Bodybuilding legend Vince Gironda left an indelible mark on the world of bodybuilding, and his legacy can be felt even now – decades after his death.
Known as the “Iron Guru” he was famous for promoting original training routines and nutritional regimes that went against the conventions of his time.
Vince Gironda was born 1917 in the Bronx, but was soon moved out to Los Angeles as a child. He got his started in bodybuilding at the young age of 22 and never looked back. He made rapid progress and soon became famous for his intense workout routines.
Over time he would make a name for himself by challenging the status quo when it came to effective workouts.
In terms of individual exercises, he rallied against the heavy back squat, traditional crunches, regular bench presses and the traditional forms of dips and chins that were carried out in the day.
He was also a proponent of high volume training carried out 5-6 times a week rather than the more traditional low volume strength based workouts that were undertaken 3 times a week. Although this is a more common practice today it was very unusual in the 40’s and 50’s.
He was also against cardio training as a means to lose bodyfat. He maintained that bodyfat levels should be lowered using a good nutrition regime and high volume training carried out in strict form
In terms of bodybuilding competition, Gironda was really a man out of his time. He reached a level of leanness that was uncommon for the day.
Using ever decreasing bodyfat levels to accentuate the illusion of size and aesthetic shape, he was the antithesis of the bulkier and smoother ideal that champions of his era promoted.
As a result he never really achieved that much top level success in competition even though he was always competitive. This did not deter him from competing and he was an active competitor until the age of 50.
It was as a trainer that the “Iron Guru” really excelled. To continue to push for his own workout style to be accepted, Gironda opened “Vince’s Gym” in 1948. Bodybuilders and film stars alike flocked to Vinces Gym over the next 4 decades and for a long time he produced many an improved aesthetic physique among both the famous and the competitive.
Contrary to common belief, it was Gironda and not Joe Weider that initially turned Arnold Schwarzenegger from the imposing but relatively smooth and imbalanced youngster to the bodybuilding giant of the 70’s.
Undoubtedly Vince’s most successful direct protégé was Larry Scott the first ever Mr. Olympia. Scott maintained that Vince taught him a tremendous amount about training, nutrition and posing.
He was also famous for some of his controversial stances on nutrition. The Iron Guru’s mantra was that nutrition made up 85% of all successful physique training.
He promoted a low carb / high protein and fat diet a couple of decades before a certain Dr. Atkins rose to fame. Even though his nutritional advice really did work for himself and his trainees, he was often derided for his approach because of his lack of scientific evidence to back his theories up.
It is interesting to note that contemporary nutrition marketers, like Dave Asprey, are now promoting a high protein and fat / low carb nutritional approach that has now been backed up through scientific studies. So perhaps, Vince Gironda was a man 60 years ahead of his time in relation to his nutritional advice.
Vince was well known as an ornery character and his temper was legendary both inside and outside of the gym. Even though he attracted many famous personalities to his gym and he went through a long period of success as a physique trainer, his focus was always weighted towards training and not business
Eventually, Gironda was forced to close down his gym in the 1995 after he couldn't find the money and clientele to maintain its operation. This was a crippling blow to a proud and accomplished trainer and many people attribute his death in 1997 to the downfall of his gym.
He set the bar for many bodybuilders in the future to express themselves both physically and mentally. His death was mourned by many in the bodybuilding community, where his influence can still be felt today.
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