Nobody has contributed more to the sport of bodybuilding than Vince Gironda.
His relentless work ethic, vast knowledge of the human body, and a die-hard passion for the sport of bodybuilding put him at the forefront of the Golden Era, training more Mr. Olympia’s and Mr. America’s than anyone else in history.
A genius rebel who innovated new training techniques and promoted a low-carb diet decades before Keto became popular, Vince also made enemies, and often clashed with other “gurus” who considered his methods a little too unorthodox for his time.
In this article, we take a closer look at Vince Gironda, exploring his motivations, his methods, and his wisdom to better understand why he earned the nickname, the Iron Guru.
The Kid from the Bronx
Gironda was born in 1917 on the 9th of November in Bronx, New York. When he was seven years old, Vince moved to California with his family, where his father worked as a stuntman.
Vince grew up in a healthy environment, enjoying gymnastics, horse riding, and performing all kinds of vigorous sports. He was inspired to lift weights at twenty-two after seeing a picture of John Grimek — an American bodybuilder of the 30s and 40s with nicknames like “The Monarch of Muscledom” and “The Glow.”
This led Vince to train at the Hollywood YMCA, and then later became an instructor at the Easton Brothers Fitness Center. It was during this time that Vince fell in love with bodybuilding, and most importantly, learning the science behind building the perfect physique. After nine years of training, Vince moved to North Hollywood in 1948 to open his now famous Vince’s Gym.
Vince standing in front of his North Hollywood Gym
During this time, there were only two hardcore bodybuilding gyms in America; Sig Klein’s in New York and Jack LaLanne’s in San Francisco.
It wasn’t long before Vince became the world’s foremost authorities on physical culture — supervising the training and dietary programs of such great champions as Larry Scott, Don Howorth, Bert Elliot, Reg Lewis, Ray Routledge, John Tristam, Dominic Juliano, Gable Boudreaux, Gene Beloff, Hossien Shokuh, Humberto Garcia, Mohamed Makkawy, and many others.
When movie executives caught wind of Vince’s methods for churning out world-class champion bodybuilders, they started sending their movie stars to train with him, in hopes that Vince could transform their leading actors into ripped and toned action stars.
Vince trained movie stars Clint Eastwood, James Gainer, Dale Robertson, Clint Walker, Jim Drury, Clu Gulagher, James Darren, George Hamilton, Mike Henry, Sean Flynn, David Carradine, Larry Parks, John Saxon, Bill Smith, and countless others.
Larry Scott – the first Mr. Olympia… trained directly with Vince.
Lou Ferrigno – the original Incredible Hulk, former Mr. America, and winner of back-to-back Mr. Universe titles training at Vince’s Gym.
Arnold Schwarzeneggar – who won the Mr. Universe title at age 20… and went on to win the Mr. Olympia contest SEVEN times — posing at Vince’s Gym.
Vince’s reputation spread among the bodybuilding community and fitness world, and he was nicknamed “The Iron Guru” by a magazine and photo editor Denie Walter.
Vince’s Secret Formula: Bodybuilding is 80% Nutrition
Vince attributed his amazing development to hard training and proper nutrition—especially nutrition. In fact, he said many times that bodybuilding is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise.
One of the first bodybuilders to realize the importance of proper diet and food supplements, Vince experimented with nearly every form of diet and supplement in existence. His knowledge was so great, he was often consulted by doctors for special dietary procedures.
Vince was the father of low-carb dieting, saying that a diet rich in proteins and fats are the best way to reproduce natural testosterone and steroid-like effects without using drugs.
He’s also been known to consume three dozen fertile hen-eggs a day, including raw unpasteurized cream. The large amounts of fertile eggs, he claimed, was measured to the anabolic effect that the drug Dianabol would give.
Vince’s Unorthodox & Highly-Effective Training Methods
Vince believed in building muscle where it counts rather than just by following the basics to gain bulk. Incredibly, Vince redesigned many physiques and even gave experienced bodybuilders a whole new suit of muscles.
Bodybuilders, gym owners, and some well-known trainers have frequently scoffed at—or simply ignored—Vince Gironda’s bodybuilding methods. However, for the most part, his harshest critics have neither taken the time to understand his philosophies nor give them an honest evaluation.
Vince’s unorthodox training philosophies included:
- He was also the first person to comment that sit ups did not contribute towards the development of abdominals.
- His gym didn’t own a squat rack because Vince said it would cause the muscles in the glutes and thighs to overdevelop in relation to the rest of the body. His prescription for leg training would consist of leg extensions, leg curls, sissy squats and hack squats.
- He claimed the regular bench press activated too much shoulder strength from the front deltoids. To replace this, Vince came up with an exercise called the “neck press” which meant having a much wider grip and lowering the bar down towards the neck instead of the chest. This movement activated more of the chest muscles rather than the shoulders.
Over the years, Gironda came up with numerous training techniques that showed proven results in many of his clients. Although he was a controversial character with new ideas, his methods seemed to work — training more bodybuilding champions than anyone in history.
Vince’s Personal Competitive History & Career
Vince had a successful bout of competitions throughout 1949 all the way to 1962.
He placed in the top-three in many of his competitions such as the 1952 AAU Mr. America where he placed 2nd, and his final showing in 1962 Mr. Universe where he also placed 2nd.
Vince Gironda wasn’t only a teacher, he was also a world-class competitor.
Fitness Writer And Entrepreneur
Apart from being a personal trainer, gym owner and renowned guru of fitness, Vince also wrote for fitness magazines and supplement companies. He also created his own mail-order company which included his own training and nutrition manuals.
Gironda also published a book with the collaboration of another big name in the fitness and magazine world. The book was titled “Unleashing The Wild Physique“. It consisted of Gironda’s wealth of knowledge over his many years of training and coaching others. He then went on to give talks and seminars around the country which quickly sold out.
The End of an Era
With the growing popularity of larger gyms that were opening up in the area in the 1990s, Vince’s gym was eventually forced to close down. The modern equipment and larger facilities meant he couldn’t keep up with the growing demand of state-of-the-art equipment and larger gym floors the other gyms offered.
Gironda also struggled to keep up with the business when his son Guy became unwell. Looking after Guy took all of Gironda’s energy and led to the closure of his beloved gym. The gym closed in November 1995.
Vince Gironda died on October 18, 1997.
Vince Gironda’s Legacy Lives On
We are hardcore students of Vince Gironda.
Through this site, we intend to pass down everything Vince learned about fitness and nutrition… so we can continue to strive towards our biggest dreams of strength and vitality.
Nutrition and exercise aren’t the only things we can learn from Gironda. Following his hard working attitude and strict approach to training, and in life, can make dreams into a reality.
No matter how different or controversial people thought he was, he’s shown everyone dreams are obtainable and a better life can be created with the right amount of hard work and patience.
The Iron Guru Timeline
1917 – Nov. 9 born in the Bronx, New York
1935 – While in high school Vince set many new records; Shot Put 47 feet 1 inch, Pole Vault 12 feet. Also competed in football and track, ran the high hurdles, relay, cross country.
Vince at 18 years old
1938 – Began weight training at the Hollywood YMCA.
1941 – Entered the first physique contest in the state held in the State of California placing 6th.
1942 – Began working in motion pictures.
1946 – Apr. 1 opening of his first gym.
1949 – Placed fourth in the pro. Mr. California contest, also expanded his gym operation into two locations.
IronMan 1951 July
Muscle Power 1951 May
1952 – Placed second in the professional Mr. America event.
Reg Park Journal 1954 May
Reg park Journal 1955 July
Reg Park Journal 1957 December
1958 – Placed third in the professional Mr. U.S.A.
1960 – Placed second in the sport of his avocation caber tossing at the Scottish Highland Games.
1962 – Placed second in the NABBA Mr. Universe.
1963 – Retired from active physique competition.
1966 – Made a guest appearance at the IFBB Mr. Western
America contest. At top shape he was considered, at fifty years of age to be the most outstanding guest poser.
Vince at 50 years old (right)
1960’s – 1990’s – Vince continued to train and exert a potent force on young champions from around the world, and amazed many doctors with his record healing time of a broken leg, due to his superior health and knowledge of nutrition.
1997 – 20 Oct. Died.