Vincent Gironda – The Man Who Messed Arnold Schwarzenegger Up

If someone’s got the balls to suggest that the great Arnold Schwarzenegger is doing something wrong bodybuilding-wise, its either because they’re ignorant and they just don’t know it yet or because they are a force to be reckoned with in the bodybuilding world themselves. Vincent Anselm Gironda was the latter.

Arnold Schwarzenegger would later go on to win the Mr. Universe title and the Mr. Olympia contest seven times but not before being called ‘fat fuck’ by the legendary bodybuilding teacher a little while before he would go on to lose to Frank Zane in the Mr. universe competition. Following the disappointment of losing, Arnold came back a humble man to Vince’s gym to submit himself to Vince and spark what would turn out to be the beginning of his bodybuilding and later on, Hollywood conquest. Aside science, Vince Gironda is possibly the closest thing the world of bodybuilding has to a point of reference. I mean, there’s a reason he was known as the ‘iron guru’.

He was born on November 9, 1917 in the Bronx. He moved to LA in the 1920s when his father who was a stuntman was offered a role in the 1925 Hollywood classic. Vince started out as a dancer but he was later discouraged by his father. He was however an athlete in high school. Vince started to build his body in an attempt to join his father as a stuntman. He joined the YMCA gym which was a local gym at the time and he frequented the gym for about 8 months before moving to Harvey and Dale Easton’s gym in West Hollywood where he was offered a personal training role. This gave him the perfect opportunity to experiment his training philosophies on a willing public. Vince later opened his own gym in 1948 in North Hollywood. The gym would however later be closed in the 1990s. Vince was also a competing bodybuilder. He placed second in the 1951 Mr. America contest.

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Vince is however a very controversial figure in the bodybuilding world. His methods were very unconventional albeit effective as shown by a lot of bodybuilders who use some of his methods. He ‘created’ bodybuilding greats (some would go on to be Hollywood stars) such as the first Mr. Olympia, Larry Scott, Frank Zane, Don Howorth, Lou Ferrrigno (The hulk) and of course Arnold Schwarzenegger (The terminator). He was also recruited by the Hollywood executives to ensure their casts were lean. Examples of people who got transformed as a result of this are Denzel Washington, James garner, Brian Keith, Tommy Chong and Clint Eastwood.

Vince is however rarely given credit for his work. He was a purist who only wanted to do things one way; the right way. He was a brutally honest person as evidenced by his ‘fat fuck’ comment towards Arnold which probably serves as an explanation for why he wasn’t exactly popular amongst his peers. Or maybe he was being envied for being a genius. His ingenuity led to so many breakthroughs in the world of bodybuilding that it’s hard to keep track.

A few of his bodybuilding inventions are listed below:

Preacher Curls– the preacher curl is probably the best isolation exercise for the biceps and we have Vince Gironda to thank for that. However, it was originally called ‘Larry curls’ because Larry Scott was the first bodybuilder it was used on. It may however have been Larry himself who invented it as no one is sure exactly who it was since they both worked on it. It however seems more probable that it was Vince’s idea to start with, as he’s the type to question the established and come up with new and better ways of doing things in the gym. To do the preacher curls, your triceps rest on an inclined platform (bench) while you curl dumbbells or barbells, allowing you to isolate your arms, thereby working it better.

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I have not gone into a gym anywhere for at least three days and failed to see someone doing the preacher curls.

Guillotine press– also referred to as ‘neck press’, the guillotine press instantly became my favorite chest building exercise. I first used it during one of my industrial attachment periods after reading about Vince and his quite dangerous way of building a hell-of-a-chest.

Vince wasn’t a fan of using the usual bench press to build the chest. In fact, he also felt that dips were also a more effective way of building the chest. He thought the guillotine press could target the upper chest better than the way an inclined press would. Vince realized that bringing the bar closer to the neck (around the collar-bone) on a flat bench could isolate the upper chest. Vince also recommended doing this with a wide grip.

However, the risk of injury while doing the neck press is higher which makes it advisable to do the exercise with a slightly lower weight. If you’re the type with shoulder problems, you should also really think hard before going down this road. However, based on my own personal experience with the guillotine press, I consider this a super way to build the chest.

The sissy squat– it was claimed that Vince was against squats but his hatred was only towards the back squats which he thought was not building the legs the way he wanted. He also thought they gave big butts as a result of too much squatting.

For training the legs, Vince also gave preference to the hack squats, leg curls and standing calf raises. Check how to do the sissy squat.

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Low carb diet– Vince believed in the importance of nutrition in bodybuilding. It is even reported that he thought bodybuilding was 85% nutrition. Vince wasn’t a proponent for bulkiness in bodybuilding competitions. Instead, he was solely for lean muscle and he promoted extreme fat loss diet for bodybuilding contests and as a result always backed a low carb diet. Vince also had a ‘maximum definition diet’ or the ‘steak and eggs diet’ which comprised of meat and eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner and from the third to the fifth day, a little bit of carbohydrate was allowed to restore some much-needed glycogen to the muscles. It was only to be used for very short periods, most preferably just before a bodybuilding competition.

Vince was a bodybuilding iconoclast who may never be truly acknowledged in the bodybuilding world. He challenged established bodybuilding precepts-that probably worked at the time too. There’s no one way to building muscles and I imagine he would have been told this a lot of times during his lifetime. However, If there’s ever a ‘best way’ to sculpt your body, I have little doubt it’d be based on Vince’s methods. He was a perfectionist and one thing certain is that his methods work, however unconventional they may be.

Vince passed away on the 18th of October, 1997 (3 weeks to his 80th birthday) from suspected choking and heart failure.

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