Was the Iron Guru Full of It?

Was the Iron Guru Full of It?

It’s funny how things come full circle.

Recently I have been receiving emails from Brian Cannone of CriticalBench.com; he has been republishing articles by the late crusty old Bodybuilder, coach, and trainer of the stars Vince Gironda.

Gironda was an acerbic character, I keenly read his column in Musclemag International from 1984 to around 1991 where he used to give readers who asked him questions a thorough dressing down.


I remember a couple of letters vividly; the first was written by a guy who went into great detail regarding his training programme and diet; he also mentioned that he worked the night shift. Vince’s answer was to the point, “get a new job!” That was it; he ignored everything else the guy had said.

The second letter I remember was from a guy who wanted to develop his Tibialis Anterior, which is the muscle on the front of the shin. Vince ripped into him and told him what was what. I think these days this reader would have been described as a troll.

So, you may ask, is the resurgence of interest in Vince Gironda a good thing? Does the Iron Guru as he was known, have anything to offer to serious trainees today? Well as always the answer is yes and no. In the final chapter of my book “Becoming Mighty” (see – https://getmightynow.com/joomla/index.php) I list Vince as one of my major influences, here’s what I said in my book –


Vince Gironda – 1984-91

When I started to wonder about the effectiveness of Heavy Duty I turned to another star writer for Musclemag, Vince Gironda. Vince was an old, crusty gym owner from Hollywood Ca, who trained numerous Bodybuilders, and actors. Vince was a very charismatic writer who, again, managed to get me to believe certain concepts which are just plain wrong; such as Squats build wide hips! I can’t believe that I stopped Squatting for 6 months just because Old Vince said so, but I did. The argument from authority is a powerful thing.

Yes it’s true; because of Vince I stopped Squatting for 6 months! As I mentioned above Vince thought that Squats built wide hips; hip width is genetic, Squats will build the Gluteus muscles but they develop backward, not out. Squats also build the thighs and hamstrings which when developed will make the hips appear narrower not wider.


         Reading material for me back in 1985 

Another issue I have with Vince’s training ideas is that he encouraged trainees to perform Neck Presses, instead of Bench Presses in an effort to avoid what he called “Bulbous” Pecs; I remember he always went on about ugly, over-developed Lower Pecs on bodybuilders. I liked the idea of having that upper chest definition that France Columbu had so I did them – and messed my shoulders up! It’s impossible to say today why my shoulders got messed up; with these kinds of issues it’s usually a combination of things, but doing Neck Presses was not a good idea for me then or for anyone now – so don’t do them. By the way I have described the best way to Bench Press in my book and in other posts so please refer to them.

I did however like his 8×8 routine where he had the trainee rest for minimal time between these 8 sets. He said while doing Curls he’d encourage the trainee to not let go of the bar between sets; I consider that a pause rather than the end of a set in that case. Never the less it was a good way to increase the density (work done in a certain amount of time) of the session. Bodybuilding (training for muscle increase, which is 99% of you) is all about breaking down muscle tissue, feeding the muscle, and letting the muscle recover, and Vince’s routines certainly covered the first part of that.

I also like the way Vince instructed readers to perform Dips; he would say to perform them on “V” bars, keeping your elbows out, chin on your chest, and feet forward. IF your shoulders are healthy enough to perform Dips then this variation will really hit the chest hard.

If I may be so bold I think I might have improved on this; I get experienced lifters to turn their hands around while doing these, so that your knuckles are facing in. One does not grip the Dips bars with this variation but cups the hand, so it’s rather like a heel punch in martial arts. This forces the elbows out even more and I think it helps get even more chest activation.

So yes, it’s worth listening to Vince, but if we’re going to revisit some of the writers from yesteryear I would place many above the Iron Guru, writers such as Bill Star, Randy Strossen, John McCallum, Peary Rader, and Bob Hoffman, to name a few.

Even better would be to read authors who have learnt the lessons of the past, but who live in the present such as Brooks Kubik, and I’d like to think myself.

Be Mighty,