What Was Gironda’s Definition Routine?

Nicknamed the Iron Guru, Vince Gironda, as pictured above, was one the most famed bodybuilding coaches of the 20th century. An early proponent of low carb dieting, Vince churned out a list of bodybuilding champions ranging from Larry Scott to Arnold Schwarzenegger and many more in between.

Gironda was a firm believer in the mantra that nutrition dictates all. So what did Vince do when someone needed to get into contest shape?

Pre-Contest Diet

For the bodybuilder looking to get in shape, Vince was a huge proponent of a fat/protein diet with little to no dairy (which would smooth the bodybuilder out). A typical pre-contest diet would consist of three meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The food of choice was fairly easy to remember…

Breakfast and Lunch

Eggs & meat, fish, fowl only (no limit)


Usually this would be the same as breakfast and lunch but in some versions of the diet in one version of this diet, Vince would allow a tossed green salad with oil & vinegar dressing with dinner.

The only dairy Vince allowed on this diet was butter or cream. Preferably raw.


Every 3-5 days Vince would allow one carb meal say a cup of rice etc. This helped the dieter stay on track and help break the monotony of eating the same thing every day. Nowadays bodybuilders on a Cyclical Keto Diet follow the same principle.


Vince was a huge proponent of supplements and would have his clients take Liver tablets, Kelp Tablets, Amino Acids, Enzyme tablets, Mineral & Vitamin Tablets and countless other supplements.

For this diet, Vince heavily stressed Choline and Inosital, two B vitamins essential for metabolizing fats. He also advocated a calcium supplement to avoid the ‘nervousness’, this diet could cause in the bodybuilder.


The exercise routine accompanying this diet was a 6 day-a-week split, entailing three upper body days and three lower body days with one days rest.

Upper Body Day (M, W, F) 

1. Wide Parallel Dips (with hands 32″ apart, chin on chest, feet under face)
2. Seated Rows
3. Biceps Preacher Curls (with wide grip and elbows close)
4. Triceps Overhead Pull
5. Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise
6. Wrist Curls (with rolling bar to finger tips)

Lower Body & Abs Day (T, Th, Sat)

1. 1/4 sit up or roll (essentially ab crunches), superset with
2. Stiff leg raise
3. Hack Slides (up on toes with heels touching and knees 20″ apart)
4. Donkey Raise (with knees slightly unlocked and toes on 4″ block”

Vince was very particular about reps too:

For the first 3 weeks it was 8 sets of 8 reps, followed by 3 weeks of 6 sets of 6 reps, and finally 3 weeks of 4 sets of 12 reps. The only exception being calves which were always trained 20 reps per set.

This diet and routine was done for twelve weeks with a one week lay off (from exercise, not the diet) at the end of each three week cycle. It was a brief 12 week regime, but the results spoke for themselves as Checkmeowt’s excellent review of the routine demonstrates!


Vince Gironda, Secrets of Definition. (Pdf available for purchase at http://www.ironguru.com/secrets-of-definition)


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