Two legends in the evolution of bodybuilding training are Arthur Jones, the so-called father of high-intensity training and creator of Nautilus machines, and Vince Gironda, a.k.a., the Iron Guru and Studio City gym owner who trained Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia, as well as many other champion bodybuilders and movie stars, including Clint Eastwood.
Both Jones and Gironda were considered geniuses in the realm of muscle building, and while both got a lot of things right, they also got stuff wrong.
Here are quotes from both men that encapsulate where each stood on the hypertrophy process…
Arthur Jones: “Doing more exercise with less intensity has all but destroyed the actual great value of weight training.”
Vince Gironda: “Most bodybuilders spend too many hours in the gym. I teach my students to simplify their routines. I encourage them to train harder by trying to get more work done in the shortest period of time. Back in 1925, German scientists discovered that to acquire larger muscles, you must increase the intensity of work done in a given amount of time.”
They both agreed that overdoing volume can derail muscle gains; however, Jones favored brutally intense training, often saying that if you didn’t come close to throwing up, you didn’t train hard enough. The second photo below is Jones with pro bodybuilder Boyer Coe, who is no doubt saying, “I can’t wait to puke on your dress shirt.”…
Vince agreed that too much volume can be a critical limiting factor, but technicolor-yawn intensity wasn’t quite as important as density—getting as much fairly intense work done in less time.
For Vince, compressing workload with shorter rests between sets was the harbinger of efficient, effective muscle building. Here’s a classic shot of Vince in his competitive days. The second pic is at Vince’s Gym with the first Mr. O Larry Scott, who is barefoot because Vince insisted trainees work calves with no shoes for a better mind-muscle link—not to mention aromas that kept gym membership to a minimum.
Vince regaled me with his density muscle-building principles many times when he visited the Iron Man offices after he retired in his 80s. I regret that while I listened with respect, I thought I knew it all and didn’t adopt his preachings until after he passed away. I finally “got it,” and benefitted tremendously from the knowledge that he bludgeoned me with during his rants…
Allow me to officially apologize now for not embracing his experience and knowledge then. I can picture Vince’s understanding, heart-felt response to me from Muscle Heaven…
As for Jones, I was all in at one time, a high-intensity cult follower for years. IM Publisher John Balik and I traveled to Florida to meet up with Arthur and sit in on one of his seminars after he started the Med-X company, which was post-Nautilus.
His Med-X machines were incredible, the smoothest action for a weight-stack mechanism that I’ve ever experienced—but they were more for rehab, not muscle building. Jones had shifted his focus to low-back injuries and prevention at that point—but I digress.
The point I’m trying to make is that while intensity, as in taking each set to failure, is important, too much can cause overtraining similar to excessive volume. Jones often said that you can train hard or you can train long, but you can’t do both.
Correct, but you can also train fairly short with too much intensity and burn the F out quickly.
For me the solution is to take almost every set to failure, but to also shorten my rests between sets to 20 to 30 seconds while keeping my volume moderate. It’s a Jones-Gironda intensity-plus-density-for-muscle-immensity approach…
What is moderate volume? I’ve mentioned the meta-analysis by researchers from across the globe that concluded training a muscle twice a week with five sets per workout (10 sets per week), optimizes hypertrophic stimulation for most people…
Of course, that’s a blanket recommendation, more of an average—some will respond best to a few more sets and others will require less. Still, it’s a good baseline.
I would go further and say that if you’re emphasizing the ideal exercises, the ones biomechanically precise that optimally stimulate the most muscle mass in each target muscle, slightly fewer sets may be best—and keeping the volume down is critical if you’re an old fart like me.
New: Get the ideal exercise for each muscle, the best add-on moves for ultimate mass, complete 35-minute workouts, exercise start/finish photos, and details on building muscle fast and efficiently in Old Man, Young Muscle.
Former Editor in Chief, Iron Man Magazine
Learn to Build Mass From the Master Trainer
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