Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Iron Guru Series: Gironda Shoulder Training Gems. By Vic Goyaram

The Iron Guru Series : Gironda Shoulder 
 Researched and composed by Vic Goyaram
The One and Only "Iron Guru"

Many young bodybuilders may not know the Late Vince Gironda. Gironda is known as the "Iron Guru" having produced countless bodybuilding champions like Larry Scott, Don Howorthas well as trained several Hollywood stars like Clint Eastwood. Gironda's contribution to bodybuilding has been tremendous and what appeals to me particularly is the way he raised many eyebrows by questioning "established" practices in bodybuilding at that time. 

Indeed, some of his beliefs were controversial, namely his strong stance against shoulder presses, bench presses and squats. His ideas about low-carb and high-fat dieting are increasingly gaining scientific backing decades after he proposed them. We will get the opportunity to explore some of his ideas and philosophy in future articles.  In this article we will look at some of the Gironda shoulder training techniques that I have learned from reading his  books and articles.
Fig 1: Gironda with his famous pupil, Larry Scott (Left) and (right)
his other student, the 'Duke of Delts" Don Howorth. 
No shoulder pressing
Gironda was not a fan of shoulder pressing movements but rather advocated isolation movements like lateral raises for deltoid development.  There are, however, some press variations that he suggested, namely the Scott Press and the Bradford Press.

(a) The Scott dumbbell press
Larry Scott successfully used this exercise to bring up his deltoids to make up for his narrow structure. He maintained constant tension on the delts by not locking out at the top of the movement.
Fig 2: The Scott shoulder press
(b) The Bradford press
The Bradford press named after the lifter Jim Bradford is a modified version of a barbell press.  This exercise works the front and side deltoids and recruits the rear deltoids to some degree for stabilisation. Importantly, the weight need to be lower in this exercise (by about 10-20%) and  a slightly wider than shoulder grip is recommended. Start with the barbell resting on the collarbone as you would in a barbell millitary press. Then press the barbell until you reach just the top of the head, move the barbell over your hear and lower it behind your head until it touches the base of your neck. As a means of keeping constant tension on the delts the arms should never be extended completely. It is basically a back and forth movement with the barbell lifted just enough to clear the head. Do not move the head to make the movement easier, let the movement happen at the shoulder joint.  The video by T-Nation below demonstrates the proper Bradford Press technique.
The Gironda Lateral Raise technique
Gironda was very fond of the side lateral raise, an exercise that he recommended to perform either seated or standing. The seated lateral raise technique is illustrated in Figure 3 below and is as follows:
  • Sit at the end of a bench and maintain a slight forward lean. All four bells of both dumbbells should touch under the legs.
  • Raise the dumbbells while maintaining the slight forward bend position until the dumbbells reach head height. 
  • In this position the palms should be down and the knuckles up, meaning the rear bell should be higher than the forward bell, as if you are pouring water from a pitcher. This ensures that the lateral head does most of the work. Vince recommends 4 sets of 8-12 reps with about 30 seconds rest between sets.
  • The torso should not move throughout this exercise. Do not use the forward bent position as a means to use upper body momentum to help you lift heavy weights. I am sure that if you did this in Vince's gym the latter would have thrown you out of his gym.
Fig 3: The seated lateral raise technique from the Vince Gironda Bulletin
Fig 4: A custom-built equipment for maintaining a slight incline
in standing side lateral raises. Gironda was known for his unique equipment
Fig 5: The Iron Guru was always very attentive to form.
Fig 6: Larry Scott demonstrating the side laterals
Fig 7: Scott performing the seated version of the facing
side lateral raise
The Gironda dumbbell swings and high pulls
The side swings is perhaps one of the best exercises to work several deltoid heads at the same time and a good means to prevent cheating.  Gironda's dumbbell swings work the side and anterior deltoids. To perform side swings, one arm moves in a traditional lateral raise motion while the other arm is moves up across the front of the body, tight to the torso, to keep continuous tension on the shoulder and help get a deeper contraction.
Fig 8: Gironda performing the dumbbell swing and the high pull (described below)
Barbell High pulls and upright rows.
These two were Gironda's favourite exercises for the side deltoids.  Using a shoulder width grip recruits the side deltoid head to a greater degree. The execution of the High Pull is decribed in Fig 9. I believe there is a degree of trap involvement in this exercise. In the case of the barbell upright row the bar is kept closer to the body, as described in Fig 10.  Gironda credits the wide grip upright row/ pull component of cleans for the outstanding shoulders of weightlifters rather than the actual pressing movement.
Fig 9: Gironda High Pull
Fig 10: Execution guidelines for the Gironda barbell (wide grip) upright rows
Tune in for more from in the "Iron Guru" series
My Bio: I am a Mauritian originally from Roche Bois, Port Louis and now based in Cape Town, South Africa where I am busy with my postgraduate studies in molecular biology of exercise. My research, supervised by Prof. Edward Ojuka, looks at the influence of nutrition and exercise in gene expression in muscle, research which is relevant and applicable to exercising individuals, sports persons and diabetic individuals. The knowledge that I share with you stems from my 18 years of experience in bodybuilding and 8 years (and counting) of university education in the field. I have also published work in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism (2013), International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (2013) and co-authored two book chapters on exercise and diabetes. I also presented my research work at the 2012 International Sports and Exercise Nutrition Conference (UK). I am grateful to each and everyone at the UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine. "Knowledge without sharing is worth nothing"
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  1. Sir that is gem of information........i'm very very grateful to you for this.

  2. Big shoulders can be achieved only through hard work. Being the most visible part of the body, shoulders give that V shape that every man is dreaming of. Aside of hard training, diet and rest are also very important. The shared information just fit the gap in the regard of shoulder training routine.
    Myroon@building muscle mass