Review of Vince Gironda: Legend and Myth By Mike Westerdal of CriticalBench.com
Vince Gironda is truly a legend, even among the greatest of the great bodybuilders. He turned the bodybuilding world on its ear back in the day and even now, still manages to do the same thing. His ideas about the best strategies to approach bodybuilding sparked a lot of controversy and frankly, pissed off a lot of the so-called 'experts.' Vince was such a polarizing figure that today, after all these years, people either love his ideas or dismiss them as total quackery. Enough people did believe in Vince for him to earn the nickname "the Iron Guru" and to develop a reputation as the 'trainer of the stars.'
The book Vince Gironda: Legend and Myth--written by Alan Palmieri--takes a behind-the-scenes look at Vince's life and his controversy-generating philosophies about bodybuilding. Alan had the rare opportunity to get to know Vince through regular phone conversations and by exchanging letters. With this book, Alan shares those conversations with the world and by doing so he provides the rest of us with the opportunity to gain insight into Vince--the man, the legend and his ideas. Let's take a look.
First, be warned that this book doesn't 'flow' like you might expect your typical training book to flow. The various chapters of the book seem to appear in no particular order. For example, there are several chapters in various parts of the book that deal with the topic of protein—they're not in order. Don't be put off by this though because it doesn't take away from the book at all. Alan acknowledges his seemingly disorganized approach to laying out the book by explaining that he presents the topics in the order that the conversations and interviews took place. Understanding this, his approach makes sense and ultimately makes for a darn good read.
In reading the first part of the book one of the things that struck me is Vince's 'take no crap from anyone' style. When he told a guy to do something, he expected him to do it without question. One "But Vince" was all it took to get thrown out of his gym. Vince firmly believed in his training philosophies and nobody was going to tell him any different. And although most people would find that offensive or intolerable, I happen to find that one of the qualities that made Vince the legendary muscle builder he was.
Vince knew in his heart and soul what really worked to build bigger, more powerful muscles and he wasn't going to 'water it down' or compromise his approach for anyone. If a guy didn't feel that he could follow Vince's directions to the letter, then he was quickly shown the door to the gym and probably given a good swift kick in the ass for good measure. As another example, Vince was one of the very first experts to understand that doing endless sit-ups and leg raises does nothing to eliminate fat around the middle. Everyone who trained in his gym knew how he felt about that and if he caught a guy doing them, Vince would throw him out of the gym.
After reading this book I think maybe that generating controversy was at least in part, Vince's intent all along. He was an in-your-face kind of guy who seemed to thrive on stirring the pot and challenging the status quo.
Vince generated controversy not only with his training ideas but with his nutrition concepts too. For instance, when nearly every other bodybuilding expert was touting egg whites and lean chicken breast without the skin, the guys training with Vince were feasting on whole eggs and steak and getting a LOT bigger than the other guys.
Vince referred to his nutrition approach as the 'Stone Age Diet' because it was based on whole, unprocessed foods like what our ancestors ate for tens of thousands of years. Vince didn't subscribe to any of the 'sissy boy' ideas about eating fat-free and reduced-calorie foods--his guys ate like MEN and they developed bigger, more powerful, muscular physiques than everyone else too.
He was also a big advocate of liver tablets, glandulars and amino acids to keep the endocrine system strong and immune levels high. He told his guys to eat a high-protein meal after training because the muscles need the amino acids to grow and, most important, to recuperate.
Years later, university studies have proven that Vince was right all along. Once done with strenuous, physical exercise, eating a high protein meal helps the branched-chain amino acids to quickly repair, nourish and return the muscle cell to its former strength and more, making them bigger and stronger in the process.
By now you can probably tell that I'm a huge fan of Vince Gironda and that I highly recommend this book. It's an amazingly interesting read that is not only insightful and educational but it just might change your ideas about what you thought you knew about building muscle.