There aren’t many characters in bodybuilding and sports in general that can match Vince Gironda. He was a grumpy, old school bodybuilding coach who took crap from no one and would call you out on your bullshit if you happened to train in his highly esteemed Vince’s Gym.
He also developed many top notch exercises and training plans that are still used today. Some of the quirks of his attitude towards bodybuilding involved not allowing music in his gym, being firmly against squats, and advocating a really high protein diet. First of all, he despised commercial music in the gyms because he thought it intrudes in one’s ability to focus on the mind-muscle connection. He banned regular squatting because it “created a huge ass” which he thought makes the bodybuilder look like a gorilla. Instead, he developed the “sissy squat” and preferred front squats which put more emphasis on the quads and hamstrings.
These three things really tie up in his bodybuilding philosophy as a whole, which could be summarized as “bodybuilding is an aesthetic pursuit, based on creating a visual effect, nothing more and nothing less”. Vince’s main goal was always to help others build the perfect bodybuilding physique by focusing on the muscle groups that should stand out (wide lats and shoulders, tight midsection and shredded but not huge legs). Due to his diligent and enthusiastic approach, he trained many professional bodybuilders at the time, including Arnold Schwarzenegger for a few years.
Probably the greatest training plan Vince has devised is a muscle building plan called 8×8. The 8×8 is all about short training sessions, focusing on the mind muscle connection and low-to-moderate weight. You might think that you can’t build muscle by training with relatively low weight, since the simplest way to build muscle is to actually train heavy and build strength. However, the important thing is always progressive overload.
The difference between a standard muscle mass building plan and this one is that 8×8 is all about the “rest between sets”. You might not worry too much about your time between sets, as you walk around the gym, sip on water, and look at gym bunnies on the treadmill. But when you do 8×8, you need to focus on not exceeding your pauses, so having a stop watch is essential. The max rest you can do is 30 sec, and as you progress, you should lower it to 15 sec. So what makes the 8×8 really difficult is:
- Short rest between sets
- High volume
When it comes to volume, the name of the plan speaks for itself. You do 8 sets with 8 reps of an exercise, with 30-15 sec rest in between each set. This is why you don’t have to do a lot of exercises, and preferably you would do just one or two exercises. If you focus really well on muscle contractions, you will get an amazing pump and hypertrophy going on. Vince advised training 4-5 times per week, doing 16 sets for each muscle group to get the best results.
How Heavy Should You Lift?
The general rule that works well for most people is lifting 40% of your 8 rep max. So if you could do 8 reps on the bench press with 200 pounds, you’d do 8×8 with 40% of that max. Trust me, that’s more than enough to get you struggling on those last 2-3 sets.
Here is a standard training plan you can use to try out 8×8:
DAY 1 – Chest, Triceps, Abs
DB Bench Press – 8×8
Neck Press – 8×8
Tricep Pulldowns – 8×8
Frog Sit Ups – 5×15
DAY 2 – Leg Day
Sissy Squats – 8×8
Leg Press – 8×8
Leg Curls – 8×8
Calf Raises – 8×8
DAY 3 – Back, Biceps, Abs
Pull Ups – 8×8
Gironda Lat Pulls – 8×8
Drag Curl – 8×8
VG Perfect Barbell Curl – 8×8
Plank – 3 x 45-60 sec
Day 4 – Shoulders & Weaker Muscle Groups
Military Press – 8×8
Lateral Raises – 8×8
After you’ve performed these shoulder workouts, do some exercises for the body parts you wish to improve further
NOTE: Take rest between these training days according to your schedule and your energy levels
Vince Gironda Exercises
As you can see, there are a few “strange” exercises listed in this sample training workout. The reason is because they were created by Vince himself, and they work great when you’re training with high volume. Here’s a list of them with great explanation on how to perform them correctly:
Once you master them, you’ll be highly impressed with the way these exercises target the muscle.
Exercises To Avoid
If you’re doing 8×8, there are some things to take into consideration as you pick your exercises. Since you’re doing high volume work, it’s best to avoid certain exercises, or at least don’t use them as 8×8, but rather add them as 3×10 or in a similar set/rep fashion. Those exercises are: barbell rows, deadlifts and hyperextensions.
All of these exercises put too much pressure on the lower back, and could cause you to pull a muscle if you do them as 8×8. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
How To Progress On 8×8
After a few training sessions, you’re bound to see some difference in the way your muscles look and feel. The reason is quite simple – you’ll get amazing pumps which stay with you for a while, and as you perform with such high volume and with short breaks, your muscles will be covered with veins and have a grainy look to them, especially if you’re lean.
But let’s put that visual effect aside. How do you actually progress? As I’ve mentioned, lowering your rest between sets is one way. If you started the program by doing 30 sec rest, lower it by 5 seconds on a monthly or weekly basis until you reach 15 sec and can perform with the same amount of weight. The other method is to increase the weight you’re lifting.
This can however be tricky, as the focus is really on feeling the muscle contract and doing exercises in a slow, bodybuilding fashion. But if you’re training with perfect form and feel you can still add more weight, that’s the second option, especially if you’re already doing 15 sec rests.
How Long Should You Do 8×8?
I’m a fan of 8×8 because it’s a different approach from most training programs out there. For this reason its can really provide a shock to your muscular system and provide great hypertrophy through that effect alone.
But the problem is that it can get boring and repetitive doing so many sets for a single exercise. After a while, you’ll probably want to return to a standard strength building routine. Which is great! Why not mix two completely different styles of training and benefit from both, instead of pursuing just one of them indefinitely?
From my own experience, I can say that 3 months on 8×8 is enough to get great results and wish to hop unto something different.
There is a lot of knowledge to be gained from Vince Gironda. The 8×8 epitomizes his bodybuilding philosophy which is – purely aesthetic. I hope this article has interested you in the Iron Guru, and you’ll try out 8×8 for yourself in the future.