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Old 02-02-2011, 11:14 AM   #1
Trevor Ross
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Default Good write up on Vince Gironda!

The Gironda System
by Christian Thibaudeau


Bringing an Old Legend to Life

Vince Gironda was the original "Iron Guru." While Weider was touting himself as being the "trainer of champions" it was actually Gironda who had one of the most successful followings of bodybuilding champs.

Gironda brought Larry Scott up from a 157-pound guy with average genetics to a 207-pound winner of the Mr. Olympia contest. He also worked with bodybuilding legend Mohammed Makkawy, one of the most shredded and aesthetic bodybuilders of all time. Mohammed never won the Olympia, but he did finish second twice (1983 and 1984) and won several pro contests.


Those are the two best known of Vince's pupils, but he actually had a stable of champions training under his tutelage. We could mention Don Howorth (Mr. America 1967) and Rick Wayne (Mr. Universe 1965, 1967, 1969, Mr. World 1967, 1970), who had some of the best physiques of their time.

He was also known as the trainer to the stars, because when an actor needed to get in shape fast for a role, he went to Vince.

So if Gironda was so good, why haven't more people heard about him? Well, he wasn't into marketing himself; he was more of an underground guru type. And he was somewhat harsh... well, make that honest. Bodybuilders with big egos don't like honesty; they like their arse freshly kissed!

Gironda didn't do that. If you were fat he told you straight out. In fact, the first time Arnold came to America, he went to Vince's gym and presented himself in a somewhat pompous way. Gironda told him, "Well, you sure look like a fat **** to me!"

So, long story short, Gironda wasn't exactly a public relations dream! Plus, some (if not all) of his methods went against what was advocated in his time (and even still in ours). Some of Gironda's ideas were so revolutionary that people were just not ready to accept them. But the fact remains: no trainer in the history of bodybuilding has brought more to physique training than Vince Gironda.

I'll freely admit that since I've been concentrating more on bodybuilding than performance training, Gironda has been my biggest influence. And the more I read his material, the more he began to influence my way of thinking and training. At first it was only his exercises which piqued my curiosity, but as time progressed I began to absorb more of his knowledge and modulated my own to include his theories.

In this article I want to present to you some of the Gironda ideas that had the most profound impact on my own system, how to adapt these ideas to the modern world, and how to design a periodized program making good use of his methods.


The Gironda System: Modern Applications

I first want to make it clear that I don't agree 100% with Gironda. For example, he was against regular squats for the most part. I'm not. It wasn't the exercise itself he disliked, but rather its efficacy for most trainees.

He felt that most men had a structure that led to more development of the glutes and hips rather than quads when using regular squats. For those individuals he recommended avoiding the regular back squat, but he was still "for" certain variations of the squat like the front squat, sissy squat, and frog-style squat.

He also felt that some male bodybuilders had a structure that allowed them to perform regular back squats without building-up the hips and glutes too much (Sergio Oliva was among them). Generally, this "squatting friendly structure" involved a naturally small waist and hip structure, a relatively long torso, and short legs. Gironda believed that the exercise was thus okay for them. Finally, he believed that regular back squats were a great exercise for women to build firmer, perkier butts.


However, the objective of this article is to present what ideas of his can be used with great benefits to the transformation of your physique. So let's get right to them!


1. Strive to Increase Density

Gironda was the first one to talk about increasing density to build muscle mass and lose fat. To be fair, he referred to this concept as "intensity," but that was before the term was selected by the sport-science community to determine the load used in training. So in his writings, when he mentions training "intensity" he really refers to training "density" or the amount of work per unit of time.

(Just to give you an idea about how sometimes the different use of training terms can be misleading, Arthur Jones referred to intensity as going closer and closer to muscle failure — max intensity being equal to total muscle failure. It's no wonder that some trainees get confused!)

But to get back to training density, this principle is probably the most important in Vince's big bag of tricks! He always used the marathoner vs. sprinter analogy to explain this principle: the marathoner and sprinter are both doing pretty much the same activity — running. The marathoner performs a lot of work over a long period of time, while the sprinter performs less total work but in a much shorter period. The result is that although the marathoner performs more total volume, the sprinter who does more work per unit of time (higher density) is the one with the most muscle mass.

We should strive to duplicate this logic in our workouts. We should constantly try to increase the amount of work we do per unit of time. Gironda's top athletes, when properly conditioned to his system, took as little as 10-15 seconds between sets of an exercise!

Obviously, you don't have to start at that low point, especially if your body is used to comfortable 90-120 seconds rest intervals. The trick is to gradually decrease the rest intervals, thus building up training density over time. When you initially cut down your rest periods you will have to use less weight. But as you grow accustomed to taking shorter and shorter rest periods your strength will eventually go back up to where it was.

Gironda's system is built on the cumulative fatigue effect, not on load per se. He was known for advocating 6-15 sets per exercise. More on that in the next section.


2. The Famed 10 x 10, 8 x 8, 6 x 6, 10-8-6-15, and 15 x 4 Methods

When we think of the 10 x 10 method (10 sets of 10 reps for one exercise per muscle group) we immediately think of Poliquin's German Volume Training. But the fact is that the 10 x 10 scheme comes from none other than Vince Gironda, who recommended it as early as the 50s and 60s. Why is it called German Volume Training then? I see three possible explanations:

A) The German Olympic lifting team did indeed utilize the 10 x 10 system for their squats at some point in history. Now, we do know that Russian weightlifting coaches from the 50s and 60s did read Bob Hoffman's books to gain insight on how their American Olympic lifter counterparts trained. So it's possible that German coaches came to read Gironda's articles and experimented with the 10 x 10 system.

B) In one of his articles (Ironman, March 1976) Gironda talks about doing more work per unit of time (increasing density) and mentions:

"Back in 1925, German scientists discovered that to acquire large muscles you must increase the intensity of work within a given time. That means that it doesn't matter how much work you do. What counts is how fast you do it."

So it's possible that some people who researched his methods assumed that his 10 x 10 system was influenced by the German scientists mentioned.

C) German coaches and Vince Gironda both "invented" the 10 x 10 system independently. It wouldn't be the first time that two sets of people in the world came up with the same idea. To be totally fair, Gironda never claimed to be the sole originator of the 10 x 10 scheme.

Any way you look at it, the 10 x 10 system works. However, Gironda's version was much more demanding (if you can believe that) than our modern version. The German Volume Training program involves doing 10 sets of 10 reps on one exercise per muscle group, resting 60 seconds between sets. It's brutally hard work!

Well, Gironda's founding principle was to always strive to do more work in less time. So he actually recommended using less than 60 seconds of rest. Thirty seconds was his baseline and, as mentioned earlier, his better athletes only took around 15 seconds of rest!

However, there's some misunderstanding about his use of the 10 x 10 system. While the German Volume Training version applied the 10 x 10 scheme to every muscle group within a training cycle, Gironda's 10 x 10 was meant as a specialization course: it was only used for one muscle group at a time when rapid improvement in that muscle was desired.

Originally, Gironda used the 10 x 10 system for the whole body, but quickly found out that for most trainees that was too much work to handle. So he decided to use it as a specialization course: he'd use the 10 x 10 scheme for the targeted muscle and cut training volume for the other muscle groups in half.

Now, the 10 x 10 system might be his best known program, but he utilized several other very effective rep/set schemes. However, all these rep/set schemes all shared one common foundation: always trying to do more in less time.

Some of his very effective systems are:

8 x 8 System: Similar to 10 x 10 but you perform 8 sets of 8 reps instead of 10 sets of 10 reps, still with minimal rest. This isn't a specialization program though; it's used for the whole body.

6 x 6 System: The same could be said here: perform 6 sets of 6 reps with minimal rest.

10-8-6-15 System: For each exercise you perform 4 sets (still with minimal rest):

First set = 10 reps with 50% of what you'll use for your set of 6 reps

Second set = 8 reps with 75% of what you'll use for your set of 6 reps

Third set = 6 reps with as much weight as you can handle for 6 good reps

Fourth set = 15 reps with 35% of what you used for your set of 6 reps

Again, only one exercise is used per muscle group.

15 x 4 System: Perform 15 sets of 4 reps of one exercise per muscle group with minimal rest.

Important note: In the 10 x 10, 8 x 8, 6 x 6 and 15 x 4 systems, you should use the same weight for all the sets. Hypertrophy will be stimulated via cumulative fatigue and not the load per se. If you can complete all the sets, you increase the load at the next workout.

The rest intervals should also remain the same during the whole exercise. If you decide to rest 30 seconds between your sets, then that's the rest interval you use between all of your sets.


3. Compound Training

Gironda compound sets are somewhat similar to regular supersets for the same muscle group. In other words, 2-4 exercises are selected for a certain muscle group and you perform them in succession with minimal rest.

This compound method allows you to keep on raising training density while maintaining training volume and using more exercises for a certain muscle group (for more complete development). The main difference between compounds and supersets is that the rest interval between two exercises is stable. With supersets you have little rest between the sets of the two exercises but take a longer rest period between each superset.

The following illustrates the difference between a compound set and supersets for the pectorals:

Traditional Supersetting

A1 (set 1): Wide-grip bench press to neck — 8 reps

Take 10-15 seconds of rest

A2 (set 1): Chest dips — 8 reps

Take 90-120 seconds of rest

A1 (set 2): Wide-grip bench press to neck — 8 reps

Take 10-15 seconds of rest

A2 (set 2): Chest dips — 8 reps

Take 90-120 seconds of rest

A1 (set 3): Wide-grip bench press to neck — 8 reps

Take 10-15 seconds of rest

A2 (set 3): Chest dips — 8 reps

Take 90-120 seconds of rest

A1 (set 4): Wide-grip bench press to neck — 8 reps

Take 10-15 seconds of rest

A2 (set 4): Chest dips — 8 reps

Take 90-120 seconds of rest

Compound Supersetting

A1 (set 1): Wide-grip bench press to neck — 8 reps

Take 15-30 seconds of rest

A2 (set 1): Chest dips — 8 reps

Take 15-30 seconds of rest

A1 (set 2): Wide-grip bench press to neck — 8 reps

Take 15-30 seconds of rest

A2 (set 2): Chest dips — 8 reps

Take 15-30 seconds of rest

A1 (set 3): Wide-grip bench press to neck — 8 reps

Take 15-30 seconds of rest

A2 (set 3): Chest dips — 8 reps

Take 15-30 seconds of rest

A1 (set 4): Wide-grip bench press to neck — 8 reps

Take 15-30 seconds of rest

A2 (set 4): Chest dips — 8 reps

Take 15-30 seconds of rest

When straight sets are used with his 8 x 8, 6 x 6, or 15 x 4 routines, Gironda recommended only one exercise per body part for a total of 6, 8, or 15 sets per muscle group. When using compounds, you'd keep using the same total number of sets (6, 8, or 14... 15 being an odd number that's not divisible by two) per muscle group.

So since you're using two exercises per muscle group, the number of sets per exercise is half of what you have with his straight-sets routines. The example above thus illustrates a compound 8 x 8 routine for the chest.


4. Four-Exercise Compounds

This is yet another one of Vince's routines which called for the use of a compound set for each muscle group. However, instead of using a compound made up of two exercises, you use a compound made up of four.

Ideally, you select exercises that work different parts of a muscle group. Only one or two compounds is completed per muscle group (so a total of 4-8 sets per muscle group). In his original routine, Gironda recommended only one rotation but performed it twice per day. While this is the best option, those who can't hit the gym twice in one day can use two rotations during the same workout. Here are some examples of possible four-exercise compounds:

Chest

A1. Wide-grip bench press to the neck — 12 reps

15-30 seconds of rest

A2. Gironda-style chest dips — 12 reps

15-30 seconds of rest

A3. Low-incline (30 degrees) dumbbell bench press — 12 reps

15-30 seconds of rest

A4. Half dumbbell flies — 12 reps

Back

A1. Seated rowing to low pec line — 12 reps

15-30 seconds of rest

A2. Rope lat pulldown — 12 reps

15-30 seconds of rest

A3. Chest-supported dumbbell rowing — 12 reps

15-30 seconds of rest

A4. Back hyperextension — 12 reps

Thighs

A1. Front squat — 12 reps

15-30 seconds of rest

A2. Gironda-style leg curl — 12 reps

15-30 seconds of rest

A3. Leg extension — 12 reps

15-30 seconds of rest

A4. Standing 1-leg curl — 12 reps

Shoulders

A1. Wide-grip upright rowing — 12 reps

15-30 seconds of rest

A2. Seated dumbbell shoulder press — 12 reps

15-30 seconds of rest

A3. Seated dumbbell side laterals (dumbbell back end higher than front end) — 12 reps

15-30 seconds of rest

A4. Bentover lateral raise — 12 reps

Arm flexors

A1. Wide-grip/elbows in preacher curl — 12 reps

15-30 seconds of rest

A2. Barbell drag curl — 12 reps

15-30 seconds of rest

A3. Incline dumbbell curl — 12 reps

15-30 seconds of rest

A4. Hammer curl — 12 reps

Triceps

A1. Barbell pullover and press — 12 reps

15-30 seconds of rest

A2. Barbell nosebreaker — 12 reps

15-30 seconds of rest

A3. Decline dumbbell triceps extension — 12 reps

15-30 seconds of rest

A4. Overhead rope triceps extension — 12 reps


5. Low Carb Eating

From Atkins right up to the Anabolic Diet and Bodyopus, this type of dieting has hit the bodybuilding mainstream in the past 10 to 15 years. However, few know that it was actually Gironda who popularized this approach to pre-contest dieting.

He called this type of diet his "Maximum Definition Diet." It consisted of eating only fats and protein for three to four days straight, followed by one day where you include onelarge carbohydrate-containing meal and then repeat the cycle.

This diet was so effective that Gironda himself probably lost some contests because he was considered "too ripped" compared to the standards of the time (which favored a smoother, rounder look).

Eventually, his dietary approach to maximum definition became the diet of choice of several champions, from Larry Scott to Arnold to Dave Draper and other stars of the time. Back then it was simply called the "meat and eggs diet."


6. Amino Loading

Gironda was way ahead of his time on this one! He reasoned that the key to muscle growth was to keep the body in a constant positive nitrogen state. As long as there were amino acids freely available in the body, we wouldn't enter a catabolic state and would continue to build muscle.

Gironda was, of course, limited by the supplements available in his time: he had to use low quality amino acid tablets. Despite the rather crude supplement used, this method worked big time! It's the actual influence for my own "anabolic mix" consumed five times per day. The difference is that instead of using amino acids, I recommend BCAAs (branch-chained amino acids), which are responsible for sending the protein synthesis signal.

In fact, it seems that when the ratio of BCAAs to regular amino acids is elevated in the body, we turn the switch to "anabolic mode." This is one case where modern supplements can make a good idea a great one! I suggest five BCAAs "feedings" per day, between meals. Ideally:

1. Upon waking up

2. Between breakfast and lunch

3. Between lunch and supper (or pre-workout)

4. Early evening

5. Before bed

(If you're already using a proper post-workout drink like Surge then you're actually getting six BCAAs intakes per day.)

I suggest ingesting 10 grams at a time. If money is tight and you can't afford to use 50g of BCAAs per day, then it's best to cut the size of each serving to 5g instead of cutting the number of servings. Remember, we want to have a constant flux of BCAAs, so the more frequent your intake is, the better off you'll be.


7. Thinking Man's Exercises

The greatest strength of Gironda was his capacity to design exercise variations that perfectly stimulated the desired muscle group. For example, he quickly understood that for the majority of the population the bench press is actually a poor chest builder. Most people will over-stimulate their anterior deltoid and/or triceps, leaving the pectorals relatively under-stimulated.

So Gironda did something unthinkable at the time (even today): he all but banned the regular bench press from his gym! None of his trainees used it. Talk about kicking a sacred cow! In all fairness, his trainees did use the bench press, but mostly the wide-grip neck press variation.

This is much like a regular bench press except you use a wide grip, keep your lower back flat on the bench, and (most important of all) you bring the bar down to the base of your neck while flaring out the elbows. This fully stretches the pectorals and directs the contraction path in accordance to the orientation of the pectoral muscle fibers. Both factors make this lift a superior chest builder.

Why isn't it seen more often then? Ego! You see, when using this movement you'll have to use much less weight than you can in a regular bench press. That's because the delts and triceps aren't brought into play as much. Most people we see in gyms everyday train on the bench press to impress others (hence the famous question, "How much do you bench?").

Someway, somehow, the bench press has become our test of manhood. Considering that fact, do you think that an exercise that makes you appear like you're bench pressing less weight (to the untrained eye, the neck press resembles a regular bench press), thus being less of a man, would catch on? Not likely, and it's sad really because people really are missing out on a great pec builder.

Gironda also popularized several variations of the sissy squat. From the regular sissy squat to the sissy front squat and sissy hack squat. He saw these as a superior way to build the quads without increasing the size of your arse! While I don't agree with Gironda's anti-squat stance, I do agree that the sissy squat variations are tremendous thighs builders.

But Gironda's biggest influence in regard to exercise selection is without a doubt the preacher curl. While the bench itself was first designed by the Easton brothers, it was Gironda who began to use it extensively with his pupils. Its greatest proponent is without a doubt Larry Scott, and this is why the preacher curl is often called the "Scott curl."

Vince's exercise innovations are actually too numerous to mention in this article. But suffice it to say that analyzing the anatomy and exact function of a muscle and then finding exercise variations to target the desired muscle perfectly was probably his biggest strength. Here are some original illustrations of Gironda's exercises.


8. Supplement Use

Okay, so Gironda didn't invent supplement use, but he was a huge proponent of using a wide array of products to maximize the training effect. He was dead-set against anabolic steroids and saw supplements (and diet) as a way to get effects close to what could be achieved with anabolic drugs (keeping in mind that in his day, taking 20-25mg of Dianabol per day and 200mg of deca per week was considered a lot).

His heart was in the right place, and some of his ideas did work well. However, he was limited by the quality of the products available during his time. For example, he was keen on trying to naturally increase Testosterone levels. To do so he recommended a high fat diet and supplementing with glandulars (basically dried testes). While the high fat diet is indeed proven to increase Testosterone levels, I'm highly sceptical about the effect of glandulars to increase Testosterone production.

The good news for us is that modern supplements are miles ahead of what they were back in Gironda's day. A product like Super Concentrated Alpha Male is actually a tremendous natural Testosterone booster. With a high-quality supplement like this, we can actually succeed in doing what Gironda was trying to accomplish with the products he had back then: maximize natural Testosterone levels.

Gironda was also big on using kelp (a source of iodine) to increase thyroid hormone production. It's true that a combo of L-Tyrosine and iodine can help a little. However, this stack can only optimize normal thyroid function, and it'll only lead to increased fat loss if the individual using these products had a previously low level of thyroid hormones. A supplement like HOT ROX Extreme is a much more effective way to stimulate fat loss.


9. Periodization

Gironda invented periodization. Say what?! Well, that's not totally true, but he was the one who originally mentioned the need for frequent changes in program design to avoid stagnation.

At the time, this flew in the face of logic as men tended to stick with the same program for about a zillion years. Gironda was even ridiculed for his "muscle confusion principle" which might've been given a bad name, but simply means that you should change your program structure often if you want continuous gains.

So with that in mind, here's my little contribution to the Gironda legacy. This is a periodized plan based on his methods. The training cycle lasts 10 weeks and you keep basically the same exercises for the whole cycle. Only the reps, sets, and rest intervals will vary. It's actually a very simple program to implement, but it's sure to help you build muscle mass and lose body fat.

Phase I — Density Habituation ( 2 weeks)

Number of exercises per muscle group: 3 for large groups, 2 for small groups
Number of sets per exercise: 4
Number of reps per set: 12
Rest between sets: 45 seconds for compound, 30 seconds for isolation work
Workout duration: workout must be completed in 50 minutes or less

Training Split

Monday: Chest, shoulders, triceps
Tuesday: Back, biceps, forearms
Wednesday: Quads, hamstrings, calves
Thursday: Chest, shoulders, triceps
Friday: Back, biceps, forearms
Saturday: Quads, hamstrings, calves
Sunday: OFF

Phase II — Density Accumulation (2 weeks)

Number of exercises per muscle group: 2
Number of sets per exercise: 6
Number of reps per set: 8
Rest between sets: 30 seconds
Workout duration: workout must be completed in 45 minutes or less

Training Split

Monday: Chest, shoulders, triceps
Tuesday: Back, biceps, forearms
Wednesday: Quads, hamstrings, calves
Thursday: Chest, shoulders, triceps
Friday: Back, biceps, forearms
Saturday: Quads, hamstrings, calves
Sunday: OFF

Phase III — Density Intensification (2 weeks)

Number of exercises per muscle group: 2
Number of sets per exercise: 8
Number of reps per set: 6
Rest between sets: 20 seconds
Workout duration: workout must be completed in 40 minutes or less

Training Split

Monday: Chest, shoulders, triceps
Tuesday: Back, biceps, forearms
Wednesday: Quads, hamstrings, calves
Thursday: Chest, shoulders, triceps
Friday: Back, biceps, forearms
Saturday: Quads, hamstrings, calves
Sunday: OFF

Phase IV — Density Peaking (2 weeks)

Number of exercises per muscle group: 1
Number of sets per exercise: 12
Number of reps per set: 4
Rest between sets: 15 seconds
Workout duration: workout must be completed in 30 minutes or less

Training Split

Monday: Chest, shoulders, triceps
Tuesday: Back, biceps, forearms
Wednesday: Quads, hamstrings, calves
Thursday: Chest, shoulders, triceps
Friday: Back, biceps, forearms
Saturday: Quads, hamstrings, calves
Sunday: OFF

Phase V — Recovery (2 weeks)

Number of exercises per muscle group: 2
Number of sets per exercise: 3
Number of reps per set: 10
Rest between sets: 45 seconds
Workout duration: workout must be completed in 45 minutes or less

Training Split

Monday: Chest, shoulders, triceps
Tuesday: OFF
Wednesday: Back, biceps, forearms
Thursday: OFF
Friday: Quads, hamstrings, calves
Saturday: OFF
Sunday: OFF


Exercise Selection

Chest

Main exercise: Gironda neck press


Secondary exercise: Gironda dips

Tertiary exercise (when 3 exercises are performed): Away low-pulley decline cable flies

Shoulders

Main exercise: Wide-grip upright row

Assistance exercise: Lateral raise, pinky up (pitcher raise)

Triceps

Main exercise: Nosebreaker (skull crusher)

Assistance exercise: Decline dumbbell triceps extension

Back

Main exercise: Seated row to the chest

Secondary exercise: Rope lat pulldown


Tertiary exercise (when 3 exercises are used): Straight-arms lat pulldown


Biceps

Main exercise: Preacher curl, wide grip, elbows in

Assistance exercise: Incline dumbbell curl

Forearms

Main exercise: Chest supported hammer curl

Assistance exercise: Wrist curl

Quads

Main exercise: Front squat

Assistance exercise: Sissy hack squat

Tertiary exercise (if 3 exercises are to be used): Leg extension

Hamstrings

Main exercise: Gironda leg curl

Assistance exercise: Standing leg curl (cable or machine variation)

Calves

Main exercise: Donkey calf raise

Assistance exercise: Barefoot seated calf raise


Conclusion

This is just a small part of what could be considered Gironda's legacy. He brought so many new concepts to the world of bodybuilding for such a long time that several books could be written on the subject. However, with the info presented in this article, you'll be able to start to apply some of his ideas to your own training, with great results!
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