The "Iron Guru" Vince Gironda is one of my training heroes.
He came up with training techniques, programs, exercises and nutritional techniques that were seriously 40 to 50 years ahead of his time...and all without the benefit of advanced formal education (or maybe that lack of education is why he didn't fall into the trap of dismissing radical ideas!).
These tips are my homage to Vince Gironda and his training methods...(if you're interested in more stuff like this, definitely check out this massive book on Vince Gironda and his methods).
#1 - Abdominals - Lying Leg Raise and Thrust
Lie flat on your back with your hands palms-down against the floor, placed underneath your glutes. Now, keeping your legs stiff and straight, raise them up off the floor until they're vertical.
Next, thrust your legs and hips UPWARD as though trying to put footprints on the ceiling. Your upper back, arms, and hands will be all that is in contact with the floor.
To make it harder, try to crunch your chest up as well, as you thrust your feet up. Lower your legs until your lower back is back on the floor then lower your feet down almost to the floor (don't touch the floor to maintain tension in the abs).
Keep your legs stiff and straight throughout the movement. These are much more effective than simple lying leg raises as the thrust up further works the lower abs.
#2 - Back - Forehead-Banging Pull-Ups
Use a moderately wide, palms-forward grip. You will be pulling up to the front. Pull yourself up but keep your body about six inches away from the bar.
When your forehead is level with the bar, stop, squeeze, then move your body in horizontally and touch the bar with your forehead then push back out six inches without dropping down at all. Lower from there. It is executed like an upside-down "L" pattern.
This will hit the teres major HARD. As you come forward, try to force your elbows as far back behind you as you can by trying to push your forehead into the bar. This will maximize the effects.
This is a tough exercise and you need to be pretty strong with pull-ups to begin with. To make these even harder, when your forehead touches the bar, try to force your body forward but resist with your neck muscles. Force your elbows back and puff out your chest.
#3 - Biceps - Scoop Curls
These look like an uppercut done in a curl movement. As you curl up, pretend as though you are scooping up an armload of something, like you're scraping the bottom of a bit bowl.
This movement looks like a front raise and a curl executed simultaneously. Finish with the bar up by your forehead and your elbows pointed directly forward. Concentrate on squeezing the biceps the entire way up. This will put more of a peak contraction on your biceps at the top of the movement.
#4 - Standing Calf Raise Trick - Round Dumbbell
When doing one-legged calf raises, stand on a dumbbell handle (one with round plates so it rolls). This will make you work to stabilize. It will also allow you to roll over the top of the handle (because of the shape) giving you full extension of the calf at the top.
As you come up, roll the dumbbell backward a bit. Roll it forward as you come down. This movement of the dumbbell allows you to dynamically adjust the angle of tension on the calves and work WITH the anatomy and biomechanics of the ankle to maximize calf contraction at the top and stretch at the bottom.
It is also possible to do these on the actual dumbbell plates (make sure your are hanging on with both hands if you do this version as it is extremely unstable). Use a larger dumbbell, e.g. 85 pounder, if you can, though a smaller one will work.
#5 - Chest - Partner-Aggravated Bench Press for Explosiveness
If you want to develop explosiveness in your bench, try partner-aggravated bench (a term I came up with - I like it better than partner-resisted). Instead of spotting you, your partner should lean on the bar in order to add weight to it (enough so you can't move it). Use a light weight - 50 to 60% of your 1 RM and do sets of 6 reps.
Lower the bar normally with no partner resistance. Then at the bottom, your partner should lean heavily on the bar so that you are unable to press it. Your partner then removes their weight very suddenly at the point where you have a lot of tension built up so you explode the bar up off your chest (they should step back from the bar so they don't get knocked in the face with it).
This type of training will engage a lot of motor units in order to try and move the resistance, then force them to explode all at once at the release. It's like revving an engine with the brakes on then releasing them and peeling out.
#6 - Shoulders - Feet-Up Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
I find this trick gives me tighter form and a better feel on the delts in the dumbbell shoulder press. Try doing it with your feet elevated about one foot over hip height (when you're seated). This locks your upper body into place, making it a more stable platform for the lift.
Use another bench or a dumbbell rack or even a Smith machine bar set at the appropriate height. Use dumbbells that you can swing up yourself or get someone to hand them to you. Hold the dumbbells down beside you, put your feet up, then swing the dumbbells up. Push back with your feet to keep your hips from moving forward. Ensure your back is arched. Now press from there. Your body is basically wedged into the setup and you can use leg power to stabilize yourself.
#7 - Forearms - Cross-Bench Wrist Curls
Squat down beside a bench so that only your forearms across the width of the bench and perform the wrist curls from there, instead of sitting with your forearms on your thighs as is the normal method.
This version allow you to keep your body mass below the bar, which in turn allows you to use body momentum to move heavier weight. Simply drop down as you curl up the bar, transferring your downward momentum into the bar's upward momentum like a lever. For maximum forearm strength, use this technique and only do a partial range of motion (middle 3/5 or so - don't go all the way down or up) and use a lot more weight.
#8 - Thighs - Making the Leg Press Easier on the Back
One of the biggest mistakes I see in the leg press is at the bottom, in an attempt to get a "full" of motion, the trainer allows the glutes to come up, rounding the lower back while knees come into the chest.
This puts tremendous pressure on the lower back and should be avoided. In order to maintain the arch in your lower back, try putting a rolled up towel under it when doing leg presses.
If your butt comes off the seat, you will immediately feel it in your lower back and you will be able to correct yourself sooner.
Another way to maintain the arch is to raise your arms overhead and grip the top of the backrest (if possible on your machine). This pushes the lower ribcage up which in turn arches the back and keeps the hips down. If you are using very heavy weight for low reps this may not be advisable, as you need to hold the handgrips for those, but it's a great way to teach your body what the proper position actually IS during the leg press.
#9 - Traps - Do Your Shrugs Kneeling
Most shrug variations can be done from a kneeling position. This will remove any help you might get from your legs and forces your traps to do the majority of the work, making it a much stricter movement.
It also allows you to do very heavy barbell shrugs without having to use a rack to set the bar on and without having to deadlift the bar to the standing position. You can use a folded towel for padding for kneeling on.
#10 - Triceps - Preacher Bench Pushdowns
Set the preacher bench under a high pulley. Rest your upper arms on the bench like your would for a preacher curl but grab the high pulley bar and do a pushdown instead of curling, keeping your upper arms glued to the bench. Any variety of pushdown can be done with this and it eliminates any cheating you may unknowingly (or knowingly) be doing.
Vince Gironda is one of my favorite trainers. He only cared about what WORKED for his clients...not what was normal, or acceptable or standard, which is exactly what I strive for every day.
Learn more about him and how he could transform Average Joe's into champion bodybuilders in the "Golden Age" of bodybuilding here. It's a GREAT read...full of stories, programs, training tips and a LOT more.
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