Vince Gironda’s Beginner Growth Program

On November 23, 2016 by Physical Culturist

By: Mathews McGarry

Vince Gironda (1917-1997) was one of the greatest trainers of the past century. He spent countless hours with beginner and intermediate bodybuilders in the attempt to sculpt their bodies, and produced some of the most famous major-league bodybuilding champions the world has ever seen.

“I can shape up a person faster than anyone else”, says Vince Gironda. “’I am not saying that it can be done without motivation and self-discipline. Anything worth achieving takes work and perseverance. But I do claim to be able to shape people up faster than any other physique trainer.” – The Wild Physique: The Complete Book of Championship Physique Training for Men and Women (1983)

Today, we see him as a super-achiever, but in his youth he would have been labeled as a fanatic (regarding his boundless interest in bodybuilding). Whether we talk about his writing or tutoring, Gironda is never ignored. He has managed to maintain his alertness and stay concurrent with the rise in general physical fitness and bodybuilding.

Can beginners use some of his techniques and advice to get ripped? Isn’t his program considered “old-school” for today’s conditions? Pumping iron, as well as crashing and burning, are the fundaments of every muscle gaining process. There is much to learn from Vince’s more generic bodybuilding approach for beginners.

Training Frequency

Gironda advised his aspiring trainees to train 6 days per week and rest on Sunday, given the untrained state of newcomers. According to him, the high training volume was necessary because many of them would initially begin with a few sets and light weights. He would increase rest days when they began to get a bit more experienced.

Number of Sets per Exercise

Vince recommended his trainees perform just one working set per exercise, in the first week. For the second week he recommended two sets, and three sets for the third week. After the first month of training, Gironda would set resting days between workouts and would switch his trainees to a 3-times-a-week regimen. From that point on, they would do three sets per each exercise over the course of six months. They were instructed to change exercises regularly in order to stress the muscles from different angles and maintain their enthusiasm.

However, if Vince felt that a trainee had sufficiently adapted to their training program, he would switch them to a more advanced program earlier. This means that there were no concrete rules on this point and that these guidelines were specific to the individual.

The Workout

1) Decline pulley ‘hugs’ or flies – 12 reps
2) Short-pulley rows – 12 reps
3) Tricep pushdowns – 10 reps
4) Lateral raises – 10 reps
5) Barbell body-drag curls – 10 reps
6) Seated wrist curls – 12 reps
7) Leg curls – 12 reps
8) Leg extensions – 12 reps
9) Bent-knee leg raises – 20 reps plus
10) Calf heel raises – 20 reps
11) Double-ups – 10 reps plus
12) Crunches – 10 reps plus


Vince was one of the first to stress the importance of food supplements. He spoke about the importance of glandulars (then known as desiccated liver tablets), amino acids, inositol, choline, and eggs in the diet of a bodybuilder. He claimed that having larger meals 2-3 times a day is less beneficial than small meals every few hours, as well as that milk-and-egg protein powders were the best. According to him, a bodybuilder can build definition by overloading with carbs every fourth day, and that one should not count calories but carbohydrates because they are the ones that turn into fat.

“Bodybuilding is 85 percent nutrition.”

Vince Gironda’s Gym Law (“The Wild Physique”)

1. Failing to work. (My system works, but sometimes my students do not.)
2. Asking for squat racks! (For what?)
3. Refusing to remove shoes during calf work.
4. Attempting to serve two masters. (Impossible.)
5. Performing high-rep ab work.
6. Bringing street clothes onto the gym floor (always use appropriate bodybuilding apparel.)
7. Performing full sit-ups. (Are they crazy?)
8. Starting a workout with bicep exercises.
9. Mentioning the words running or aerobics.
10. Practicing lazy, multi-set bench presses.
11. Hanging around to socialize while doing one set every ten minutes.
12. Eating hamburgers and fries while on a diet.

“Intensity and more work in less time will build muscle”, said the man who gave many bodybuilders a totally new suit of muscle and redesigned many physiques in far less time than you could imagine. The importance of progressive overload is what Vince has always stressed for beginners. Start light and then increase weight as much as you can without sacrificing form in the process. This is the secret formula, the cornerstone to the countless physiques produced by Vince Gironda.

About The Author:

Mathews McGarry is passionate about many forms of strength training, and has spent years lifting, dragging and flipping all manner of heavy objects. After graduating from the Faculty of Health Sciences, he started writing about his experiences, and sharing tips for a better life. He is an all-around fitness adviser and his words are strong as an Australian Bull. He blogs at

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