Vince Gironda’s Beginner Bodybuilding Course


Well known as one of the greatest trainers of his age, Vince Gironda’s name has become synomous with bodybuilding champions from Larry Scott to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Though Gironda made his name producing some of the greatest bodybuilding champions the sport has ever seen, he sent countless hours with beginners and intermediates seeking to sculpt their bodies or build muscle.

Today’s post discusses Vince’s general bodybuilding approach for beginners with the caveat being that Vince was known for changing exercises based on each trainer’s physique. Nevertheless, there is much to learn from his more generic approaches.

How often should beginners train?

Given his stellar reputation, it should come as no surprise to read that the beginners Vince encountered were often hugely enthusiastic about working with the Iron guru. Given the untrained state of his new clients, Vince recommended that aspiring trainees workout 6 days a week with a rest day on Sunday.

This high volume was necessary in Vince’s view as many of his clients would initially begin with light weights and few sets. When they began to get a little more experienced, Vince would increase the rest days.

How many sets per exercise?

For the first week, Vince recommended performing only one working set per exercise in the workout given below. For the second week, trainees would complete two sets per exercise and for the third week, three sets.

Within a month of training, Vince would switch his clients to a three-times-a-week schedule, with days rest (at least) between workouts. From there, he’d advise them to do three sets per exercise for six months with the instruction that they were to regularly change the exercises so as to maintain their enthusiasm and to stress the muscles from different angles.

These guidelines were of course, specific to the individual. If Vince felt that someone had sufficiently adapted to their workouts, he may have switched them to the more advanced programme earlier than the schedule listed above. There were no concrete rules on this point.

The Workout Itself

1) Decline pulley ‘hugs’ or flies – 12 reps

2) Short-pulley rows –  12 reps

3) Lateral raises – 10 reps

4) Triceps pushdowns – 10 reps

5) Barbell body-drag curls – 10 reps

6) Seated wrist curls – 12 reps

7) Leg extensions – 12 reps

8) Leg curls – 12 reps

9) Calf heel raises – 20 reps

10) Bent-knee leg raises – 20 reps plus

11) Crunches – 10 reps plus

12) Double-ups – 10 reps plus

* For underweight individuals, Vince would skip exercises 10, 11 and 12 until sufficient bodily bulk had been added.

‘The Secret Formula’

Though the above routine will look fairly standard to most, one thing that Vince stressed for beginners was the importance of progressive overload. Those coming to Vince with no training experience would inevitably begin by lifting lighter weights. Vince’s advice to them was straightforward. Lift as much as you can safely perform in the given exercise. This meant increasing the weight as much as possible without sacrificing form in the movement. This ‘secret’ was undoubtedly the cornerstone to the numerous physiques produced by the Iron guru.

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