one of these demonstrations of his ability involved strength, agility and, yes, flexibility. We can never hope to reach his level of success in these, nor do I think anyone really wants to (although putting your fingers through a can of Coke would be a neat party trick).
Improving our own flexibility, though, has many benefits. For instance, a flexible body means we can defend ourselves in a bar fight; have better sex; fight obesity with more exercise; sleep better; have more fun playing with our kids; work more efficiently; constantly feel refreshed; improve posture; relieve tension; and possibly cure cancer! (not sure on the last one, but it improves everything else, so why not?)
And the key to a flexible body is proper stretching. Many of us want the basics of getting it without having to do Yoga or, much worse, Pilates – both of which are awesome if you have the time, but most of us don’t.
Tips for stretching prowess to help improve flexibility
- Stretch when you wake up. Start the day off by loosening up all the joints and shake off the previous night’s exploits. Whatever you did yesterday put the body in a real kind of hurt and you need to do something right away. Grab your morning beverage and start a 10 minute stretching routine first thing in the morning. Your body will thank you for it all day long.
- Warm up first. Many guys think stretching IS the warm up exercise for whatever else they plan to do. Not true. Make sure to warm up a little by jumping rope, running in place, or doing some jumping jacks to get the blood moving first. If you perform some Bruce-like stretches without getting the blood moving first, injuries will be on their way.
- Target major muscle groups. Just like other manly workouts, don’t focus on the little muscles. Target large, major muscle groups and all the little muscles will get stretched out in the process. It’s much better use of your time going after the majors first and then focusing on the minors later if you have time.
- Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. Doing this enables the muscle to continue to expand over time without injury. Even if you are barely stretching at the beginning, holding it for 30 seconds tells the muscle you mean business. Next time you will be able to take it further, longer.
- Become a rubber band. Bouncing as you stretch only shocks the muscle and can cause serious injury. Besides, it looks stupid. Think of your muscles like rubber bands. You want to slowly stretch it out – taking it a little further each time. Only taking it as far as the muscle wants it to go – not beyond.
- No pain, serious gain. When you bounce instead of rubber band, you often will go too far. If the muscle is not ready to go that far (due to rigamortis setting in from your seriously boring day job), then you will either here a “pop” and start crying like a little schoolgirl or just start crying. Either way, if it hurts – STOP! Learn to listen to your body and understand it takes time to get a Bruce Lee-flexible.
- Breathe. Blood flow and oxygen are the two core ingredients to muscle flexibility and stretching. You get the blood moving by doing the stretch, but if you forget to put plenty of oxygen into your system, you will not get the full effect. Better still is to focus your mind on the muscle and at the same time focus on breathing. Together, your mind will allow you to do things you didn’t think possible with your flexibility.
- Have fun. You will stop after a few minutes or a few days if you are not digging it. Remember it is not a chore. Remind yourself of the positive affects this will have on your life. Think of the benefits of being able to reach some other guy’s head with your foot or better yet, work and hold a position your wife or girlfriend never thought you could.
- Be careful. Once you start seeing the amazing benefits of being as flexible as Bruce Lee, you will want more. Guys have been known to take it a little too far with addiction-like behavior. Make it a part of your life by doing a little bit everyday and you will get there before you know it. Injuries suck and they will set you back. Addictions suck too and you don’t want to get burned out – you want this flexible body for life.
- Be consistent. The routine of stretching will lead to flexibility you have only dreamed of. Your body will start craving it and when others start seeing what you are capable of with your new found flexible prowess, you will want to ratchet it up. Remember that consistency is what made Bruce Lee so freaking good. Anyone at the top of their profession will tell you that anyone can get lucky once or twice, but the real pros are consistently in the mix.
- Rest it up. Make sure to give the muscles a rest from time to time. Stretch different muscles on alternating days and this will give them the rest they need to go even further next time out.
The definition of flexibility is to easily bend an object or the ability to adapt to different circumstances. Isn’t this what most of us men want in our lives? The thought of being flexible (in all aspects of our lives) is at the core of manliness.
The thought of throwing a round house kick at some guy’s head or getting out of a rear naked choke are really cool, but having everyday physical flexibility is what most of us are after. Getting the perfect stretch and doing it every day is how we can achieve a Bruce Lee like flexible body.