Gironda in the 1950s
Vincent Anselmo Gironda|
November 9, 1917
The Bronx, New York, United States
October 18, 1997 (aged 79)|
Ventura County, California, United States
|Occupation||Bodybuilder, personal trainer, author|
Vincent Anselmo "Vince" Gironda (November 9, 1917 – October 18, 1997) was an American professional bodybuilder, personal trainer, author, and owner of the celebrity-frequented Vince's Gym. His nickname was the "Iron Guru".
Early life and career
Gironda was born in The Bronx, New York. While he was still a young child, the family moved out west to Los Angeles when his father, a stuntman, was offered work in the upcoming Ben Hur film. Vince tried his hand at being a stuntman as well but when he saw a photograph of John Grimek, he realized he needed more physical development and began lifting weights at the age of 22.
The first gym he trained at was the local YMCA. He was there for approximately eight months before moving to the Easton brothers' gym. The Easton brothers taught him to be one of their instructors. He worked there and experimented with training protocols before opening his own gym in North Hollywood, California in 1948 called Vince's Gym.
Gironda is often quoted as saying that bodybuilding is 85% nutrition. He was also an early proponent of low carb dieting, and recommended the use of numerous supplements, including desiccated liver tablets, 225mcg kelp tablets, vitamin c tablets, digestive enzymes and raw glandulars such as adrenal and orchic. In certain circumstances Gironda would recommend up to three dozen fertile hen-eggs a day, along with raw (unhomogenized, unpasteurized) cream or half-and-half milk. Large amounts of fertile eggs, he said, are equal to the anabolic steroid Dianabol in effectiveness. However, he was vehemently against the use of steroids for physique development, claiming that they contributed to a grotesque appearance.
He had what many consider unorthodox training ideas. For example, unlike many other physique trainers, he did not prescribe regular back squats (his gym had no squat racks), stating that they caused the over development of the gluteal muscles and hips relative to the thighs. The exception would be female trainees who needed more gluteus and hip development. Typically, Gironda prescribed leg extensions, leg curls, sissy squats, hack squats and a special style of squat which he called the "thigh squat" for thigh development. In addition, he was one of the first few in the bodybuilding scene to comment that situps do not contribute to the development of abdominal muscles.
Gironda also counselled against using the regular bench press for chest training, which he considered an inferior exercise because it involved too much front deltoid (shoulder); in its place he favoured the "Neck press" in which the bar is lowered, with a wide grip, to the neck instead of the chest. He considered his Gironda Dip the best overall pectoral developer. For Gironda, pectorals should be a wide slab, not two discrete masses. For the back, Gironda recommended using full range of motion — such as touching the sternum to the bar when chinning — in order to fully contract the latissimus muscles. For shoulders, he stated that if you want to build maximum mass, shoulder raises (front raise, side lateral raise and bent over lateral raise) were the best. For triceps, he preferred the overhead extensions where the elbows rest on the cradle bench and triceps pressdowns while leaning against a post. For biceps, preacher curls, spider curls and dumbbell curls were unbeatable. His theory in bodybuilding was to build a body using isolation exercises, in order to achieve that mind-muscle connection.
During the 1960s, Vince's reputation grew as a personal trainer due to his pupils winning all the important contests, the most well known pupil being Larry Scott, winning the first IFBB Mr. Olympia in 1965. Bodybuilders who have trained at Vince's Gym over the years include "Body by" Jake Steinfeld, Lou Ferrigno ("The Incredible Hulk"), Frank Zane, Don Howorth and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Gironda came to be known as "the Iron Guru", a name former magazine editor and photo/journalist Denie Walter gave him.
1949 Pro Mr California - 4th
1950 Pro Mr USA - tied for 4th
1951 Pro Mr America - 2nd
1957 Pro Mr USA - 3rd
1962 Nabba Pro Mr. Universe - Class 2, 2nd
Trainer to the stars
By the early 1950s he was a very well known trainer of both champion bodybuilders and movie and television actors. Gironda claimed to be able to get a person into shape faster than anyone else. He also claimed that the movie studios would send their actors and actresses to him for that reason.
A short list of stars who trained at Vince's Gym includes William Smith, Robert Blake, Cher, Clint Eastwood, Denzel Washington, James Garner, Brian Keith, Robert McRay, Tommy Chong (of Cheech & Chong), Gordon Scott, Jeff Goldblum, Brad Davis, Michael Bowen, Clint Walker, Sean Penn and Erik Estrada.
In the 1970s Vince wrote countless articles for Iron Man, managed his mail-order business, started a nutrition supplement company and authored his own training and nutrition manuals, all the time still operating his gym.
In the 1980s, a book was published with the collaboration of MuscleMag International publisher Robert Kennedy titled "Unleashing the Wild Physique". It contained considerable knowledge Vince gathered and tested throughout his 30+ year career. The release of the book prompted a promotion tour where the Iron Guru gave sold-out seminars throughout the US and Canada.
Downfall of Vince's Gym
In the 1990s the growing popularity of very well-equipped gyms with considerable mass appeal and the emergence of numerous personal trainers to the stars made it difficult for simple gyms to operate, and so Vince's Gym closed in November 1995. A contributing factor to the gym closing was the severe health problems of Gironda's beloved son Guy. Caring for Guy sapped Gironda's energy, and his motivation to run his gym.
Gironda died on October 18, 1997 in Ventura County, less than a month before his 80th birthday.
NOTE: Vince's first book, The Vince Gironda File Volume I, has a picture of Vince on the rocks behind where his gym resided. I know he was 53 years old in that picture. I think it is one of the best examples of bodybuilding and shows that body building is not about being huge. That picture is dated, Warner took it in '56. That means if he died in 1997, that would make him 53 + 41 = 94. That probably sounds outrageous, but having trained under him 4 different times, and becoming pretty good friends with him, I believe it. Vince would not tell people his age. He dyed his hair for years. He would only rarely agree to pose and the rest of the time he wore baggy sweats so nobody could even see his body. Nobody could figure out how old he was in the 80s and early 90s. I last trained under him around '88 or '89, and if he died in 1997 I believe he could have been 94. Vince Gironda will be long missed by many people. R.I.P.
NOTE2: The picture of Vince above could be in the late 40s. He last competed in '57, but that pic looks like the swimming pool era like the Vince Gironda Files, Volume II. Even though he wrote Volume II after Volume I, the picture was 10 years more recent in Volume I. He is approx. 8-10 years younger in the pics taken by the pool. His son, Guy Gironda, would be one of the only people that would know Vince's age for certain.
- Robert Kennedy and Vince Gironda, Unleashing the Wild Physique, 1984, Sterling Pub. Co, ISBN 0-8069-7888-0
- Alan Palmieri, Vince Gironda Legend And Myth, CD-ROM, 2004
- Daryl Conant, "InVINCEable, 2009
- Randy Roach, "Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors" Vol,1 (2008) Vol,2 (2011)