Continuing our Vince Gironda interest, today features an article written by the man himself on what separates the men from the champions in Bodybuilding. The answer may just surprise you.
I have stated numerous times that champions obviously possess something that others do not. Even though training partners do the same routine set for set, rep for rep, they do not obtain the benefits of the champions.
I have observed champions train in a manner I do not approve, but they receive results that are phenomenal. What is it that they possess? Well, I will tell you, they are using mental suggestion (self-hypnosis).
When I first observed this, it puzzled me. The first time I noticed Walt Baptiste, former gym owner and magazine publisher from San Francisco (Body Moderne), touching his abdominals while backstage before going out to pose at several physique contests, he seemed to be saying something to his abdominals as he stroked them. He seemed to be sending a message into this body section, because I could actually see the abs sharpen up and grow more outlined than his normal condition. I later discovered that Walt was sending mental images to his subconscious, to produce this phenomena.
I learned that you can actually produce the desired condition by picturing in your mind what you wish to manifest. He also breathed deeply and regularly in through his nose and out through his pursed lips. As you know, this type of breathing is employed between sets prior to repeating the next set. At this time, the mechanism employed should be to picture in your mind a clear image of the muscle or area of the body you wish to develop, and hold the image throughout the performance of that set.
Walt promoted the first Mr. California Physique Contests, in which I placed second and third several times. He later gave up his gym and opened a chain of yoga studios in the San Francisco area.
The technique of mental suggestion is what all physical culture writers are trying to explain when they throw that nebulous term “concentration” at you. They seem to recognize that concentration is necessary, but do not know how to trigger the mechanism that produces the phenomenon. The subconscious believes any thought you perceive, and stores it. It accepts everything that is thought or spoken by you or another, if you accept it as truth. But it must be repeated again and again until the subconscious accepts it as fact. Then it will produce the condition pictured in your mind.
This procedure is what I maintain is used by the champions, whether or not they are aware of it. They are convinced of a successful outcome.
This awareness is more important that any steroid drug, any diet plan or supplement, or any exercise routine ever conceived. I have observed bodybuilders who take steroids and receive no benefits. They take unimaginable amounts of supplements and constantly try new routines, but are not getting results, and never will until they discover that what I have written here is the true essence of bodybuilding. For years I have been asked by my fans to write the secrets of the champions, and here you have it.
“I have stated numerous times that champions obviously possess something that others do not. Even though training partners do the same routine set for set, rep for rep, they do not obtain the benefits of the champions.
I have observed champions train in a manner I do not approve, but they receive results that are phenomenal. What is it that they possess? …”
Heh…as much as I like Gironda, and more importantly, learned important bodyfat-cutting advice from him early on after I began bodybuilding in december, 1971 (I’m age 66, have been and still am bodybuilding for fifty years), I chuckled when I first read this back in the early 1980s.
The answer to what the champions possess that most others don’t, an answer Gironda himself probably knew but was reluctant to state (for a couple reasons I can think of)? BETTER GENETICS.
An anecdote about John Grimek illustrates how long before Gironda’ 1983 article, it was known that even sub-par methods produced results for the genetically-gifted…during his stint as editor during the 1960s and 1970s for the York Barbell Co./Bob Hoffman magazine “Muscular Development”, when Grimek was discussing with the other staff how to answer a reader’s question concerning training, one of them, another long-time strength man, quipped, “C’mon, John…your body builds muscle so easily that all you need to do is a few pushups over in the corner!”
If it’s true that, “The subconscious believes any thought you perceive, and stores it. It accepts everything that is thought or spoken by you or another, if you accept it as truth. But it must be repeated again and again until the subconscious accepts it as fact. Then it will produce the condition pictured in your mind…”….then, mentally picturing onesself as taller or thicker should cause people’s skeleton to grow. Meaning that, to add three inches to my height, add an inch to my wrist circumference, add two inches to my ankle circumference, and add two inches to my biacromial shoulder width, as I’ve always wished to do, all I needed was to think it, speak it, picture it, keep repeating it until my subconscious believed it to be reality Then, my mind would make my skeleton grow, and I’d become three inches taller, thicker at my wrists and ankles, and wider in my shoulder bones. Obviously, this doesn’t happen for anyone, due to the limits set by one’s DNA.
While, due to the fact that, unlike bone, muscle size can be sustantially varied by training/exercise, it might be less obvious, a person’s ultimate muscle size is also limited by his specific set of DNA. Once that natural lean mass limit is reached, no amount of positive thinking or visualizing in the cosmos will override it, no more than visualizing bigger bones will override their genetic size limits.
One reason Gironda might not have pointed to genetics as the essence of bodybuilding is that it’s never been in the business interest of Gironda, Weider, Hoffman, Lurie, and the many other enterpreneurs throughout the history of the iron game industry to acknowledge the preeminence of genetics for results. Admitting, “You can improve your physique, but it is highly unlikely you can look like the guys in our magazines and brochures, since genetics for a physique like theirs are rare,” doesn’t promote sales as well as, “Look how YOU too can look (after buying my product/buying a membership to my gym)!”
The iron industry has always downplayed or outright ignored the genetics truth, and emphasized training methods, mental approaches, equipment, and supplements. By emphasizing those, the many average trainees can be lured into buying yet-another “new method” or “mental trick”, or “cutting-edge supplement” to achieve those forever-elusive champion-level results. Telling the guy who’s trained properly, consistently, and progressively for three consecutive years, is no longer making lean mass gains, yet has nothing close to a champion physique, that, “You’ve hit your natural genetic mass/proportion ceilings, because you don’t have champion-level genetics” doesn’t lure him to spend his money for “the secret to the championship physique!”
State and Regional-levels physique competitor Gordon Lavelle states it better than I can in his 2011 book, “Bodybuilding:Tracing the Evolution of The Ultimate Physique”, p.31, 32:
“…the great variable in bodybuilding success has always been the genetic makeup of its participants. Both before and after appearance-enhancing drugs made their way into the world of muscle, the final word on a man’s success or failure building his physique belonged to…DNA….Schwarzenegger likened the act of adding muscle to the technique of an artist whose medium is clay: to add muscle, you slap on more where it’s needed [a reference to what Schwarzenegger says in “Pumping Iron”]. In practice however, building a muscular body more closely approximates pouring molten bronze into a mold: barring subtle amendment, the end result is largely predetermined.”
Another “essential difference” of which Gironda was well-aware at least by the mid-1960s, so also ignoring, when he made those statements: ANABOLIC STEROIDS and other growth drugs. Unlike many or perhaps most average bodybuilders before 1980, many of the physique champions after about 1956 were among those who had begun using testosterone, Dianabol, Deca-Durabolin, Primobolan, and other anabolic drugs to exceed natural muscle size limits.
And yet, as Lavelle confirms, even for those using AAS, genetics have preeminence: response to AAS varies, sometimes considerably, and a few possess genetics which respond phenomenally better than most people’s, to identical dosages and cycles of the same anabolic steroids and growth drugs.
I don’t consider Gironda’s emphasis on concentration to be completely invalid. Concentration is required for best results. It’s definitely true that concentration and positive thinking are necessary to consistently apply to training in order to optimize whatever genetic potential any person is born with. Results will be less than potentially possible unless a person concentrates, focuses, maintains a positive, goal-centered mindset. While in the gym, suspend the reality of genetic limits and employ the focus and mindset of “I train to build 21″ arms!”
However, it’s only those with the best genetics who apply that concentration who can obtain those phenomenal champion-level results (and, a case might even be made that the ABILITY to apply concentration has at least a genetic component which champions possess to a greater degree than average).
I have very little to add to this Joe except my hearty endorsement. As you say it is often against the interests of writers and coaches to labor the genetic component of all of this but it is the elephant in the room.
Funnily on Grimek, there is also that great story from Bill Pearl about traveling to a bodybuilding contest with him during the early stages of his career. Seeking to pick Grimek’s brains on bodybuilding secrets, he was shocked to see Grimek eating a Hersey’s bar right before competition. The man worked incredibly hard but he certainly had a genetic advantage over mere mortals.
I suppose the more enduring question is not why fitness writers ignore genetics but rather why we, as the public, have long believed this myth that it’s solely down to hard work!
Hi again, CONOR,
Looking back, the only major iron industry enterpreneur I recall who did emphasize the place of genetics was Arthur Jones (who, for those unfamiliar, promoted what he labeled High Intensity Training, which was three full-body workouts per week of ONE set done to absolute failure per bodypart, and who invented and marketed the Nautilus machines, as a “superior replacement” for barbells and other machines, with which to implement his version of HIT) …but, I suspect it formed part of his “gain-their-trust-with-truth-to-grab-their-attention-before-you-promote-your-own-radical-training-method-and-equipment” business strategy.
LOL, and, what’s always amused me most about that Grimek anecdote is that it was a TWO POUND Hershey chocolate bar (Grimek and York Barbell were near to the Hershey plant in PA, so, I expect huge candy bars like that were more common among those York guys than they admitted then, LOL)
I think that the myth is what most of us humans, with our instincts geared for “hope”, want to hear? We dislike the idea of “limitations” or any notion contrary “you can and will accomplish ANYTHING if you really want it and work hard enough toward it!” Being told, “Only a very few with the proper genetics can achieve that level” understandably saps the motivation for many if not most of us.
Haha well yes there is quite a big distinction there. Not sure I could even find a chocolate bar that size in Ireland!
100%. It’s the thing that keeps us all going isn’t it? The believe that it’s only one program away from outlifting our genetics. Funnily some of the best built lifters I’ve ever trained with had very limited training and diet knowledge and terrible form. Needless to say they often looked amazing with little effort!