Vince Gironda: The Iron Guru
The bodybuilding world has seen many athletes come and go. Vince Gironda was not one of these people. Vince was a decorated bodybuilder, author, trainer, gym owner, and founder of NSP Nutrition. That’s how you earn the nickname The Iron Guru.
Most bodybuilding legends started early. It wasn’t until age twenty-two that Vince first started weight training, after seeing a photo of John Grimek.
Vince’s initiation into weight training started at the local YMCA. He later moved on to become a trainer at Easton Brother’s Gym in Hollywood. After finding success as a trainer, he opened Vince’s Gym in North Hollywood in 1948.
Over the years, Vince took his physique from a scrawny 148lbs to a lean and muscular 190lbs. Vince wasn’t big by bodybuilding standards but his conditioning and aesthetics became legendary.
It’s impossible to find physique measurements for Vince Gironda. Vince refused to let anybody put a tape measure against him, instead, he relied on the mirror as a guide. After all, bodybuilding is the pursuit of aesthetics.
Despite his small frame, Vince had an impressive track record when stepping on stage.
Mr. California: 4th (1949)
Mr. USA: 4th tied (1950)
Mr. America: 2nd (1951)
Mr. USA: 3rd (1957)
Mr. Universe: 2nd Class 2 (1962)
Vince never won a major bodybuilding show but cemented his legacy as a guru in the sport. Vince had a unique training philosophy which saw him become a trainer to the stars in Hollywood.
As a trainer, Vince was able to whip actors into shape faster than anybody else in Hollywood. His A-list clientele included the likes of Clint Eastwood and Denzel Washington. Vince would later go on to train a young Larry Scott, winner of the first-ever Mr. Olympia in 1965.
Vince also trained the biggest bodybuilding star of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold was overheard boasting in Vince’s Gym. Gironda replied calling Arnold “nothing but a fat you-know-what”.
Arnold then took up Vince’s services to whip him into shape for the next Mr. Olympia show.
Vince continued to manage his gym into the 70s and 80s. At the time, Vince also published several books and became a regular magazine editor. In 1972 he launched NSP Nutrition, which is still around today.
During the Golden Era of Bodybuilding, Vince’s Gym was the place to train in Hollywood. As time went on Vince struggled to compete with other gyms and closed his doors in 1995. A large amount of his time was spent caring for his son, who was struggling with health issues.
Training & Workouts
Vince was a pioneer and visionary when it came to training. This article will only scratch the service of what he achieved.
The importance of the mind-muscle connection is well-known in modern bodybuilding. Vince was one of the first trainers to make this connection. Vince held the belief that performing the exercise wasn’t enough. To develop the physique it was important you visualized how the muscle was working. Every rep required tunnel vision when working with Vince.
The Preacher Curl
The invention of the preacher curl has often been credited to Vince Gironda. Whilst training a young Larry Scott, Vince noticed he needed to isolate the biceps more. This led to the preacher curl which is now common in all gyms across the world.
Vince pioneered the preacher curl and Larry Scott made it popular. It was originally referred to as the Larry Curl.
Against the Tide
Vince rejected several popular exercises thought to be essential to bodybuilders. The back squat is the most controversial.
Gironda believed the squat caused the hips and glutes to over develop and it failed to target the quads. Vince’s Gym had no squat racks. Vince preferred to focus on isolation exercises; leg extensions and hamstring curls.
Vince’s pursuit was aesthetics, not performance.
The Guillotine Press
Vince also didn’t endorse the bench press. He felt it was a shoulder exercise that caused overdeveloped delts. The bench press didn’t isolate the pecs.
As an alternative Vince developed the guillotine press. The focus is on lowering the bar to the neck, not the chest.
Vince claimed nutrition was 85% of the battle when getting ready for the stage. He was amongst the first to popularise the high-fat low-carb diet. Although popular today, the notion of eating low-carb was not common in Vince’s era. Vince also held the belief to achieve a stage-worthy physique, extreme diets were necessary.
Vince released a diet known as Maximum Definition. The diet involved eating three large meals of meat and veg every day. On the third day, you eat very low-carb. The theory was to restore glycogen levels.
This is hardly groundbreaking news in today’s world, but at the time this was a visionary idea.
Alongside diet, Vince also recommended the use of healthy supplementation. His supplements included Vitamin C, lysine tablets, and multi-glandular tablets.
The Iron Guru Legacy
The success of bodybuilding owes a lot to Vince Gironda. His visionary approach to training and diet paved the way for bodybuilders. Vince was one of the greatest trainers and coaches bodybuilding has ever seen.
You have to respect a man who calls Arnold Schwarzenegger fat!
This article scratches the surface of what Vince Gironda achieved. Check out his articles and books if you’re interested in more information.