Vince Gironda: Failure Training vs 60-80

Every muscle is composed of fibers. The number of fibers varies according to the particular muscle as well as varying from one individual to another for a specific muscle. Muscle fibers of the upper arm of one man may be 40,000 while the calf of the same man may contain as many fibers as 1,120,000. Yet still another person may have only 946,000 fibers in the calf muscle.

Because heredity controls the number of muscle fibers an individual was born with, neither exercise nor anything else can alter it. The number of muscle fibers present in each muscle controls the size to which that muscle can grow. This fact was proven by scientists as far back as 1897. However, the muscle fibers themselves can grow in diameter width. This indicates that any muscle can be developed and/or be increased in size.

Although unlimited size cannot be expected, a far more interesting thing can be obtained and this is in the shaping of the muscle. This aspect of muscular development is almost unlimited, providing you know the proper positional exercise movement to bring out to prominence the particular aspect of the muscle you wish to enlarge or develop. SHAPING a muscle is just as important as working for size or more so.

Initially, to increase muscle size, you must increase the intensity of work done within a given time. This means it doesn’t matter how much work you do but hos fast you do it. This is known as the OVERLOAD principle. The most significant experiment proving this involves rats which were trained to run at different speeds for varying lengths of time. The rats that ran at 6 meters per minute for 195 miles had smaller muscular development than those rats that ran 26 meters per minute but for only 58 miles.

This principle of overload explains why sprinters have larger muscle size all over their bodies than long distance runners. Although it is more work to run a mile than 100 yards, the sprinter is doing more work per second and as a result, his muscles will enlarge.

My contention has always been that overwork causes muscle loss due to over-tonis (tissue shrinking), nerve exhaustion and finally excessive male hormone depletion.

One school of thought insists that if you place enough stress on a given muscle (failure principle, Isometrics, Concemetrics), the muscle will develop maximum symmetry. This concept is erroneous as my findings have shown me. If it were true, we would need no diversified equipment such as the preacher bench for low bicep and brachialis antecus development, or bentover barbell curls for high (peak) bicep and coraco brachialis development for instance. Now would we need incline barbell and dumbbell work for high pecs (clavicular aspect of pectoral), or parallel dips and/or decline bench work with weights or pulleys for the low pec.

The long fibers of the lats are developed by overhead work, the belly of the lat by using a 45 degree pulley, and the teres major by pulling straight back to the chest with a pulley 16 inches off the floor from a sitting positionm, etc. Furthermore (failure principle), not enough repetitions and sets do not increase blood circulation enough to raise the pulse rate to where oxygen is demanded by the blood stream. As a result, accelerated growth is not obtained. The cardiovascular and circulatory systems must be activated.

. . . which I attended 33 years ago [early 1940’s], taught me to work out to total failure and my gains were very slow. Not until I opened my first gym did I begin to make the gains I was after and that was by employing a system of pumping with about 60-80 degrees [percent] of my maximum. I talked to weightlifters and observed that if they pushed themselves too hard in training, they lost their strength for weeks at a time.

Over the years, I constantly got into trouble by over-working due to over-enthusiasm. At that point, I’d become disgusted with my lack of gains and lay off. After about 3 days, I noticed I was growing and I’d become excited and start training again (over-training) and my gains would again come to a standstill. It wasn’t until I decided to enter physique competition that I accidentally discovered the highly accelerated system which I found to be the real result producer which I teach now. I discovered it because I couldn’t face the long, slow, tedious workouts I believed I had to face every day. Thus, I tried to get my workout over as fast as possible!

Now, for the first time, I began to show real muscularity and gains. The men who judged physique contests at this time were puzzled by so much muscularity. Quotes from physique magazines stated I didn’t place higher in whatever contest because of too much muscularity! They thought this kind of cut up physique was slightly repugnant so I lost most muscular titles to smoother men who had the type of definition of that day – the type the judges were accustomed to accepting. But the attitude of the times has changed.

To sum up what I am trying to explain . . .

choose an exercise that will develop the weakest portion of each of your body parts and do one exercise only, 6 sets of 6 reps to 8 sets of 8 reps and see how fast you can get it done! SPEED in a workout is your best form of progressive resistance for bodybuilding. Use the best isolation type form possible because cheating methods bring in other muscles to assist in performance of the movement and destroys the isolation principle you should be striving for here.

And finally, remember that when taking instruction from anyone, observe his physique and see if he has obtained results from what he’s telling you to do. Find out who he takes credit for – how many physique champions he’s turned out.

Enjoy Your Lifting!


I met Vince, trained at his gym a couple of times and like many other things he wrote or said this is incorrect. Boyer Coe could not change the shape of his biceps anymore than Robby Robinson could change the “shape” of his calves to look like Mike Mentzer’s. Science has shown that there’s no such thing as isolation exercises any more than a preacher bench would train one part of a biceps vs. a standard barbell curl. The angle of each exercise does change the physics and where the tendon attaches to the bone has a different torque. A big reason why one person will get biceps tendonitis from a barbell curl, the next person may not.

And Vince’s training had nothing to do with his muscularity, which he appears to imply. Abs start in the kitchen, bodybuilding is 80% diet (or something along those lines). And, most of Vince’s
“champs” were suspected as being natty as was Vince – Arnold, Larry Scott, Don Howorth (think he was quoted as saying he used in Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors), etc., etc.

If tension varies at different muscle lengths, tension can also vary in some areas of a muscle over others. Most muscles have pennation angles (the fibers do not run from one end to the other), so those areas can increase or decrease somewhat. Many muscle fibers aren’t even the same type for the entire length of the fiber due to variations in the tension and work those parts of the fiber experience compared to other areas. So we can kinda change the shape of a muscle, just not that much.


I think what makes a muscle seem to some people like the shape was changed is just that the muscle got a lot bigger and thicker … so it looks like it’s ‘shape’ was changed. Muscles certainly look different from the first year of training then they do seven years or so later when the guy has gained twenty pounds … but it’s due to a big increase in it’s size.

You aren’t changing Larry Scott foot ball biceps into Boyer Coe volcano peaked biceps through exercise selection or type of workout you do.

Amen to that! Muscle “shaping” has been totally debunked by medical science. It simply can’t be done…An individual muscle’s “shape” is totally genetic and fixed at birth.

Yes, you can increase a muscle’s size (sometimes with the right genetics to a truly remarkable degree), but short of surgery to cut, move and then reattach the tendons to the bone you CAN’T change it’s overall shape.

Easy experiment involving the biceps. For a month, perform only bottom range incline curls for one arm and overhead behind the neck cable or compound position curls for the other arm. I’ll bet the arms look different from each other after…


Actually, it’s more that it’s been proven, measured and seen by science, not debunked, not sure though how much variations in training can affect it, enough to be visible in the mirror, but it does occur.

(PDF) Regional Hypertrophy, the Inhomogeneous Muscle Growth: A Systematic Review (

The role of exercise selection in regional Muscle Hypertrophy: A randomized controlled trial - PubMed (


I guess it depends what you define ‘shape’ is . I’m thinking that the look of a muscle is the end result of years of training to increase the size ; square pecs like Steve Reeves rather than round like Chris Dickerson, highly peaked biceps like Boyer Coe rather that the pixie football biceps like Larry Scott, long vs short lats, high vs low calves, etc is determined by genetics and nothing is changing that. The size of the muscle is absolutely able to be changed , but not the ‘finished’ developed shape.

If changing the shape of a muscle to you is bringing it from non-existent flat chest with no pec development, 13" stick arm to 16" arms where biceps, triceps and rounded shoulders stand out from each other … then I guess you can say the ‘shape’ of it changed. But I don’t believe the genetic, fully developed shape was changed through exercise … what looks like a different shape from when you started training is just it’s ‘look’ after the muscles have increased in size and thickness.

yes for sure, we can’t change the length of the muscle, (like high calves, or high lats) what this shows is the shape of the muscle itself can change, with respect to it growing in ‘areas’ rather than ‘growing the same all over’.