Why was Bruce Lee so strong despite having low muscle mass?

Previously I had a belief that strength  comes directly from muscle mass. After spending my teen days watching Bruce Lee’s movies, I realized that my belief does not hold true in his case. If strength was really equal to muscle mass, then how was Bruce lee, who had a tiny frame was one of the strongest man ever(Accepted worldwide!).

Bruce lee was super strong in real life, not just movies…

  • Lee could spring a 235lb opponent 15 feet away with a 1 inch punch.
  • Lee would hold an elevated v-sit position for 30 minutes or longer
  • Lee performed one-hand push-ups using only the thumb and index finger
  • Lee performed 50 reps of one-arm chin-ups
  • From a standing position, Lee could hold a 125lb barbell straight out
  • Lee could break wooden boards six inches thick.

So from where does actual strength come?
True strength is not actually generated by the muscle, it is by the nerves that control the muscle. In simple words, strength is defined as how well you are able to contract your muscle. The more muscle fibers you engage during your workout, the more strength you gain. So strength training is actually training your nervous system(indirectly) to generate more strength.This is the reason why you should always do low reps with heavy weights to gain pure strength.

Bruce lee reached amazing heights of muscle tone!
Despite having very less muscle mass, Bruce lee had amazing muscle tone and great muscle definition.  It really takes lot of strength training and low body fat to get close to that level. Its his martial arts training that gave him intense strength  to achieve that level of muscle tone. If you have decent amount of muscle mass then concentrate  only on strength training which will increase your muscle definition.

If you want a build like Bruce lee don’t fatigue out your muscle!
Fatiguing out the muscle by doing the reps in the range 8-15 is the opposite of strength training. It sends weak signals to your nervous system since you are exhausting the muscle. In strength training, you send strong impulses to your muscles to lift harder since you are doing very low reps.  This makes you stronger with each lift and thus increasing your muscle density and tone. Of course, there is a harder part of the equation: Getting down to Very Low Body fat!