Passion, philosophy, skill, humility, there are so many qualities that makes Bruce Lee someone who is revered by millions. His legendary, larger-than-life film quality shook the martial arts film industry, and helped permanently shift the role of Asians in modern film. And physique...
But what was the biggest attraction to Bruce Lee as an athlete and martial artist? His strength.
Bruce Lee was 5' 7", 135lbs, and every ounce of his body was dedicated to producing titanic levels of power and strength. He had a true level of Deceptive Strength that baffled the most elite athletes. Anyone who knows of him has heard of many of his strength feats like...
And other incredible displays of strength. He made it evident that every ounce of strength he trained for was to be as functional as possible. His strength had millions in awe; how could someone so small possibly have that kind of strength?
The answer really is quite simple...
strength is more than just muscle.
Every person who trains in the style of oldtime strongmen has heard the name Joseph Greenstein, and an equal amount of people revere the name. Joseph Greenstein, who performed under the name "The Mighty Atom", was a man of incredible stature -- incredibly small.
He measured up at a whopping 140 lbs at 5'4". But his strength? You better believe that it FAR surpassed his size. So far, in fact, that he's considered one of the best performing strongmen of all time, which is a lot to say for a man who was diagnosed to die of tuberculosis at age 14.
For instance, the Mighty Atom was truly mighty enough to...
The Mighty Atom amazed the world with the incredible feats he was able to pull off, but he wasn't the muscular kind of strength athlete that most envision when they think of the word "strength". But it's time to clear the air with the point that even The Mighty Atom worked his whole career to prove:
Strength is more than just muscle.
You see, there is nothing that says that big muscles can't be strong. However there are many who have huge muscles but can't harness even 70% of their true power. I've seen bodybuilders who can't do pushups, lifters who can't run around the block, and men with huge muscles who ripped those very muscles doing simple tasks.
Inversely, I've seen the men with almost asinine amounts of muscle performing planche and handstand pushups, two finger pushups, and majestic feats of a similar nature.
Now, what's the difference between the first group of lifters and the second group? You probably get the idea at this point...
...they understand that strength is more than just muscle.
That being the case...what else IS strength? I'm glad you asked...
Having the true strength of a complete muscular strength system means having neurological strength. You may have heard of the mind-muscle connection or about muscle control. What both of those really mean is that you train and develop the contractile power of your muscles, and the synergy of your nervous system.
When you do a big lift, such as a heavy squat, it activates multiple muscle groups and trains your body to work as a unit, rather than in varied isolation. Furthermore, with developed muscle control, you learn to reduce wasted movements and use only the necessary muscles for your feat, which increases your strength even more.
Alexander Zass, as you can see in the photo above, was certainly muscular, but big muscles weren't the goal of Zass' program; instead, Zass sought a system of exercise that would develop your strength from the inside out. That system was isometrics, and it developed strength in a way that many trainers, physical therapists, and lifters ignore; it developed bone and tendon strength.
I like to think of it this way; muscles exist for dynamic movement, and movement training of various natures can help build the muscle. However, the bones, tendons, and ligaments exist to stabilize and support those muscles. The way to train them is not through movement, but through stillness, which is the way that isometrics works.
An isometric exercise done in stillness may not develop you bodybuilder-esque muscle (for many bodybuilders, you'll need plenty of drugs to reach their size). However, isometric exercises can develop you incredible strength, just like Alexander Zass, Bruce Lee, Shaolin martial artists, Batman, myself, and many others have exhibited.
Breathing is the most fundamental function of the human body...but who trains breathing? How does that even help with strength?
Well for one, it can certainly help with weakness; if you aren't breathing deep, full breaths, you are weakening your immune system, your blood flow, your vitality, and more.
Many martial artists also know how proper breathing behind the force of an attack or to support a defense can change the whole flow of a fight. There are different styles of breathing for that, such as kiai and ibuki breathing, but they serve largely the same goal.
But proper breathing is perhaps one of the most important things you can do to develop overall strength of the full body beyond the strength of your muscle. How?
Proper breathing can improve the strength of your internal organs, build on the mind-muscle connection to improve your ability to contract your muscles, improve digestion and give incredible health and vitality boosts. The program 7 Seconds to a Perfect Body teaches an incredible breathing exercise that you can use to earn all of the above results and more.
As the powerful Jedi Yoda once said, "Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not." You should not judge by the size, whether tiny or gargantuan because, at the end of the day, strength is more than just muscle.
Please put any thoughts, questions, or feedback here and I'll respond as soon as I can.
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