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Lessons From the Iron Guru

Q: What do you think of Vince Gironda’s writings? Was he hype, or could one learn from him?

A: Vince Gironda was an innovative trainer, and if you track down his books and original articles, you’ll find numerous training pearls that will help you—and your athletes, if you’re a coach or trainer—achieve your goals. Here are five major ideas about strength training that I got from him. Some of them can be attributed directly to Gironda; others he just popularized.

Lesson 1: The value of high-volume training. In what he referred to as an “honest workout,” Gironda believed in the value of using periods of high-volume training to achieve maximum muscle growth quickly, especially in lagging bodyparts, and to reduce bodyfat. One of his favorite workouts was what he referred to as the “8×8 system.”

It’s similar to German Volume Training in that it focuses on doing a few exercises with a lot of sets and reps so an entire workout can be finished in an hour or less. In fact, most of his workouts were designed to be performed in one hour or less. To work all the major muscle groups and enable them to recover from these difficult training sessions, you would work each bodypart only twice a week and give it at least 72 hours of rest between workouts. A typical split might look like this:

Monday and Thursday: Chest, back, shoulders
Tuesday and Friday: Biceps, triceps, forearms
Wednesday and Saturday: Legs

Lesson 2: Eat small meals frequently. Gironda was one of the first to promote lower-carbohydrate diets. He also included fat in diets, which ran contrary to what the aerobics industry was promoting. Instead of three large meals, he recommended six small meals to stimulate the metabolism.

[*Get the latest e-book collection of Vince’s methods, quotes, workouts and advice Vince Gironda: Legend & Myth by Alan Palmieri, one of Vince’s students.]

Lesson 3: Take care of yourself. To make progress in weight training, Gironda advocated avoiding what he called physical and mental “energy leaks.” “Physical leaks” included smoking, drinking, skipping meals, missing sleep and eating refined sugar. “Mental leaks” included displaying emotional qualities that upset tranquillity, such as hate, anxiety and ego.

Lesson 4: Do not use aerobics to lose weight. Gironda did not believe in doing aerobic exercise to get lean. Unlike many bodybuilders, he didn’t consider aerobic training mandatory for women. He believed, and rightly so, that weight training was superior for losing bodyfat and that aerobic training could compromise mass gains. He thought that nothing was better or faster for shaping the female figure than weight training.

Lesson 5: The value of dips and chins. Two of my favorite exercises, often missing in modern-day training programs, are chins and dips. Gironda loved both of them, and in fact he believed that dips were so superior for developing the chest that he didn’t even have a bench press station in his gym. For pecs he recommended using a V-shaped dip apparatus, which accommodates a greater variety of body types. He’d have his trainees use a reverse grip and perform the movement with  rounded upper back, chin to chest, elbows pointed straight out, feet together, toes pointed down and under the face.

For chins he recommended a full range of motion and was a big believer in sternum chins, pulling up till your lower rib cage is close to the bar. Gironda was obsessed with technique; if you want to see his variations of many exercises such as curls and dumbbell lateral raises, go to and search for Vince Gironda drag curl, Vince Gironda perfect curl and Vince Gironda dumbbell alternate side swing.

Gironda promoted many other good ideas, including not working the abs every day, the importance of eating a good breakfast, the need to change your workout frequently, the technique of specializing on areas that lag behind, the importance of supplements, the benefits of concentration during training and the willingness to experiment with new ideas. The Iron Guru was definitely a man ahead of his time.

[*Get the latest e-book collection of Vince’s methods, quotes, workouts and advice Vince Gironda: Legend & Myth by Alan Palmieri, one of Vince’s students.]

Q: What sort of high-protein snack do you recommend for the evening?

A: I recommend casein, as it provides a slower release of amino acids than, say, whey protein. Greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt would work well. For every cup of Greek yogurt, you get 20 grams of protein vs. the 12 grams you get from standard yogurt.

Another great choice is quark, a type of soft cheese that’s a favorite of Eastern European bodybuilders. It can be as high as 15 percent protein in comparison with the 4 percent of standard cheese. Of course, you can blend in extra casein powder to get even more protein.

Q: Is there a supplement-related trick to retaining muscle while on a strict fat-loss program?

A: Not only can you retain muscle while losing fat, but you can gain muscle. In fact, you should gain muscle if you know how to train and eat properly!

One thing to remember: If you’re on a fat-loss diet, you have to eat plenty of good fats. A lot of guys who don’t retain muscle when dieting are basically eating too lean—egg whites and chicken breasts all day long. You need quality fats, and I’m not talking about a burger from McDonald’s.

Dr. Mauro DiPasquale taught me a long time ago that when you go low carb to lose bodyfat, you still need to take in a lot of dietary fat or you won’t have any success. We’re talking about smart fats here like omega-3s, which can battle inflammation. You have to realize that our DNA has evolved only about .02 percent in the past 40,000 years, and the meat our caveman ancestors ate had much more omega-3s than the meat we eat now.

I realize how anabolic food is every time I teach in the Dominican Republic. Last time I taught a course there, the students measured my bodyfat on Monday morning. I was at 8 percent, and I weighed 198 pounds. Now, there’s no such thing as grain-fed in the Dominican Republic; they can’t afford it, so cows eat grass. If you eat a mango over there, you have to eat it over a sink because it’s so juicy. The eggs are also far more anabolic. They’re orange and full of omega-3s. A Dominican Republic avocado tastes like butter, it’s so rich in nutrients. Eating avocados here is like eating fiberglass once you’ve had a Dominican Republic avocado.

Five days later I weighed 209 at 6 percent bodyfat. My business partner came to finish the seminar, took one look at me and said, “What happened to you?!”

When I work in the UK or Ireland, I lose muscle mass and put on fat almost inevitably, even though I try to eat as cleanly as possible. The quality of the food is just piss poor.

Back to your question. One of the most important supplements to take when on a calorie-restricted diet is BCAAs. You need about 50 grams a day. Take them between meals. Another important thing is greens-type drinks.

Q: Are whole eggs okay, or should I stick to egg whites only?

A: Only dorks eat egg whites. You see the diets in the muscle magazines; they always list egg whites and oatmeal with raisins for their bullshit breakfasts. Well, if you took four Sustanons between meals and 17 Anadrols per hour, you could eat anything you wanted!

A guy training naturally needs whole eggs. The studies that showed that eating eggs raised cholesterol were done by the cereal board. Back then they didn’t differentiate between types of cholesterol, so those studies are invalid. Eggs can raise cholesterol—HDL, the good cholesterol.

The only caveat with eggs is that you can become allergic to them if you eat two or three every day. I saw that when I used to run a lot of food allergy tests. Stop eating eggs for six weeks, and the allergy will disappear, then you can eat 12 every five days. Hey, if you’re going to have them, don’t be a pansy.

Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit Also, see his ad on page 281.  IM

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