Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Austrian Oak. The greatest bodybuilder of all time! Arnold has inspired millions if not billions of men around the world to take up bodybuilding, yours truly included. When I remember seeing Arnold as a kid in the movies, I remember seeing his huge arms and enormous chest. That Chest….that barrel-like chest was massive! Those thick slabs of pec meat were coveted by many a young bodybuilder back in the day. Arnold’s chest is still regarded as one of the best chests, if not The Best Chest in bodybuilding history! One particular aspect of his chest always stood out to me and that was his chiseled and thick lower pecs. Arnold has written in his several books that he would perform numerous dips during his career, and that this exercise alone was mostly responsible for adding much size and to his lower pecs. However, his lower pec was not always as sharp as we may believe. Early photos of Arnold demonstrate that he always had mass, but that lower chest line would be developed using a specialized dip known as the Gironda dip.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger first arrived in the USA under contract with Joe Weider, he had just won the 1968 NABBA Amateur Mr Universe in London but understood that he had much to improve on. He was obsessed to leave Europe, travel to the US and train with the best in California, because he knew that the best bodybuilders in the world trained in sunny California. He had already learnt that mass wasn’t everything after his crushing loss to the tanned and chiseled Chet Yorton.
Arnold Learnt The Gironda Dip
On arriving in California, he was once again reminded of how mass was not necessarily class. After Vince Gironda told him “You just look like a fat f*ck to me”, he knew Vince was telling the truth. Arnold was a 250 pound giant with much refining to do. After Vince saw Arnold’s strong work ethic and commenting on Arnold “He’s a vast untapped reservoir of unused tissue”, Vince began teaching him all his secrets. Not only did Vince introduce Arnold to the Preacher Curl for his arms, but it is likely that Arnold also learned the Gironda Dip to develop that sharp lower line for the lower chest. If we see images of Arnold performing the Dip, we can quickly see that he performed them in a similar fashion to the way Vince Gironda would teach the exercise. Look at both Vince and Arnold. Mentor and Student, both performing FULL RANGE DIPS, with a full stretch at the bottom! Now that’s a Gironda Dip!! And believe me, that is going to hit the lower pec like you’ve never felt before!
The Gironda Dip
Whenever I or others talk about the Gironda Dip, we get a mix of both encouraging (for those that have tried it) or less than encouraging comments, some fearing it like the plague and it immediately leads me to believe that there is much misunderstanding of many of Vince Gironda’s movements. If the Golden Era greats like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno and Larry Scott thought it was good enough for them, then it should be good enough for you!
I have to admit, that lack of understanding of how to both progress and perform the exercise and its variations has led to the confusion that we see and the fear that is associated with performing such movements. Just take a look at the range of motion involved in performing the exercise correctly in the comparison photos above. We see Vince and Arnold performing the Gironda Dip, which is very different to the Conventional Dip we see most people perform today, which works both the triceps and the chest.
Why Perform The Gironda Dip?
If you want to develop the lower line of the pec like Arnold, then you will want to develop the ability to perform the Gironda Dip, and you will want to incorporate it often into your chest workouts. The ability to perform such an exercise that requires a greater range of motion is going to mean a greater stretch, especially in the lower and outer area of the chest, which is the exact area of the chest that this exercise targets. I personally don’t understand the fear that is associated with this or other movements that Vince advocated. As an example, simply take your elbows as far back as possible and then push forward without any weight, just using your arms. You will soon realize that the movement actually mimics a cable cross-over movement, yet you see everyone performing these movements on chest day!
How To Progress To The Gironda Dip
I guess to the uninformed, it would be easy to understand why they have fears in reaching such “extreme” range of motion in the Dip. Sure enough, if you simply decided to one day to just hop on the regular dip station and perform the dip with such range of motion, your shoulders may not be happy the next day, because you would have to perform this movement with your own bodyweight, and not the little weights typically used when performing cable crossovers. But Vince did not expect this kind of strength or range of motion from his students from day 1! Vince, as always asked that students approach their training in an intelligent, sensible and progressive manner.
On reading the Masters Series, we quickly learn from Vince that one was supposed to slowly progress into the more advanced Gironda Dip. At first, Vince teaches us to perform the Fulcrum Push Up for one month at least! This exercise alone, which is almost unheard of today, prepared the student for movements such as the Gironda Dip by increasing the range of motion and strength of the shoulder joint. That was one of the purposes of this exercise. On top of that, you get an incredible feeling and pump in the chest!
The Fulcrum Push Up
The Fulcrum Push Up is an exercise that was developed during the Silver Era or even earlier, and even performed by the great Reg Park, Arnold’s mentor. Vince Gironda having learned to become an instructor at Easton’s gym during the 1940s probably learned of this movement too. It requires one to place 3 benches in the manner shown in the picture below. And yes, that is Arnold in the photo performing the Fulcrum Push Up! Two benches were placed shoulder-width apart and one behind to form a T shape fashion. You placed each hand on two of the benches and your feet on the bottom bench and performed a plank. As you came down into the push-up, the knees drop first, and then the body follows by bending at the elbows. Then you push up from the bottom and as you do, you straighten the legs into a plank position again. Simple. But the pump you get in the chest is AMAZING! You will feel this movement on the outside of your chest and at the lower pec line. In performing this exercise, you will also find that over time, your shoulder strength and range of motion increase, preparing you for the Gironda dip!
Performing The Gironda Dip
Once you have performed the Fulcrum Push up for one month, and are able to perform 4 sets of 8 reps using your own bodyweight, you are ready to perform the Gironda Dip. To perform the Gironda Dip, there are certain tips that Vince laid out. Taken directly from Vince’s Definition Course, Vince gives the following tips as follows:
- Grab a V-bar Dip Bar with arms approximately 32” wide, arms fully extended
- Look down and touch your chin onto your chest
- Round your upper back
- Feet should be together and pointed down and slightly in front and under the face so that you should be staring at your toes
- As you dip down, dip as deeply as possible
- Elbows should flare out to the sides and point up, never behind you! This emphasizes the chest and takes out the involvement of the triceps
Just looking at the image above taken from Vince’s Definition Course, we can clearly see that the movement resembles the cable cross-over motion rather closely. So unless you have a shoulder injury or history of shoulder issues, you should have no fear in attempting the Gironda Dip. If you are looking at improving your lower chest line, learn to incorporate the Gironda Dip into your workout by simply performing the Fulcrum Push up for one month and you’ll be ready to attempt the Gironda Dip. Again work slowly and progressively, and enjoy the gains!