The History of Vince's Gym & The Stars He Trained

Vince Gironda Says "Shut Up!"

Vince Gironda Says Shut Up!

In Vince's Gym talking was for bridge clubs.

Vince revoked memberships for lesser offenses.

Concentration was key.

No headphones, no music, think about what you’re doing.

Vince Gironda Increasing Kundalini

Decades before Madonna was doing yoga, Vince Gironda knew about increasing kundalini, the yogic energy.

I never heard him call it that to anyone else but he taught particular back muscle routines he told me stimulated kundalini.

Vince "The Iron Guru" Gironda Was A Legend

I first met Vince Gironda in 1985. The fitness craze was picking up in Los Angeles and I had spent some mostly sedentary years in the recording studio. It was time to join a gym. I picked up the San Fernando Valley Yellow Pages.

1985 was before Nautilus Plus and 24-Hour Fitness. Fancy gyms popped up, captured large sign-up fees, then failed, leaving members in the lurch and no recourse for refund. I was determined to find a gym that had some staying power.

Vince’s Gym was nearby in Studio City and offered a $60 for two months beginner’s rate. When I walked in the door, it was like walking onto a movie set of a 1940s training gym.

"No pool. No chrome. No music. Just iron."

That was the handwritten sign on the wall, later to adorn plain gray T-shirts. The slogan was absolutely true of the gym Vince opened in 1948 and was true until his passing in 1997.

The walls were stacked with racks of barbells and dumbbells. Handmade heavy wooden benches with thick leather padding were arranged for various functions around the room, which was only about the size of a large four-car garage. There were no fancy machines but an array of about six custom-made pulley devices personally designed by Vince for things like leg curls and extensions. They looked like something out of a medieval torture chamber.

There was no air conditioning, only a skylight with a circulating fan attached. On hot days, Vince allowed the front door to be cracked a little so air from the baking asphalt of Ventura Boulevard could draw through the gym.

Vince was a cranky curmudgeon, willful and controversial; always his own man.

A Sicilian gypsy, he told me, he had a touch of the mystical and whimsical. People often regarded Vince as gruff, brusque or even rude. But Vince was that way with people he liked as well as those he detested.

If Vince liked you, you knew it intrinsically, no matter how demeaning or derisive he might act toward you. I don’t know if he ever knew my real name because all he ever called me was "Fuzzy". I always assumed it was a hair thing.

Vince was 67 when I met him, still opening the gym every morning at six and pumping iron when the mood struck. In his earlier days, he was one of the premier bodybuilders of all time. Ironically, Vince was ahead of his time and garnered few awards until his senior years. His body style was the kind of ripped, sculpted, chiseled look that we see in bodybuilding now. But in his era, the prevailing style was the almost puffy, circus strongman look.

Vince’s methods and opinions were always considered controversial but his results cannot be questioned. His list of clients was a "Who’s Who" of Hollywood and the bodybuilding world.

Vince’s students included the old, old-school Steve Reeves, Victor Mature and other screen musclemen as well as old-schoolers Larry Scott (the first-ever Mr. Olympia) and Mohammed Makkawy, and the late Kay Baxter.

Movie matinee idols like Clint Eastwood, Clint Walker, Doug McClure, Brian Keith and others flocked to train with Vince. Cher, Denzel Washington, Kurt Russell, Carl Weathers, Lou "The Incredible Hulk" Ferrigno and Burt Reynolds were among those who made the pilgrimage.

And the first place a young bodybuilder named Schwarzenegger went upon arriving in the United States was the leather-bound gym at the foot of the North Hollywood hills. During the five years I knew Vince, I saw everyone from David Lee Roth to Dudley Moore come in the door.

Only recently have some of his writings and methods begun to swarm the internet.

Vince Gironda - The Talking Dictionary On Bodybuilding

I met Vince in 1975 at Vince’s Gym. The very first thing Vince did was cuss me out, read me the riot act.

Once he calmed down we had a very nice conversation in the five or ten minutes he gave me.

Vince was like talking to a dictionary on bodybuilding, albeit an angry one.

One month later I met super nice guy Timmy Leong at Timmy’s Gym in Honolulu. Timmy said Vince was never the same after his best friend, strongman Bert Elliot, died.

Vinces Gym The Greatest Gym In The World by Larry Scott

What made this gym great was Vince Gironda the owner. Larry stated that no man was respected as much as Vince Gironda for his mind and knowledge of bodybuilding.

Vince’s Gym was located in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California. Simplicity was the key to this gym and no fancy equipment was to be found. Even the roof leaked. Now let’s see what made Vince’s Gym so special according to Larry Scott.

1960 Mr. America Ray Routledge would do heavy full squats on a special machine that would build the lower thighs while keeping the butt small.

Hollywood strongman / actor William Smith would do rep after rep of one-arm tricep extensions on an overhead arrangement designed and built by Vince. William Smith had phenomenal tricep development as witnessed in his films and TV appearances.

Actor Clint Walker was also in the gym working out, doing curls on the preacher bench.

Mr. California, Bill McArdle could be seen doing long lat pulls with Mr. America, Don Howorth.

Height class Mr. Universe winner Gable Boudreau could be spotted doing tricep pressdowns with a special V-bar that Vince designed.

John Tristam had great legs and could be seen doing barefoot calf raises on a rubber pad provided by Vince.

Larry said Gold’s and Bill Pearl’s Gym were great but he preferred Vince’s since this is where he became a champion.

What made Vince’s so good was Vince and the champions that trained there, bodybuilders and actors alike.

Vince stressed training without injury. Good muscle building burn type pain was alright but a torn ligament or other similar injury would put you out of action.

Larry said Vince was a training wizard and every piece of equipment was designed to allow maximum exercise without pain. Poorly designed exercise equipment was a major cause of bad pain and injury.

Vince had a specially designed preacher bench to avoid pain and injury. Many preacher benches were poorly designed and caused injury.

Vince had a special EZ Curl bar which took the pressure off the wrist and put it on the biceps or triceps.

Vince also had a perfeclty designed long pull triceps setup with a special v-handle.

The main thing was that if you trained under Vince’s care you were going to do the movements correctly.

In The Store

Vince Gironda Seminar
Vince Gironda Seminar
The Master Series Of Nutritional Cosmetic Bodybuilding
The Master Series Of Nutritional Cosmetic Bodybuilding
Steve Davis Foundations of Training
Steve Davis Foundations of Training
Steve Davis Bodybuilding For Women
Steve Davis Bodybuilding For Women
A Muscle Has Four Sides
A Muscle Has Four Sides
10-8-6-15
10-8-6-15

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