Dips By the Iron Guru
by Jim Vaglica
Most of you are too young to remember Vince Gironda. He was known as the Iron Guru and he opened Vince’s Gym in North Hollywood in 1948. Vince trained some of the biggest names in bodybuilding including Arnold, Lou Ferrigno and Larry Scott. When movie stars, like Clint Eastwood and Robert Blake, needed to get into shape quickly they also came to the famous Vince’s Gym.
The Iron Guru had his own unique and controversial philosophies of training. If someone was training in a manner Vince didnt believe in, it was not uncommon for Vince to throw them out of his gym. For instance, the Guru believed that the standard back squat caused the hips to widen and the buttocks to protrude. He was also no fan of the standard bench press, believing that it over stressed the front delts. Dips were his primary exercise for building the chest. But these dips were done in a very specific Gironda Style. I had to dig up my old copy of Vince’s book The Wild Physique to research exactly how Vince described his dips.
Gironda Style Dips
First of all, he performed them on thick handled V bars, that I doubt you’ll find in any gym. He also wanted the hands positioned 32 inches apart so unless you bring a tape measure to the gym, I suggest you measure that width at home and then remember how far away your hands were from your hips. His book never mentioned it but subsequently he started advocating a reverse grip, whereas your knuckles would face inward. I’ve tried this grip and found it to be awkward and harsh on my wrists.
Once you get up on the bars, with your arms fully extended, you should look down and touch your chin to your chest. You need to round your back and while keeping your feet together, bring them out in front of you so you’re staring at your toes. Vince advocates strict control with no bouncing but advises descending as low as you can, to a full stretch. Now I believe in using a full range of motion in most exercises but I would not advice dipping to that depth due to the pressure it puts on the labrum and all the connecting tissue of the injury prone shoulder joints. Vince also emphasizes keeping the elbows flared out wide so as to decrease the involvement of the triceps.
Dips are one of the best exercises for building the upper body and Gironda Style dips heavily target the lower chest. I’ve been rotating them into my chest training for years. I must admit I don’t perform them exactly as Vince describes but anyone familiar with the Gironda Dip would recognize it from across the gym.
Give them a try and if you can come close enough to his exact specifications maybe Vince wouldn’t have thrown you out of his gym.