There’s a big difference between a bodybuilder and a weightlifter. A bodybuilder sculpts the body to make each and every muscle standout.
Using Vince Gironda’s workout methods, you can attack all four sides of the muscles to create shape, definition, and aesthetics.
A weightlifter on the other hand, aims to maximize how many weights he can lift by relying on a collection of cheating movements. In this article, we’ll take a look at how to train like a bodybuilder, avoid cheating like a weightlifter, and share some Vince’s favorite body-sculpting exercises. Let’s get started!
Why Vince Considered the Bench Press a Cheating Exercise
According to Ron Kosloff, Vince Gironda always said the traditional bench press was a cheating exercise.
“It’s because you use about six muscles instead of zeroing in on one of two,” Ron said.
According to the Iron Guru, arching your back and planting your feet activates your inner deltoid, biceps and triceps, and chest muscles. So you’re using roughly six muscles to lift the weight, which impairs your ability to develop any one muscle. You won’t be able to shape or sculpt your chest, but you can still increase its overall size.
Another big mistake is putting your thumb around the bar. When you do, in any exercise, you will bring your forearm into play. For instance, if you’re working your biceps, half of the exercise will be the forearm and the other half biceps.
That’s one of the reasons why every time you do curls, you feel it in the forearms. It’s caused by wrapping your thumb around the bar instead of wrapping your thumb under the bar which is called a palm grip or a false grip.
These cheat exercises make it a LOT easier to pack on the weights and look impressive.
But this also increases your chances of getting injured.
Do You Want Muscle Mass or Muscle Shape?
The traditional method for building muscle mass, for both men and women alike, is to lift heavier weights and increase the amount of weight over time. On the intense end of the spectrum, powerlifters pair very low reps (1 to 5) with extremely heavy weights (90-95% of their one-rep max).
Why does this work?
Lifting heavier weight (approximately 70-75% of your one-rep max) activates Type 2 or “fast twitch” muscle fibers, which are important in developing strength and promoting hypertrophy (muscle growth along with an increase in the size of muscle cells).
The potential pitfall?
Type 2 muscle fibers have greater power, but they also fatigue quickly—and muscle fiber stimulation correlates with how long they are under resistance. If they aren’t under tension long enough, they won’t be able to promote hypertrophy (muscle growth) as effectively.
That’s why modern bodybuilding science suggests following Vince’s advice…
It’s best to take a more moderate approach (8-12 reps at 70-75% of your one-rep max). This allows you to lift enough weight to build strength and power, while also being able to extend the length of your set.
Vince’s Exercises Take Advantage of Individual Muscle Strength
These exercises take advantage of fundamental principle:
The idea that there is Individual Muscle Strength and there is Group Strength.
It’s best explained using an example…
Let’s say you can lift 150-200 pounds in a standard bench press…
Most people could not lift the same 200 pounds of a Vince neck press…
What’s the difference?
Let’s break down why the VG neck press is harder…
The Vince Gironda Neck Press
A neck press is where you lie on the bench with your feet crossed and knees as close to your chest as you can. Your back is flat now. Take the weight off the rack and use a 90- degree grip between your forearm and your bicep. That’s your set position.
Your back is flat and your chin is up. You start out with the weight elevated as high as you can get it then slowly bring the bar down to the sternum clavicle or your Adam’s apple, then draw your elbows back.
In a standard bench press, you bring the bar down to the lower pectoral line, which now becomes an inner deltoid exercise. When you bring the bar down to the Adam’s apple or sternoclavicular and pull your elbows back, you are getting a tremendous stretch between the top of the pectorals and the bottom.
This is a tremendous exercise, but chances are you will need to cut your weight almost in half. Why?
Because now you’re lifting 100 pounds with one muscle instead of 200 pounds with six muscles.
That’s the difference between being a weightlifter (tugger, jerker, swinger) and a bodybuilder. You have to decide whether you want to impress people with how much weight you can cheat up or how you look.
When Larry Scott entered a bodybuilding contest, do you think the judges cared if he could do a 300-pound bench press or squat with 400 pounds?
The judges didn’t care how much if he could lift. They were concerned about how Larry Scott looked. Did he have shape, definition, and aesthetics?
People who do individual exercises have individual strength. Those who do group exercise have group strength. It’s that simple.
Here are some other Vince Gironda variations on your regular exercises…
Vince Gironda Dumbbell Curls
Ron Kosloff, Vince’s business partner, once had a Canadian weightlifter come into his office and he wanted to get some liver and some protein.
Ron asked him, “Marcel, what do you do in curl? Do you ever do dumbbell curls?”
“60-75 pounds,” Marcel replied.
“I have a couple of 25-pound dumbbells here. Do you think you could do 8 sets of 8 repetitions with 25-pound dumbbells?” said Ron. Marcel laughed. He thought it was funny. But Ron told him he was going to curl Vince’s way, not his way.
“Put your heels together and your toes apart. Bend your knees and hunch forward and put your chin to your chest. Grab the dumbbell with a palm grip and straighten your arm out. Start with a dumbbell on your fingertips. As you curl both weights you lock your elbows into your side.
Hunch over so the weight at the bottom will have the same resistance when you contract at the top. You’re not leaning back and cheating the weight from a half movement to a full movement.
Close your eyes and feel the weight. Feel the positives.
Touch your deltoids and squeeze them as hard as you can for 6 seconds, then feel the weight on the way down. Do a full set. Don’t drop the weight. Let it go down on your fingertips.
Put the weight on the floor and hyperventilate for 15 seconds. Grab the weight again and do another set.”
It was a joke. On the second set, the sixth rep, Marcel couldn’t even lift the weight.
That’s the power of working out individual muscles vs group muscles.