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

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.

We Want Scott - Larry Scott West Coast Bodybuilding Scene

“Scott! We want Scott!” was the yell that rose from the throats of thousands of bodybuilding fans at the latest Mr. Olympia contest. The only trouble was, there was no Scott to be had. At the previous Mr. Olympia Larry told those who had just seen him win his second consecutive Olympia crown that he was retiring. Funny thing about people, they don’t believe what they don’t want to believe. They wanted to see Larry go on forever, so as far as they were concerned Scott would compete again.

“Scott, Scott, we want Scott!” went the chanting. Finally Bud Parker stepped to the microphone to tell them what they already knew—Larry Scott had retired.

Luckily the splendor of the physiques present soon made everyone’s attention center on the contests at hand.

Sure Scott wasn’t there, but where was he? What was he doing? Those and many more questions were on the mind of Joe Weider as he came up to me backstage.

“What’s Larry doing now?” asked Joe.

“Well, I talked to him on the phone last week and he said he’d cut down on his training and had dropped down to about 170 pounds.”

Joe’s mouth dropped open.

“I know,” I said. “It doesn’t sound possible, but several people have told me it’s so.”

“Good grief, what does he look like?”

After winning the first Mr. Olympia title at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Larry warmed up the already blazing crowd with his bright and infectious demeanor and intelligent words of gratitude over the emcee’s mic.

“I dunno,” I shrugged. “The last time I saw him in person was at a posing exhibition he gave around six
months ago.”

“What did he look like?” asked Joe.

“Better than I’ve ever seen him. He had cuts, size and shape. It’s hard to believe that he’s lost all the weight.”

Joe thought for a minute.

“I want you to see Larry when you get back to Muscle Beach.”

“Sure,” I replied. “That’s easy enough, then what?”

“I want you to do a human interest story on what he’s doing now.”

“But if he isn’t training hard or competing, do you think the readers will be interested?”

Joe smiled, “Dick, the only reason I’m in business is to give our readers what they want and you heard them out there, they want Scott. So, okay, let’s give them Larry Scott as he is today.”

As soon as I got back to California I called Larry at work and lined up a day when Art Zeller and I could
visit him at home. It was an overcast Sunday morning when Art and his cameras pulled into my driveway.

“Well, here we go,” he said cheerfully.

I got in his car and we were on our way. Art smiled as he looked at me out of the corner of his eye. “170 pounds. Who are you kidding?”

“Well, that’s just what I heard, but you can’t prove it by me.” In a few minutes we were in front of Scott’s home in Van Nuys.

Now we’d be able to see for ourselves what Larry Scott really looked like.

We went in the backyard and there was Larry, all 168 pounds of him, digging trenches for his sprinklers. His shirt was off, revealing the greatest set of 168 pounds I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe that’s all he weighs. I’ll bet he could enter a contest right now and win against the best. It just shows you that once you’ve built quality muscles with quality methods, they stay even if you try to beat them away.

When I first knew Larry he weighed just a little less than 168, but he didn’t look like that, even though he was quite muscular at the time. Now, at the same bodyweight he looked incredible, so bodyweight means less than you think. Quality is the thing to strive for.

The backyard looks like a small football field. In fact, it’s so large the previous owners fenced off a full half of it because it was too big to take care of properly.

“Where’s the team?” I asked.

“What team?”

“The one that plays football.”

Larry smiled, ”Yeah, I guess it is pretty large, but I like a lot of room to move around.”

Art looked up from the camera he was adjusting. “Why don’t you put in a pool?”

Suddenly, in the midst of our conversation, a giant bear (well, it looked like a bear) leapt at Larry. A struggle ensued as we stood transfixed by the sight. Over and over the struggling forms rolled. At last we could see that it wasn’t a bear but a dog as big as a bear.

“How do you like our pup?” said Larry at last.

Art turned white. “You mean it gets larger?”

I laughed bravely…from inside the house. The minute I saw the beast I hit the trail to safety.

“Larry,” I said, “is it true that you’ve given up all training?”

“Of course not, I’ll train as long as I live. It’s just that I’ve cut down a great deal on my workouts.”

“How often do you train now?”

Larry shrugged. “Whenever I feel like it.”

“Well, how often do you feel like it?”

“One, two, or three times a week.”

“Why did you decide to lose all that weight?” asked Art.

“The weight? Because I want to go into acting.”

“You mean you’ve given up bodybuilding?” I asked.

“For competition, yes. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say I’ll probably never even give an exhibition again. It takes too much time and energy to get in top shape.”

“You’ve won everything anyway,” I said.

“Yes. For a long time I was consumed with the desire to be the best bodybuilder in the world. More than anything I wanted to win. My first Mr. Olympia victory was quite a thrill. When I won the second—the night I announced my retirement—I was happy, but I felt a little hollow. The kicks were gone. The great challenge had been answered.”

“Now, you have another challenge?”

“Yes, acting.”

“Well, why not?” said Art. “After all, look at all the musclemen who have made it big in films.”

“I don’t want to do just a muscleman in films. I want to be an actor. I’ve found that it takes every bit as much concentration to master the emotional techniques of acting as it does the physical ones of bodybuilding.

Right now I’m ready to test the water.”

“And the loss of weight helps?”

“Yes. If muscle is too large it must be explained by the part you’re doing. This, of course, limits you in your choice of roles.”

“Then you don’t believe a good physique helps?”

“Sure it does, but it must be a bonus that can be used when needed. I’ve had a background in gymnastics and bodybuilding that will help me if I’m ever called upon to do my own stunts. I also practice on the trampoline I have in the backyard so that I can keep supple.”

The hours went by and before we knew it, it was time to go. Before we left I took one last look at Scott’s trophy room which was filled with plaques, trophies, scrolls and crowns, testimonies to his immortality in bodybuilding. I couldn’t help but wonder what an Oscar on the shelf would look like.

Life is Mr. Olympia, his dog and his bike in sunny California.

Mohamed Makkawy 1983 Pro World Championship

Mohamed Makkawy 1983 Pro World Championship

Greg Deferro was leading going into the night show, but Vince Gironda and Makkawy's manager changed the oil Makkawy used for the night show and with his brilliant posing, at the end of the show he had won!

Makkawy found it very difficult to pose smoothly on that carpet, since it was more difficult to "glide" across the floor.

Vince's Gym in 2014

David Gironda, Sr reports that ALL of Vince Gironda's equipment, intact and oiled, two dozen or more of his pictures, his belts, front awning and other original items from the gym have been preserved by a confidential friend of Vince.

There is a deal in the works to make them available to view, and perhaps set up as a replica gym for special training, sometime in the future. Stay tuned, but in the meantime, posted are some photos to enjoy.

David writes; "What's amazing is that as old as the pieces are, none of them are obsolete. They may not be as easy to set up and work as modern equipment, but their effects are the same as they were for the notable people that used them. To think the beautiful patina on them is the result of the handling by all those who used them, they are like relics of the stars."

Vince Gironda Gym in 2014

Vince Gironda Gym in 2014

Vince Gironda Gym in 2014

Vince Gironda Gym in 2014

Vince Gironda Gym in 2014

Vince Gironda Gym in 2014

Vince Gironda Gym in 2014

Vince Gironda - Call Him Iron Guru

Vince Gironda - Call Him Iron Guru

Vince Gironda: "You don't get to be a legend not looking in a mirror."

HOLLYWOOD - The Iron Guru eats steak and mustard greens for dinner every night. He has eaten steak and mustard greens for dinner every night for the last two years. They have done him no harm.

"This," he says, tapping his chest firmly, "is the body beatiful!"

Vince Gironda does not intend the matter as a subject for debate. It is intoned as a benediction. He glares out through the fierce eyes of a chicken hawk, turning slightly so one might see that, despite his advanced age, his is a the physique of a 20-year-old.

BODY BEAUTIFUL is what the feisty owner of Vince's Gym is all about, and he is its self-proclaimed perfect example.

"You don't get to be a legend," the Iron Guru likes to say, "not looking in a mirror" I got IQ, you know what I mean?"

Last month marked an anniversary of his durability. It was not only the 35th year of his gym, but also the commencement of what he likes to call his Third Comeback.

He numbers film and television stars by the dozen among his clientele, drying them out and-or tightening them up with a regimen or nutrition and exercise that can leave even a sober man gasping.

Gironda not only keeps up with them, he leads them, which is not bad for a man somewhere in his 60s. He will not say his exact age. "I did not go through the expense of dyeing my hair," he snaps, "to tell you how old I am."

He says it looking you right in the eye, not smiling (Vince does not smile often), playing the Iron Guru before shelves stacked with high-potency vitamins, fat emulsifiers, Norwegian kelp and Argentine liver pills, which is is pleased to sell at modest prices.

His 2,000-square-foot-gym is a dark and unimposing structure.

His body-building devices, most of which he designed, are made of wood and leather and dark metal. He has no need to emulate the gleaming spas and jazzy health palaces, Gironda says. "I myself am a flawless specimen of that I do."

He snaps into a muscular pose, arms out stretched, body taut. "Like a Greek god, eh?"

HIS THIRD COMEBACK should be proof enough of his supremecy, Vince declared.

In Comeback One (age 40), he emerged from a long period of public retirement to demonstrate his physique around the world.

In Comeback Two (aged 46), he scored seconf in the Mr. Universe contest over sontestants 25 years his junior.

Comeback Three will entail photographic posing. "Not that muscle-beach crap," he says. "Artistic stuff."

At 5 feet 6 inches, Gironda weighs 160 pounds and has a 49-inch chest and a 29-inch waist. He exercises furiously every day, eats only natural foods and hangs by his heels for 30 minutes at a crack.

"I'm an expert at building muscles for the masses," the Iron Guru proclaims. It's a cosmetic business." He wears a striped a collarless shirt, sweat pants, boots, a wide leather karate belt and beads made of seeds and wood chips.

"I'm not talking about turning people into steroid weathogs. I'm talking about beauty. More men want to look like Robert Redford than the Incredible Hulk."

"The big advantage of Vince's gym," says Robert (Baretta) Blake, "is Vince. There are gyms and weights and 10,000 instructors all over town, but nobody knows the human body like Vince."

Blake has been a member of the gym since 1966. He does not work out often. "It's mostly for the kids beginning new television series who go in fat and come out looking like Donald Duck. I drink beer and eat chili dogs. When I get too far out of whack, Vince puts me together again."

GIRONDA IS FROM a showbiz family. Bronx born, he has lived in Los Angeles since he was 8. He
likes to talk about the time he danced with Carmen Miranda in a long-forgotten movie or when he wore a turban and played bongo drums in "Night and Day."

He opened the gym in 1946 "because I was always phsical." His 500 clients include anyone who can afford to pay $300 a year, plus more for special sessions.

Erik Estrada works out there. And so, at one time or another, have Clint Eastwood, James Garner, George Hamilton and Cheech and Chong.

He treats everyone equally, the Iron Guru says. They are the same with their clothes off.

Body beauty is only 10 percent exercises, the Iron Guru declares. He is a nut on good nutrition. "God," moans, "the crap we eat! We are digging our graves with knives and forks. You don't get to look like me eating hamburgers at McDonald's."

Fish will not do it, Vince says, because the waters are polluted. Chickens are pumped full of drugs to make them look good.

Red meat is where it's at. That's why he eats steak - and mustard greens. Compatible foods. Never mix protein and carbohydrates. Detox with green beans. No doughnuts, french fries, kosher burritos or banana daiquris.

"Actually," he adds whimsically, "the ultimate nutrition is cannibalism." Vince does not explain. He is not asked to.

"I'm a Stone Age nutritionist,' the Iron Guru adds. "I eat simply. Nature is balanced. You don't find
mega-anything in nature."

Television's Dan Haggerty (Grizzly Adams) is working out. He hears Gironda and looks up. "He put
me on my first sensible diet," Haggerty shouts. "Pizza and Diet Pepsi." He laughs uproariously.

"Actors," the Iron Guru says in mock disgust. "What a sorry lot." He points to a young man on an incline bench. "Except for him. He's a nice Jewish boy."

"Hi," the man says, "I'm a nice Jewish boy."

"I'm a nude model, " another deadpans, "and a male prostitute."

The Iron Guru almost smiles.

GIRONDA HAS SOBERED up and unflabbed a lot of actors. The 19-day drunks who have crawled to his doorstep. The blobs who have begged to be saved from King Fat.

"But mostly what I do is feed their egos," Vince says. "I spent so much time dping that with one actor he thought he was perfect. Never worked out again. Just stood in front of a mirror smiling and looking at himself."

For the last two years, the Iron Guru has allowed women to use the gym. He likes women (especially 30-year-olds) but he kept them out of the gym before because he did not like their dependent attitudes.

"But it's different now," he adds. "They've learned to be independent. I know more men that whimper with pain than I do women."

Gironda's wile of 20 years died in 1978 of a stroke. "I try not to be sad," he says softly. For a moment, the Guru is not made of iron. "I was in bad shape. I had to work hard. You have to fight that. You have to be strong."

He looks out over the gym. At the legend he has built. At vibes of body beautiful shimmering over the incline benches, reflecting off the body-length mirrors.

"You wanna know what I'm all about?" he asks suddenly. He strips to a pair of black bikini shorts and strikes a pose, muscles rippling in the dim light. "No wonder I'm a legend."

Someone whistles. The Iron Guru glares. The fierce-eyed chicken hawk is back." Go to hell!" he shouts.

Then the man who danced with Carmen Miranda stokes another pose. And winks. "It a a nice place,"
he says, No one argues.

You are here: History