Old School Bodybuilding Wisdom From The Iron Guru

vince gironda alone

June 19 - 2017

When it comes to building quality muscle, training more often and harder is not always better. In fact, many times it is actually bad, as it seems we have lost the basic principles of building muscle. But why is it that we have lost our way? In large part, it’s because of the overexposure of training techniques; some that show promise, but many of which are mainly hypothetical in nature.

This is when it becomes necessary to revisit the past. To go back to a period of time known as the “Golden Age” of bodybuilding, when physiques were reflections of mastery and dedication, and not merely the chasing of mass.

Though his name is relatively unknown within today’s community of younger bodybuilders, during the 50’s and 60’s his name was of legendary status. We present to you, Vince Gironda.

Who Was This Vince Gironda?

Vince Gironda was the man who helped mold a generation of bodybuilding legends, including the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. Yes, Arnold in the flesh. Vince was Arnold’s first trainer upon coming to the US, adding serious merit to his training methodology and techniques, even though they were considered highly unorthodox at the time. Maybe this is why he was affectionately known as the “Iron Guru”.

Though many of his proven techniques have been buried by bro-science in recent decades, here are a few of his more unorthodox beliefs:

  • No Incline Presses: incline bench presses can be an extremely useful tool, when performed CORRECTLY. This is what Gironda emphasized, and is not what many consider correct technique today. The way he did it, he emphasize lowering the weight to the level of the neck, and pressing upward and backwards, effectively reaching over the head, as opposed to up and down at the region of the chest. This is because the shoulders take the blunt of the work when done at chest level, ironically taking away stimulus from the chest itself.
  • He Did Not Like Back Squats: boiling down once again to anatomy. Gironda advocated for front and hack squats as opposed to the classic back squat, as he argued back squats heavily overdevelops the glutes and hamstrings, and not the quadriceps as many would like to believe.
  • He Believed That Diet Was The Golden Ticket: everyone believes that weight lifting is the majority of work needed to fuel the muscle building process, but in reality that isn’t true. Without sound diet in place, hard sessions in the gym will not amount to much, except for probably weight loss (that is if undereating). Gironda opted that bodybuilding success came down to 85% nutrition and just 15% is actual training, which is very true as growth happens outside the gym, and not while working out.

These claims are not outlandish at all, but actually make a lot of sense. Here are a few other valuable tips Gironda left behind that can still be useful today:

Consuming Liver Tablets

The nutritional density of liver is astounding, being arguably the highest source of many vital minerals and vitamins, compared on a gram per gram basis among foods in the world. But the taste of liver does not appeal to everyone, and that is likely the reason its consumption is not very common today.

This is where liver tablets come in, as consuming them between meals helps promote anabolism and keep the body in a positive nitrogen balance. Liver also contains the rare cytochrome P-450 enzymes, which assist with detoxification and promote hormone synthesis. Liver tablets are extremely cheap, and an easy way to get in a bit more protein per day when used between meals.

The Hormone Precursor Diet

Gironda strongly despised steroids and was always looking for ways to maximize natural hormonal production. This search led to the development of his popular hormone precursor diet, which was exceptional at boosting testosterone levels and supplying a ton of healthy calories for building a powerful muscular physique.

He strongly believed that a diet consisting of primarily protein and fat was superior for building a lean, muscular physique, even a long time before it was known and confirmed via research that low fat diets are not favorable for testosterone synthesis, and your subsequent ability to build muscle.

As part of the hormone precursor diet, the hormone precursor shake was invented. It presented an easy way to consume the large amounts of calories necessary for muscle growth that was convenient at times when solid food wasn’t practical. Normally, the shake was consumed between 1-3 times daily, depending on caloric needs at the time.

This is the original shake recipe:

  • 12 Raw Fertile Eggs (As Vince believed that raw eggs are more anabolic).
  • 1/3 cup high-quality egg and milk protein powder.
  • 12 oz. Half and half milk (50-50 mixture of light and heavy cream).
  • 1 banana for taste (optional).

Many times this shake was used as breakfast, though other solid meals followed a “formula”, looking something like this:

For Lunch

  • One pound meat - hamburger or other minced beef.
  • Uncooked veggies or salad greens.


  • 1-2 pounds roasted meat, such as steak.
  • Steamed or raw veggies, or cottage cheese.

The hormone precursor diet made use of lots of eggs, which many may associate with poor heart health; but this notion is unfounded. Studies have confirmed that eggs do not negatively affect triglyceride levels (triglycerides being a good indicator of heart health), but that sugars and carbohydrates are responsible for influencing this blood lipid value.

Rather, eggs are rich sources of good saturated fats and cholesterol, essential for optimizing synthesis of the muscle building male hormone testosterone. This is in addition to omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a linoleic acid derivative that has great promise in increasing testosterone levels and burning fat. Use of a high quality CLA supplement in combination with raw eggs is highly advised when trying to bring about a radical change in body composition.

The steak and eggs diet was also extremely popular, and you guessed it- consisted primarily of a large quantity of steak and eggs. This diet was ideal for quickly shedding body fat, as low carb diets are still extremely effective for fat loss to this day (another stroke of genius from the Iron Guru).

Enter Science: The Protein Factor

We all know protein is essential to the muscle building process, but often we go overboard. Way overboard. As it turns out, there’s only so much our bodies can make use of at a time, and much of it gets wasted, flushed down the toilet.

Though many studies have been conducted outlining why we might not need as much protein as we think (unless the majority of your calories comes from protein in your diet, hence you need it for energy), the one that stands out most has to do with protein consumption around workouts. Here’s what they found:

Post-Workout Protein Consumption Does Nothing

Yes ladies and gents, you read that correctly. Your protein post-workout shake is doing nothing really, except making companies richer. We are not saying that protein isn’t important, it just isn’t imperative and absolutely necessary you force yourself to down a shake exactly after you finish your workout. You can very well wait until you get home and have a meal.

A study done compared the effects of consuming a protein shake against consuming water only post-workout, and guess which did better? None of them. It was a dead draw. There were no difference in markers of protein synthesis, so do not get paranoid and “must” drink a shake after your workout. However, still be sure to get some form of protein in a timely manner and make sure you meet your daily macros.

Making Your Plan Work for You

Different bodies respond differently to stimuli. You have probably already noticed the guy in the gym who trains hard, but never gains an ounce of muscle, or the guy who trains halfheartedly but is muscular beyond your wildest dreams. Such are the inequalities of bodybuilding, which you must do your best to overcome. Humans generally fall into one of three primary somatotypes, though blends of two types are extremely common. Here are the primary types:


Hard gainers, with high metabolic rates that have a difficult time gaining weight. The best way to promote muscle synthesis in the ectomorph is to focus on heavy lifts that hit a wide range of muscle groups, and massively increase caloric intake. The hormone precursor shake is ideal for this (feel free to include the banana). The shake will likely not be extremely filling, allowing the ectomorph to still eat solid meals and reach a higher daily caloric intake.


Endomorphs have lower metabolic rates and gain muscle fairly easily, but also gain fat very easily. As such, the endomorph needs to work out more frequent than other groups, with greater rep ranges and including cardiovascular activity as deemed necessary according to body fat levels. The steak and eggs diet works wonders for the endomorph, as does the hormone precursor diet and the shake, with the exclusion of additional carb sources such as the banana.


Mesomorphs gain muscle easily, have structures conducive to bodybuilding, and also do not retain excessive body fat. The hormone precursor shake is ideal for the mesomorph, as are many other diet styles, as their insulin sensitivity is optimal and they build muscle well consuming a wide range of different foods. Mesomorphs should train using moderate rep range, and heavy weight.

Wrapping Up

Blending old school techniques with modern day scientific research could be the best advancement in the sport of bodybuilding yet. When all else fails, going back to the basics is all you need to make real progress in attaining your dream physique.

All the best.

Alex Ericksson (Contributing Author for Building Muscle 101)

About Alex:

"Alex Eriksson is the founder of Anabolic Health, a men's health blog dedicated to providing honest and research backed advice for optimal male hormonal health. Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals. Check out his guide on The Ultimate Guide to Manly Cooking or follow him on Twitter or Facebook."


Decrease of serum total and free testosterone during a low-fat high-fibre diet.[Journal of Steroid Biochemistry.1983] PubMed-NCBI. Retrieved fromhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6298507

Egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies[BMJ.2013] Retrieved fromhttp://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.e8539

Effect of conjugated linoleic acid on testosterone levels in vitro and in vivo after an acute bout of resistance exercise.[Journal of strength and conditioning research.2012] PubMed-NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22614148

Protein supplementation does not alter intramuscular anabolic signaling or endocrine response after resistance exercise in trained men.[Nutrition Research.2015] PubMed-NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26428621