Understanding of strength training and bodybuilding methodologies has exponentially increased in a lot of ways over the past century.
It's easy to find complicated programs from fancy coaches that will get you stronger, faster, or have you looking like The Rock in no time.
At least, that's what those (some of) fancy coaches want you to think.
The reality is there are numerous examples from the past that we can still learn from today. That's what our Old School Strength Training series will investigate.
To kick things off, we will begin with an old school bodybuilding program that brings the pain in a real way - The Gironda 8x8.
The late Vince Gironda is considered by many to be the first bodybuilding coach. There is a cottage industry of these folks today, some more famous and effective than others, but back in the '50's this was an unusual profession.
Gironda was ahead of his time on a lot of fronts. He stated that bodybuilding was 85% nutrition.
He was an early proponent of low-carb dieting, supplementation, and has several exercises still in use today that he pioneered (see for instance the Gironda dip and the neck press or guillotine press).
One of his most lasting contributions is the 8x8.
The Gironda 8x8 Program
Vince called his 8x8 program the "honest workout."
It was designed to be a purely cosmetic program to be used in pre-contest situations.
The "honesty" of the program stems from the ego crushing weights that one has to use to complete the program.
The 8x8 refers to 8 sets of 8 reps. The secret sauce comes in the rest periods. You rest no more than 30 seconds between sets. This accumulation of volume and scant rest period leads to a burn like nothing else.
It's easy to see right away why the weights you use will have to be low. You simply can't recover fast enough to use heavy weights.
Keep in mind that this is a purely cosmetic program, strength gains are not the goal here.
Reducing The Rest
One of the ways to progress with the 8x8 is by gradually reducing the rest. Vince had trainees that were reportedly performing the entire 8x8 on 15 seconds rest!
Don't feel like you have to make that jump right away. One way to progress would be to reduce the rest by 5 seconds per week until you reach that 15 second mark.
Once you reach that goal, you could increase the weight and return to the original 30 second rest period. In this way you'd be adding a component of escalating density training and getting some solid cardiovascular benefits as well.
With such short rest periods, you want to do everything in your power to reduce the risk of injury.
As such, for upper body exercises, you will favor dumbbells over barbells and maybe even use some machines.
For the lower body, back squats would likely be a better choice than front squats, and in a cycle of training like this, some leg extensions, leg curls, and leg press would make total sense.
I have to reiterate again, the goal of this program is purely aesthetic - you aren't looking for strength gains or sport performance carry over.
You are just trying to look better naked.
Modifying the Gironda 8x8
There are a few modifications you can add to the Gironda 8x8 if you so choose.
Let's say you don't want to lose anything on the strength front, or at least minimize loses.
You could perform a strength based set on a main compound lift before getting into your volume work.
For instance, on chest day, you could do something like this:
- Barbell Bench, 5x5 - Heavy weights, longer rest
- Incline Dumbbell Press - 8x8
- Decline Dumbbell Fly - 8x8
Again, this won't move you toward new giant PRs, but it will help you maintain what you have.
- The Gironda 8x8 is a purely aesthetic program meant to shock the system.
- Rest periods should be gradually reduced over time.
- Be smart about exercise selection! Don't choose movements that can hurt you if you fail.
- You can modify the program to maintain strength or minimize loss.
- Get your diet right to see maximum results!
If you need to give yourself a shock and get through a plateau, the Gironda 8x8 could be just what the doctor ordered.
One final piece of advice: get your mind right! The lighter weights will humble the ego and the burn you feel from this type of training is no joke.
Don't go into it thinking that just because the weights are lighter it will be easy. That mindset will lead to failure.