It was my pleasure and privilege to know Vince Gironda for 45 years.
I first met him when I was an eager 18 year old neophyte bodybuilder weighing 150 pounds. I had read an article by him, and my brother George and I made the 20 mile trek to Studio City, California to see our idol in person.
When I told Vince that I wanted to weigh 200 pounds and build 18 inch arms he gave me a curious look and said, “If you ever get that big I’ll kiss your ass at Hollywood and Vine and give you 10 minutes to draw a crowd.”
It was a challenge I couldn’t resist.
He gave me several of his bulletins on gaining weight and wished me luck. Three years later I walked into his guy weighing 205 pounds, with 18.5 inch arms and a 50 inch chest.
I said, “Your advice really worked, so you don’t have to meet me on Hollywood Boulevard this time.” We both laughed long and hard and were close friends from that day on.
Two years later I bought John Farbotnik’s Pasadena Gym and I patterned it after Vince’s Gym. I copied Vince’s monthly newsletter word for word with his permission, and gave it to my gym members. I also tried to write just like Vince, directly with lots of info and no bull crap. Until I tried to copy his bulletin I had no idea that I had any talent for writing.
I soon began writing the sports page for the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic newspaper, and became more involved in many things.
Then, Walt Marcy, who owned a bodybuilding gym on Sunset Boulevard and was a student of the college, asked me to edit his magazine Physical Power.
I was Editor in Chief there for three years and learned photography at the same time.
Vince Gironda not only helped me reach my early bodybuilding goals, he also encouraged me to pursue the career that has become my life’s work. I know of many others he inspired in a similar manner.
This final interview with the legendary Iron Guru took place two weeks before his death. Though his voice has been silenced, his words of wisdom will endure in the bodybuilding world. His creative approach to physical culture ensures his status as one of the greatest bodybuilding trainers of all time.
He was truly the Maestro of Muscledom.
– Gene Mozee
Vince Gironda: I sometimes receive a letter from someone who questions the validity of my training methods. The individual invariably explains to me that today’s superstars only train each bodypart once a week and do fewer sets than I recommend. What this ill-informed person fails to realize is that that professional bodybuilders he so admires are using massive quantities of metabolism-altering drugs which enable them to build muscle mass and extreme definition with far less concentrated training. Without the chemical intervention, their routines would never produce such results.
Drugs alter the natural balance of the metabolic process. This could trigger an abnormal reaction that may lead to heart disease or cancer. My philosophy is “Don’t Mess With Mother Nature”.
Bodybuilding as a sport has sunk to a new low with the pervasive use of human growth hormone, cosmetic surgery and various forms of injectables and implants. The latest bizarre practice is intramuscular injections, in which a substance is shot right into a muscle, producing an instant increase in size without loss of definition. I saw a guy inject his calves, and they blew up about 1.5 inches instantly. The muscle stays artificially inflated for three days. Believe it or not, many of the recent Mr. Olympia competitors injected this substance into their muscles before the contest.
If the IFBB really wanted to clean up professional bodybuilding, as officials claim, the organization would use random year round testing, as some other sports do. Whatever happened to physical culture? In a bodybuilding world gone mad, it no longer exists.
Another disturbing trend is the rise of the “certified” personal trainer. Who certifies the people who certify the trainers? I was never certified. Does that mean I don’t qualify as a personal trainer? To show you how ridiculous the situation can be, Don Howorth, a Mr. America winer with more than 40 years of bodybuilding experience, and, for a few years one of my best instructors, was asked by one of his clients if he was certified. When Don replied no, the person changed to a certified trainer. Don warned her that if she continued to exercise the way her new trainer advised, she could injure her back. Ignoring the voice of experience, she continued to follow her new routine and hurt her back a month later. She had to quit exercising for three months.
Most of the so-called personal trainers aren’t qualified to train anyone but themselves, if that. For the best training advice, go to the best source – the best trainer, not the person with the best physique. The best bodybuilding trainers are those who have worked for years as instructors in bodybuilding gyms, training hundreds, perhaps thousands of people. They know what works best in a variety of situations. Knowledge is power, and experience is the best teacher.
I want to address three inquiries about specific training problems that I think are of great interest to many readers.
Q: Are these some exercises I can do to strengthen the ligaments in my knees and elbows?
A: Always begin your curls and squats with light weights and work up to heavier ones. That way you’ll give your body a much needed warmup so you don’t strain or injure those areas. Also, I believe you should include more minerals in your diet. Potassium is more important for bodybuilders than for sedentary people. You can add it to your diet by eating a banana, an orange or a handful of raisins each day. Raisins are especially high in potassium. The bioflavinoid factors – vitamin C with vitamin P – help prevent extreme soreness, assist in preventing muscle strain and promote faster recovery from an injury.
Q: I’m a high school cross-country runner with well developed legs and abs, but my upper body is underdeveloped. How do I stop looking so lopsided?
A: Use the following upper-body routine three times a week, with a day of rest after each workout. Do not rest any longer than necessary before going on to the next set:
Wide grip chins
Bent arm triceps pullovers
All 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
This is a good upper-body program for anyone. Bodybuilders should do 6 sets of 6 reps on all.
Q: How do I add size and shape to the lower and middle portion of my front thighs? I’d also like to add thickness and a nice sweep to my leg biceps.
A: Try this program for your lower thighs:
Heels together hack slides – 8 x 8
Lie back on a hack slide machine with your heels together. As you lower into the squat position, let your knees drop out to the sides. Go as low as possible, then raise up but do not lock your knees.
For your upper thighs:
Delinger, or Front squats – 8 x 8
Place your feet about 12 inches apart, with your heels on a 2-inch high block. Hold a barbell in the “clean” position, in front of your shoulders with the elbows high. Squat all the way down, keeping your back straight. As you come up, push your hips forward to keep the stress on the front of your thighs.
Leg curls – 8 x 8
Lie face down on the leg curl machine. Hook your heels under the roller. Keep your toes apart and your heels together. Curl the roller upward until it touches your glutes. Do not raise your hips. This movement works the lower thigh biceps.
To work the upper thigh biceps, perform a pushup as you leg-curl the weight. The mid-thigh biceps are trained by holding a pushup position and dropping to the bench as you start to curl.