In a FOUNDATIONS OF IRON exclusive, today’s post presents a profile of the “Iron Guru” Vince Gironda and his gym and training methods, which originally appeared in the March 1978 issue of the now-defunct magazine Inside Kung-Fu. This is the first time that this article has ever been reproduced in electronic format for today’s online fitness community!
In the field of physical culture, Gironda is remembered for training competitive bodybuilders, as well as Hollywood stars who needed to get into proper shape for movie or television roles. This was carried out at Vince’s Gym, which he operated in North Hollywood from the 1940s to the 1990s. He is also remembered for ideas which were not always in line with the mainstream thinking within bodybuilding. Nevertheless, both his weight training and nutritional information proved very useful to many physique champions and movie stars.
Vince Gironda in superb condition at over sixty years of age, in a photo which accompanied the article below. Click to enlarge (appears in new window/tab).
What might not be quite as well-remembered is that Gironda also occasionally gave training advice specific to sports activities. This is highlighted in the article below, which applies Gironda’s methods to martial artists. Gironda also dispensed training information for such diverse areas as arm wrestling, caber tossing, and even powerlifting.
Further reading, an online archive of many of Vince Gironda’s writings: http://www.ironguru.com
Vince Gironda has trained winners of every bodybuilding title in existence, from Mr. Los Angeles competitors to Mr. Olympia. Indeed, one of the world’s most famous bodybuilders, Larry Scott, trained exclusively at Vince’s Gym, in North Hollywood, strictly according to Gironda’ s methods.
Vince has also trained movie stars like Dan Haggerty, Robert Blake, Brad Harris, Clint Eastwood . . . the list is endless.
And he is O.J. Simpson’s instructor too.
Talk with Vince Gironda and he will tell you things about bodybuilding that you won’t find in all the books currently available on the subject. For Vince himself has been a champion bodybuilder, an all-around athlete to boot.
Hear him: “When I was competing for bodybuilding titles my fans were mainly among the women. You see, I do not go in for over-size muscles. I have never done the kind of bodybuilding that builds 20-inch arms and fat waists and huge backsides.”
In fact, there are certain pieces of bodybuilding equipment that you will not find at Vince’s emporium. Squat racks, for instance.
Says Vince: “You can always tell an East Coast bodybuilder by taking a look at his rear end. In fact, it’s always too massive to miss. And that’s all because of the squat exercise, the full squat with heavy weights.”
Vince instructs his students to do the sissy squat, which takes the stress off the buttocks and transfers it to the lower thigh.
One arm movements have no place in Vince’s gym. They make absolutely no sense at all, says the maestro, and very often result in pulled muscles or joints displaced. He is a firm believer in the use of progressively heavier poundages.
“You have to keep adding resistance to the exercise if you want to grow muscle,” he says. “I don’t mean you should strain your gut trying to set lifting records but by the same token you shouldn’t expect muscle gains if you train like a girl.”
At over sixty, Vince easily passes for a man ten or fifteen years younger. He trains regularly and can perform stunts that demand the greatest agility. Indeed, he is always shaming the younger members of his gym with his ability to kick higher, much higher than his five feet eight inches.
At Vince’s gym each student is trained according to his requirements. Sometimes all a man requires from bodybuilding is to lose excess flab. In that case Vince will write out a training program and a special diet for him, adding information concerning all the necessary vitamins for good health.
He is strong against the use of anabolic steroids, currently the range [sic] in bodybuilding.
“You don’t need them,” he insists. “Nothing beats proper training and planned nutrition.” And who’s to doubt him, considering the success of his students.
And talking of students, Vince Gironda courses are sold around the world. Recently, a German publisher sought to have the Gironda bulletins translated for bodybuilders in his country. Unfortunately Vince does not speak German or French or Swahili. Consequently, he will have to depend on interpreters, a situation that bothers him. For as he puts it: “I don’t want anything changed in the course of translation that might give the student the wrong idea.”
Perhaps one of the most controversial writers in bodybuilding today, Vince’s columns are nevertheless in demand by physical culture journals around the world.
As the pictures illustrating this piece indicate, Vince Gironda also trains martial arts instructors as well as the publisher of this magazine. Here the accent is not on gaining muscle mass. But to train under Vince’s direction to gain muscle strength and speed.
Vince’s Gym being put to use in a photo which accompanied the article. Click to enlarge (will appear in new window/tab).
Vince will tell you that most of the people who put training instruction booklets out on sale have no idea what they are talking about. Invariably they are hiding behind some muscle star’s name.
“But what I write have their roots in science,” says Gironda. “I love to experiment, and I am always disproving the accepted theories. Besides, I am the proof that my system of bodybuilding works.”
Indeed, he is. So are the stars that he trains for the movies, the super jocks, and the musclestars.
Hey, and your publisher too.
A Mr. Universe winner, [FOI web editor’s note – he actually placed second in the short division in 1962 (source)] Vince was always particularly famous for his muscular definition and abdominals. He will tell you that some instructors advise students to perform this or that exercise in the hope of bringing out the muscles clearly. No way will that work, says Vince.
“You have to understand that before your muscles will show through your skin you must first get rid of the superfluous fat. No amount of exercise will do that for you until you regulate your eating habits to produce muscular definition.
“In other words, you have to eliminate the foods that tend to fatten you out. Junk food has absolutely no place in the human diet. . . And I’m not just talking about athletes. Some people believe they can eat any old junk if they are not athletes. Well they pay in the end.”
On the other hand, Vince will also point out that muscular mass comes with correct training and eating habits.
“But don’t ask me to outline that in a short feature article,” he said.
We won’t. We’ll only suggest you call on him. Call on him if your problem can be corrected through scientific bodybuilding, if you are an athlete bent on improving stamina, if you need to lose some weight, if you are skinny. Vince will take good care of you!