Can a Bodybuilder train by instinct?


This article, first written by Vince Gironda in 1974 sought to set the record straight on whether or not a bodybuilder could train by instinct. As always, Vince is frank, honest and straight to the point.

This (instinctive training) is a term invented by so-called Body Building Experts who do not have the answers and pass the buck to you to take the blame for your bodybuilding failures. Some have claimed that I have contradicted myself and I actually do believe in instinctive training. I state again that you cannot train instinctively!!!

You must have a working knowledge of anatomy, kinesiology and nutrition. With this knowledge you are only selecting variations of exercises and putting them to use. When I trained Larry Scott he never deviated from any course that I laid out for him. Every six to nine months he would ask for a variation on an exercise he was doing to add to his routine or substitute for one he was doing. He was extremely methodical and had 100 per cent confidence in what he was doing was the best there was for the particular portion of the muscle he wished to bring into prominence. Hundreds of would-be physique stars with far greater potential than Larry Scott, have trained in my gym, but none of them took advantage of my instruction the way Scott did, and as a result they never achieved much in the physique world.

Remember that you would not need a teacher if you could devise a workout program from instinct. I
had my teachers; two men taught me to observe, question, analyze, experiment and study. My teachers were men who devised a sound muscle building system by trial and error. We were constantly doing exercises, devising equipment and poking and prodding each other and asking, “Is that where you feel it? Is it sore here or here?”

I do not wish to belittle anyone with this article, but as you know, I have the reputation for being forcefully frank and honest and I can do no less than speak my mind. I have been misquoted by some – who report to be experts and they are only experts in not understanding what my training methods are about in the first place. Words are worthless and often nebulous – results are what count!

QUESTION: Science as yet has not proven conclusively whether instinct is acquired or innate (learned) – or a combination of both. Every topnotch bodybuilder who has ever come to me for a program of exercise has over-trained himself. And this is the basic reason he came to me because he was at a standstill and could not make any further gains. I learned this principle 20 years ago by observing a man who came to me to train him – who was a former weight lifter turned bodybuilder. He had great enthusiasm, ambition and energy. But he could not handle any program I put him on until I cut him down to three sets of eight reps. On this program he flourished and won every local contest he entered! This fellow prompted me to write my first magazine article called, “Train – Don’t Strain.”

Some of you might remember this fellow – his name was Ralph Mascaro and he was one of the first really cut up physiques around at that time.

The lesson to be learned here is if you are not making gains on your present course, simplify it by cutting down to one exercise per muscle, cut back your sets and reps and start using better form. You notice that I did not say cut down on weight. Just use slower movements and do every set as if it were the last set you could do!

Instinct is the animal’s way of survival. If we still had this natural faculty in all its ramifications we wouldn’t be eating synthetics and contaminated sprayed foods, etc. We have over-ridden this instinct of knowing inwardly what to do for maximum health and strength and let our egos command us …the more reps, the bigger muscle tissue, etc. Charles Atlas demonstrated this pointedly – his early ads made you want to build a bigger body so the bully wouldn’t kick sand in your face and make off with the girl. This is instinctive ego (mating) not instinctive training!

Do you agree with Vince? Let us know in the comments!

3 thoughts on “Can a Bodybuilder train by instinct?

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    1. Hi Felicia,

      Thanks for dropping by! I think you’re right, its the combo that takes people to the top. It’s well and good sticking to a program but you have to be able to adapt !

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