Vince Gironda was a bodybuilding guru and also a pioneer in many ways. HIS training at HIS gym was the THE ONLY WAY to create a physique worthy of a bodybuilder sufficiently aesthetically developed to carry that name (as far as he was concerned anyway).
He was probably the originator of “Hardcore Workouts” as we know it today. Intensity and impeccably performed reps with great emphasis on focus see and feel until you felt that your muscle was surely going to melt. He was certainly ahead of his time in many ways, including in the area of nutrition and one of the first gyms to offer T-shirts, plus specially designed bodybuilding courses for the individual. He trained everyone differently yet still according to a template he had devised over the years. But Vince was not a man with whom to argue. He was total Master. A martinet who ruled strictly according to the “Word of Vince”
Vince certainly knew how to create muscle, but only his sort of muscle aesthetics – never muscle mass for mass sake – on anyone if they could stand the humiliating remarks, the no- nonsense discipline and were able to do everything right according to his word which WAS God. AND IT MOST CERTAINLY WAS IN HIS GYM! Get it wrong in Vince’s eyes and you simply did it again – and again – till you got it right. Forget pain, sweat and tears of rage. For anyone who didn’t agree with anything he said was OUT on the street with the clear boot marks created by Vince’s foot on their hard butt still resounding. I say hard and I do mean hard. That included top Hollywood stars who accepted his word and his instruction or else!
Yes, Vince almost made muscle appear on his members as though a magic spell had been wafted over his gym. For if he wanted square pecs on you then by God he got HIS square pecs (he almost considered that the muscle YOU built was HIS and THAT body (yours) HIS. He was forever experimenting on muscle growth. Also when in his gym, you did whatever he wished and commanded and force it to grow. You (as a member) were virtually terrified of displeasing him for when Vince was displeased the Hollywood Hills themselves shook in blind terror. You did an exercise incorrectly and he used you as a pathetic example to the entire gym of what not to do, and you can bet your life that everyone else took serious notice and prayed that they were NOT the next to experience his unbridled wrath.
Vince had a reputation for being irascible and sometimes – no that should be often – impossible, but despite this he was treated as a true bodybuilding guru everywhere he went with people of every status asking him for advice and information on not only bodybuilding but virtually anything else. Vince always declaimed with such authority that when he was being interviewed by the media, no one ever dared to have the affront to question his views. It was understood that what Vince said he meant. He may have said a load of questionable and controversial things as the great Lary Scott would verify, but he turned seemingly “impossible-to-grow” bodies into showstoppers and that, was all that mattered.
Seemingly impossible bodies turned up and continued to turn up and if they passed Vince’s initial inspection and grilling, and if too, they were able to first survive the initiation phase of the first workout, with Vince telling you “No-No-No, that’s wrong isn’t it, what did I tell you. DO IT AGAIN and THIS TIME as I say for ********* sake……. (he talked down to everybody from President to Refuse Collecting Officer, no one was excluded). All did as they were told.
Although Vince’s Gym wasn’t much as regards area, in fact compared to today’s behemoths it was tiny, about 4,000 sq ft with much of the equipment specially designed or even “home made” and indubitably built to Vince’s exact requirements. Perhaps in some ways, it was somewhat mediocre but it helped to produce the end-result. Vince believed implicitly on his own way as I have said: He didn’t believe in squats on the whole and certainly not heavy ones, very slow, inch-by-inch feel, see and blow-torch reps were sometimes allowed (if you wanted to do this heavy stuff, you simply went down to Golds).
Although sissy squats and other squat types to which he somewhat reluctantly agreed but then in only perfect, slow form until your thighs felt as though there were flames licking, as I say. Similarly, he had dipping bars constructed extra wide so guys had to virtually (not quite) split their pecs right away from the shoulder insertion before they even dipped (you try it!) But it forced the outer and lower pecs to be fully stimulated and somehow he created square pecs on his members one way ot the other. When you were just about screaming for the Devil himself to rescue you from such Purgatory and take you to the rather more acceptable environs of “Old Nick’s Hell hole” , he then directed you to do upper pec lifts – the other pec areas were by now so utterly shattered that the upper pecs were the only remaining “lazy fibers” as he called them, that could do anything at all: Staying in the upright dipping position, you just forced your arms and shoulders to somehow raise up even higher – as high as they would go or as Vince said “More!” and then complete a slow forward roll focusing solely on the feel of the upper pecs – until you simply collapsed.
His bench presses were only executed to the neck in deliberate style with a spotter standing by at all times. He also had a half-moon curved bench made to drive your chest up and pectoral girdle positioned correctly with your sternum then feeling as though it was hitting the ceiling whilst naturally allowing a much greater degree of down movement for stretch. He was a great one for stretching, including some most peculiar lat work which made wings appear out of nowhere and holding chins midway for many minutes until every muscle felt that boiling oil poured very slowly would have been preferable, but it sure cut you up, certainly after five minutes your whole body felt pumped as though it was dynamiting through the skin.
Vince was also VERY big on having a support at the back of you for curls, triceps press downs, standing curls and indeed anything that made any exercise considerably more evil. For the triceps pressdown movement he positioned you and made sure that you stayed there right in front of a pillar so there was no chance whatsoever of cheating and he created various angled rests for specific exercises too. He had eyes everywhere and could virtually smell one of his “pupils” cheating or do something in loose style – which he usually abhorred. He almost had second-sight in preparing a bodybuilder for a contest and getting it right on the day, which thanks to his incessant posing instructions, military-like disciplne and insistence on practicing until you could have done it in your sleep, the guys and later girls that he trained, were usually by far the best on stage when it came to strutting –their- impressive-stuff.
The inception of being a Vince Gym member was something else which would stay with you for life? You (everyone) departed from the weights area on that first day a quivering, psychological wreck, trying to withhold tears, temper and a whole lot more wondering whether indeed you would have the guts to go through it all again. Most did!
The first workout proceeded after initially being totally blinded by seemingly every conceivable photo of Vince taken during his lifetime, inevitably with some politician, movie star or other celebrity posing with Vince (If you happened to know some celebrity or star that he hadn’t met, your life was made absolute and total hell until you arranged an intro together with a photographer “who just happened to be passing by at the time”). On one occasion I introduced an everyday-name movie star when he was on an invited visit by me, to the Studio. For this I even got a smile! Wow! It was as good as having a hit movie on your hands. However, if you forgot or failed to achieve this process of subsequently introducing persons he wished to meet within your own ‘circle,’ the subsequent workouts were fuelled with ever more venom and a whole lot of serious hurt!
Vince was undoubtedly a bodybuilding coach supreme, he just said and you DID, because he exuded an air of supreme confidence and absolute authority. We were not exactly slaves but he was undoubtedly the Master! And you did it so VERY right every time because you wanted more than ever to please him. Everyone did. That gym would have made West Point look like a load of sissy nambies when it came to discipline! But oh so, so very rarely, he praised although on those totally glorious occasions this wondrous event happened, the golden Californian sun appeared to be twice as big and shone in all its glory in a sparkling blue sky, whilst the birds sang extra sweetly and everyone and his mate were simply great, sweet guys. The whole of LA seemed to radiate a magical quality – even those on the Freeway who one normally vehemently cursed as abject morons, were then totally cool peeps. His “pupils” as he liked to call us, were unbelievably loyal and through their considerable bodybuilding and fitness progress and later, often ability to “move, act and make waves”, helped to establish Vince as one of the foremost gyms and bodybuilding gurus. He may have been totally dogmatic but he certainly knew how to grow persons relative to their individual end desires, and as such he basked in the glow of resulting publicity and acclaim.
After a great workout, we all know there is nothing better than feeling that warm suffused tissue that has been worked virtually to the death, with that so satisfying numb-ish tingling overlying growth-pump glow making those clothes more form-fitting than ever. But on such days when Vince said “Good, that was quite good” then traveling to the Studios for a days work was something extra special: muscles fully congested,, glowing, pumped and aching and just knowing that you WERE going to grow more muscle, indeed already were growing MORE muscle; taking handfuls of Desiccated Liver tablets as commanded by him of course, every hour on the hour, sipping water every half hour and complete with a list of other stuff provided by the bodybuilding guru of all gurus.
Your shirt, and pants – if it was a leg day. now feeling so wallpaper tight that any minute they would surely burst into ripped ribbons of tattered material Hulk style also inevitably submitting to the Law of Vince. Having this great feeling and meeting colleagues who told you that you were “looking real good” and, “man you look bigger” than ever” which made you more pumped than ever, then getting into the office without delay and to the awaiting previously prepared icebox containing all the growth foods that would be ingested every 2.5/3.2 hours (depending on your physique state) without fail (on pain of death!). Subsequently, going to the business meetings with the genuine confidence of certain growth and just “slaying” any problems with a flashing smile of white teeth, bulging muscle and simply turning negative into positive. Knowing the basic fact, that quite simply everything confronting you was just there to turn to your advantage. Life sure was good!
Vince was probably one of the most respected bodybuilding names worldwide and he had articles and columns in many bodybuilding publications throughout the globe. He sadly missed out on the gym franchise scene although he had ample opportunity and no end of solidly founded businessman and financiers prepared to back him. It simply did not interest him and probably through not updating his marketing methods and gym equipment, sadly and gradually his gym fell into decline. None-the-less, Vince will always be considered as one of the true founders of serious disciplined bodybuilding success without exploiting the sport for his own ends. May he rest in peace. But I don’t expect his neighbors will get much – ever!