Bodybuilding guru turned trainer to the stars, the late Vince Gironda boasted a clientele ranging from bodybuilding iconoclast, Larry Scott, to Tinseltown demigod, Denzel Washington.
Known as the Iron Guru, Gironda was ahead of his time. He’s credited with the discovery of a plethora of unique exercises still practiced by physique artists in the trenches today. These include drag curls, sternum chin-ups (touching the chest to the bar), bench presses to the neck, sissy squats, and dips emphasizing a forward lean. And long before Charles Poliquin advocated German Volume Training, Vince Gironda belligerently expounded the gospel of high-volume training.
Gironda certainly believed that the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. His famous high volumes are not three-hour marathon sessions with built-in breaks for socializing; they are fast paced sessions that test cardiovascular conditioning and testicular fortitude.
Vince devised a surplus of famous training routines, but his baby was the 8 sets of 8 reps regimen. Quoiting Vince directly, “I have a definite preference for the 8 x 8 system of sets and reps…. I come back to this high-intensity ‘honest workout’ more often than any other for maximizing muscle fiber growth in the quickest possible time for the advanced bodybuilder.”
To this day, there is a legion of bodybuilders that believe Gironda’s 8 x 8 system is second to none for concurrently adding muscle mass and shedding bodyfat. Gironda vehemently warns his system is not for beginners, saying, “You have to build up to the stage where you can benefit from this extremely advanced form of training. I doubt if anyone with less than two years of training experience could benefit from this method.”
If you push as much weight as possible and stay on the prescribed rest intervals, plain and simple, this is interval training on steroids.
How It Works
This is a sprint, not a marathon, so if your goal is strength you won’t benefit from the regular use of this routine as it’s for aesthetic enhancement by rapidly adding slabs of muscular beef to your frame.
You will select four exercises, with 60–65% of your one repetition max (if you are good at reps, go with 65%, if you are poor, go with 60%.)
You will perform this routine for four weeks. In week one, you will rest 60 seconds between sets; in week two you will rest 45 seconds between sets; in week three you rest 35 sounds between sets, and on the final week attempt 20 seconds between sets,but do not go over 30, come hell or high water.
Week one should take approximately an hour; each subsequent workout will be shorter. Stick with the same four exercises, all four weeks.
Setup:Grasp dips bars with your arms extended and locked. Lean forward and bend your knees while keeping your legs crossed.
Execution:Keep your elbows out to your sides as you bend them to lower your body down until your upper arms are about parallel to the floor. Press your hands into the bars to extend your arms and raise your body back up.
Josh’s Notes: Lean forward and keep elbows out during the dip to put the brunt of the load on the chest. Follow outlined rest intervals weekly.
Reverse-Grip Bench Press
Set up:Lying on a flat bench, grasp the bar with a supinated (reverse) grip, hands shoulder-width apart, and thumbs around the bar. Press the bar up to the start position in a slight backward arc without letting your elbows flare out. Don’t lock out your elbows at the top of the rep; keep a bend in your arms, maintaining control of the weight at all times.
Execution:With your elbows tucked in close to your sides, slowly lower the bar down to your lower pecs, and touch down gently.
Josh’s Notes:This exercise emphasizes upper-chest development, and either a barbell or dumbbell is okay. Follow outlined rest intervals weekly.
Flat-Bench Cable Flye
Setup: Connect two of the single-handle D-grips to the low pulleys of a cable crossover apparatus. Position the bench in the middle of the apparatus so the cables are in line with your chest. Lie on the bench with your feet flat on the floor and you back pressed against the pad. Begin by holding the handles with your arms straight out at your sides and your palms facing up while maintaining a slight bend in your elbows.
Execution: Use your pecs to bring the arms up and together over your chest until your hands meet, maintaining the slight bend in your elbows as you do. Slowly return to the start position by lowering your arms back out to your sides until your wrists come to about shoulder level or slightly above.
Josh’s Notes: Make sure to emphasize a full range of motion. Follow outlined rest intervals weekly.
Setup: Lie across a flat bench with your upper back supported by the bench and your feel flat on the floor about shoulder-width apart or wider. Hold the inside edge of a dumbbell at arm’s length directly over your chest and drop your hips slightly toward the floor.
Execution: Bring your arms back behind your head as far as possible while keeping a slight bend in your elbows. Reverse the direction and pull the weight back up over your chest.
Josh’s Notes: The dumbbell variation of the pullover shifts a majority of the load to the chest. Keep a 10-15 degree bend in the elbow throughout the entirety of the movement. Follow outlined rest intervals weekly.
I wouldn’t recommend training this way year-round because you aren’t lifting heavy enough to maximize hypertrophy. But if you’re stale on a conventional routine, four weeks of this type of training can interject the needed “muscle confusion” to ignite the hypertrophic switch.
Gironda was an outside-the-box thinker, and he ran his gym like Attila The Hun. if he saw a member performing an exercise or using a training method he disapproved of, it was grounds for immediate dismissal from the gym. But sometimes an unconventional strategy is needed to plow through a conventional plateau.
Time to hit the pig iron!