There’s something about kicking ass that’s proven to get you shredded.
If you spend six days a week pummeling on heavy bags and sparring partners, it’s difficult to avoid developing a physique that says “I will wreck you” — and that’s not a bad thing. Just look at the likes of professional ass-kickers from kung fu legend Bruce Lee to boxer Floyd Mayweather (and yes, our beloved Ronda Rousey). Not only are you built to brawl should the circumstances require it, but your ripped physique sends a clear message to potential challengers: If you come for blood, you'd best not miss.
With this in mind, we put together a few gym lessons from some of our favorite fighters, so step into the dojo and get your flex on.
1. Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee was a lot of things: Martial artist, actor, philosopher, Hong Kong cha-cha champion (look it up). But the man was also a pioneer of physical fitness. Lee put in the work and research to achieve a body that was way ahead of its time, and even the king of gains himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, said the martial artist’s build was “one of a kind.” If we’re being real, we all want abs like Bruce Lee.
We can’t promise abs like Bruce, but because of his meticulous record-keeping, we can at least help you train like him. Here are some exercises straight out of the Dragon’s playbook.
Leg Raises – four sets of 20 reps
Sit-Up Twists – four sets of 20 reps
Frog Kicks* – four sets of 50 reps
*For this one, hang from a pull up bar and bring your knees in to your chest. Extend your legs straight outwards into a hanging L-Sit, repeat.
Bonus points if you can handle Bruce Lee’s most infamous ab workout, the self-devised Dragon Flag.
2. Floyd Mayweather
Say what you will about Floyd (as many do, since calling him as an asshole seems quite popular), but he’s the highest paid athlete in the world for a reason — the man knows how to train. Specifically, Mayweather is known to rely on interval training (short bursts of high intensity spread over a moderate intensity workout) to give him the cardio training and stamina to push through multiple rounds with even the most skilled contender.
Here are a few of Floyd’s calorie-burning interval exercises to keep you going through round 12.
Road Work – 15 minutes
2.5 minutes of jogging, 30 seconds of sprint, alternate.
Heavy Bag Interval Training – three sets of four minutes
45 seconds of shadow boxing, 15 seconds of all-out left/right hooks on the heavy bag (trust us, you’ll be feeling those 15 seconds). Repeat for four minutes – this is one set.
3. Ronda Rousey
You didn’t think we were gonna mention Floyd and not talk about our beloved Rowdy, did you? Ronda Rousey, UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, is a demolition ball in the octagon. She’s got a 12-0 record with 11 first round finishes, and it doesn’t seem like she’s planning on cutting back anytime soon.
Rousey’s conditioning focuses on non-traditional exercises and equipment to give her an athletic edge over her opponents. In her open press workouts, you can see her pulling off one-handed cartwheels and rolls like it’s no big deal. Here are some moves from her coach, Leo Frincu.
BOSU Squat and Military Press – three sets of 15 reps
Yes, this one requires a BOSU ball. Stand on it with two dumbbells and your feet hip-width apart. With the dumbbells by your side, squat down, stand up, lift the dumbbells to shoulder level, and press them overhead.
Medicine Ball Plyo Pushup – three sets of 10 reps
Start in a pushup position with your palms on the ground and the medicine ball positioned between your hands. Lower yourself, then explode upwards off the ground and land with both palms on the medicine ball. Replace hands on the ground, and repeat.
4. Jean-Claude Van Damme
Jean-Claude Van Damme, the muscles from Brussels, won our hearts years ago, but at 54 he’s still kicking. The actor says now that he’s older, though, his fitness philosophies have changed. Right now, JCVD is all about healthy eating, avoiding alcohol, intense cardio, and high reps over heavy weights. The man’s body is a machine, and he has the size and functional fitness to prove it. He often doesn’t count reps when he trains (just “listens to his body”), and is a strong advocate of flexibility training (yeah, we’ve seen the kicks).
Throw these Van Damme exercises into your next lift to train like the Belgian.
Concentration Curl – four sets of 25 reps
Lateral Raise – four sets of 25 reps
Middle Splits – four sets of 45 seconds
5. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
It’s been a while since the WWE superstar traded in his body slams and headlocks for close-ups and camera rigs. But The Rock has only managed to get bigger. It seems like he puts on even more unrealistic bulk with each new film release. He makes clear, though, that it’s a calculated, 100% intentional process, and that he and his team customize his lifts and diet way ahead of time to suit his next role. If you wanna look like The Rock, you gotta eat like The Rock. And that means eating good 6 or 7 times a day. Combine that with a few of his favorite classic lifts, and you have a recipe for success.
Dumbbell Bench Press – four sets of 10 reps
Barbell Incline Bench Press – four sets of 10 reps
Barbell Deadlift – four sets of 15 reps
Five different fighters, five different ways to train. If you’ve got the eye of the tiger, you’re already halfway to success, so get in the gym and make it happen. Patience, grasshopper.