Ask a gym rat to define “intensity” and you get all sorts of wild answers, often combined with chest-thumping stories of long, grueling workouts only a madman would try. But what if I told you spending hours at the gym was the worst thing you could for your gains?
Throughout his career, Vince Gironda strongly advocated this simple truth. But there was a caveat. Vince replaced gym hours with workout intensity. According to Vince, workout intensity was the only way to carve a ripped, well-balanced physique in less time. Well, hard work combined with the science of milk and egg protein. And like most of his highly-researched workout knowledge, he had this method down to a science.
In this article, we explore how the Iron Guru increased intensity, and was able to accelerate his gains in record time. And we provide you with tips you need to help you achieve the same results. So to start, let’s talk about what NOT to do next time you enter a gym.
How to Spend Hours at The Gym Without Seeing Results
We’ve shared many faux-pas exercises in previous articles. So we’re not going to get into why the bench press is not an effective exercise for your chest or why you shouldn’t do sit ups. It goes without saying you need a game plan andthe right set of exercises before you enter the gym.
But the WORST thing you can do is become a gym bro. That’s the guy who’s grunting and groaning as he performs his 7-8 reps. When he finishes his set, he poses in the mirror for 5 minutes before getting up for a drink of water. On his way back, he chats to a few of his gym buddies for another 5 minutes, and finally returns for a second set after about 10-15 minutes.
This guy will spend HOURS at the gym, and most of the time, he is reading the bulletin board, drinking water, chatting everyone up, and looking at himself in the mirror. He barely spends any time at all working out. There was nothing intense to his workout.
The Lost Art of Workout Intensity
When you work with intensity you'll be surprised how fast you get the pump, which is what you're looking for.
Ron Kosloff, long-time owner of NSP Nutrition and Vince’s friend, tells the story of the time he trained Tony Oglesby at the Powerhouse. Ron trained Tony using Vince's methods, and recalls when he first met the young bodybuilder. “When Tony first came to me two years ago he was a little bigger, but had absolutely no shape, no definition, no symmetry.”
In less than two years, Ron helped Tony lose between 10%-15% of body fat and develop a phenomenal shape. The kind of shape that made Tony a contender. And to continue preparing Tony for his next competition, Ron recalls putting him on Vince's Six Week Bulk course, followed by Vince’s definition course.
What was Ron’s secret? He taught Tony Vince’s “intensity” methods. Whenever anyone went to Vince and said he wanted to be Mr. America, Mr. California, Mr. Olympia, or Mr. Whatever, Vince would always reply, as he did to Larry Scott, "You do exactly what I tell you to do, and you will be a title winner.
Intensity Secret 1: Keep Rest Time to a Minimum
Vince advocated resting as little as 10-15 seconds between sets, and even recommended working to such short rest periods that the hands never leave the weight.
However, before you take this advice to heart, it’s important to note that you must work toward these goals. Especially if performing an advanced routine like the 8x8 program for the first time, taking 10-15 seconds of rest between sets could give you a heart attack. Safety first.
You might start with 30-40 seconds of rest at first, and then work your way down from there. As Vince stated inDeveloping Muscle, “…shortening the rest interval between sets is a form of Progressive Resistance.” That’s how you minimize gym time altogether. In fact, there’s no reason at all to spend more than a few hours each week.
For example, you might hit the gym four times a week, working out 30 minutes on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. That goes against most regimens people follow, where they might spend 2-3 hours per day in a gym while their personal trainers kill them. Why? Because most modern trainers charge by the hour, and fail to full grasp theoverload principle.
Intensity Secret 2: Respect the German Overload Principle
The German overload principle says the only way you can increase the size of the muscle is by performing the greatest amount of work in the least amount of time. In other words, the German Overload Principle was all about intensity.
In a groundbreaking study, German scientists separated a group of rats into two groups. They put one group of rats on a treadmill and ran them like long distance runners; for a long period of time at a slow speed. The other group of rats ran like a sprinter; using the most amount of work in the least amount of time, getting from point A to point B as quickly as they could.
Initially, with no additional protein or no additional nutrients to the diet, the rats that ran like sprinters got bigger muscles. To sustain muscle growth, the rats neededprotein andamino acids to make their muscles bigger. In contrast, the group of rats that ran like a long distance runner became skinnier, lost weight, and their hormone levels dropped.
The German scientists concluded that more than 15 minutes to a ½ hour of exercise three to four times a week will have huge negative health effects. How much work you do doesn't matter. How fast you do it is what counts. That's why sprinters have superior physiques to long distance runners, who overtrain. The principle was proven conclusively by German scientists, and that's the method Vince adapted.
Intensity Secret 3: Avoid “Overtonus”
Not surprisingly, increasing your intensity for short bursts can also help prevent overtraining. Vince always used the word, 'overtonus' in referring to loss of muscle tissue from overtraining. He had read this in a medical journal, but his critics constantly attacked his use of this word, saying they'd never heard of it.
But he adopted this principle by telling his students to avoid working a muscle more than twice in one week. In other words, Vince preached isolation exercises. Here’s an example of a weekly routine he suggested:
- You work your biceps, triceps, delts, chest and back on Monday.
- You work your forearms, thighs, leg biceps and calves on Tuesday.
- If you want to work your inner thighs on Tuesday also, that's okay.
- Repeat Monday's workout on Thursday and Tuesday's workout on Friday.
- Then you have to rest because this is when HGH is released by your pituitary and you'll gain muscular size.
This was Vince’s way of ensuring full-body training in much less time. Because remember, you are spending no more than 30 minutes each day. You’re flying through exercises, maintaining intensity and focus, so there’s no time to dilly dally. It’s also important to keep other tips in mind. For example, when trying to gain, you never work your stomach because the stress attacks and shocks the nerves in your solar plexus and then your hormone levels go down.
The only crime Vince Gironda ever committed was being out of style and being 50 years ahead of his time. He stood virtually alone because he didn't pursue the big bucks and he didn't choose to lie. This quality, I'm sure you'll agree, is not only admirable and honest, but also respectable. The truth is a very powerful weapon. It was one of Vince's virtues. This weapon, the truth, was really the only weapon he had against the steroid users, hucksters, and charlatans of his day.