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Weider and Gironda Discuss Nautilus Machines in 1974

We left off where Joe Weider had commented on the Nautilus’ inability to be versatile enough to exactly duplicate or almost completely approximate actual movements performed during sports activities where it would be of appreciable value as a supplemental training aid. Vince Gironda agreed, and then elaborated further on this important point when space forced us to interrupt his interview. We now continue at this point:

Vince Gironda (VG): I’ll have to agree with you completely, Joe. It amazes me, too. It really baffles me; the only thing I can say is that so many gym instructors, coaches and trainers are ignorant of these facts, and aside from a few basic exercises they give their students, they are basically acting as “social directors.” Joe, for many years you and I have worked with these principles and have personally instructed and seen so many athletes dramatically excel at their craft by using these valuable principles or supplemental sports training with conventional barbell equipment.

JW: Precisely, Vince. It really makes you wonder, doesn’t it? What about this, Vince. Take a group of people, for instance, that you wanted to run through a series of exercises in “assembly line” fashion for convenience. Just what do you think of the Nautilus machines for this type of conventional mass exercise sessions? Schools, the military, prisons, public and private institutions are almost always looking for quick, convenient and effective methods to introduce exercise to large numbers of persons and groups with less supervision.

VG: Yes, let’s face it, Joe. If you have to run large numbers of people through this type of “assembly line” training, to eliminate individual instruction, you first need something practical to do this with that embodies sound exercise principles. The hitch here is that many of the Nautilus machines aren’t mechanically sound for most people’s physiology. I’ll tell you why. You already know how it affected big Arnold and Franco: it tore Arnold’s pec and gave him painful tennis elbow, etc. I get letters telling me all the time how these people have to get cortisone shots in their shoulders after having used the Nautilus pullover machine for a time. This machine dictates compulsory arm positioning that is very unnatural and dangerous to the shoulder joint. And this isn’t just a problem with neophytes - well-trained men write me debunking this contraption! I really feel sorry for the unwary person who is suckered into using it

JW: That is one of the most common complaints I’ve heard - it isn’t safe, and it can actually be dangerous.

VG: It sure is. Joe, let me say something else about the Nautilus pullover machine since we’re talking about it. The “pullover” exercise that is performed on it is not a good lat exercise. All it does is bring out a faint ribbon in front of the latissimus, but it builds no thickness across the back. It does work the serratus magnus, but so do so many other exercises, such as this exercise. (Here Vince jumped up and went over to a chinning bar attached to a ceiling beam where he lithely jumped up to grasp it and hang motionless for a moment. He then promptly raised his whole body out into a horizontal bar “lever” and held it solidly while talking to me! This robust man of 56 years of age is simple remarkable.) This is just one of the exercises I give for the lats and serratus magnus - and this bar cost me about five dollars! (He then lowered his rigid body very slowly, enjoying every second of it, dropped from the bar and returned to his desk.) There are innumerable exercises for these muscles that certainly don’t require equipment costing hundreds and hundreds of dollars.

JW: That’s so right. Can you think of anything else concerning the Nautilus, Vince?

VG: I’m going to say something that will completely bury anything anyone has to say in favor of the Nautilus machines as far as bodybuilding is concerned. Who has it ever produced? Show me one man the Nautilus equipment and system of exercise has actually produced and where it is definitely responsible for his tremendous bodybuilding development. JUST ONE

JW: I hear Arthur Jones wants to take credit for Casey Viator’s development, even though Casey was a popular and well-built bodybuilder long before Jones got him to strap himself into a Nautilus machine.

VG: Right. And I think Casey’s physique has suffered as a result, even though Casey liked to do other conventional barbell and dumbbell exercises on the side. Oh, that brings up another interesting point. Arthur Jones says, “Throw away all your conventional exercise equipment!” Why, then, does he use conventional equipment?

JW: I’ve heard that he says use conventional equipment in conjunction with his Nautilus machines.

VG: Arthur Jones has told me many times - he used to call me on the phone from Florida and talk for two or three hours at a time, several times a week - and he’d tell me, “Throw your conventional equipment away, you don’t need it anymore.” Period! Just look at his machines. He has conventional devices hanging on his apparatus now. For instance, to do chins to pump up before or after using his machine, etc.

Now let’s take his so-called “new concept” in exercise equipment. All he’s done is taken a lot of ideas that were already here and being put into practice. Certainly nothing too scientific, or even dramatic. There have been, in the past, many types of strange, odd, impractical and overly complicated pieces of bodybuilding equipment for us bodybuilders to choose from. What was salvaged from this innumerable assortment of is what we have proved through endless application in bodybuilding and use today. These are the ones that have proved themselves to be of benefit - the ones that produced results. Some of the lousy ones hung on longer than should they should have and are still being used by a few uninformed persons, but in general they are neglected and eventually junked, because they have no practical value. Bodybuilders want and need only the best - and will not settle for less.

At this time, Joe, I want to make one point understood: I am not knocking Arthur Jones as a person - in fact he’s a good friend of mine, and has been for some time. I am only scientifically evaluating his equipment and methods as I see them.

JW: Sure, I realize this, Vince. That is both honest and healthy - and much more of this in-depth investigation, evaluation and critique should be entered into in the physical fitness field by qualified and concerned parties in order to more fully evaluate the principles, knowledge and ideals - every contribution - of all persons involved.

VG: This is what happened years ago when inquisitive bodybuilders pioneered this field. They were very interested, and even devoted to obtaining health, strength and big muscles; and as a result investigated every type of diet, exercise, piece of equipment, method, etc. The result of this inquiry into the new field of bodybuilding, individually and collectively, has caused enormous strides of advancement in the artistic and scientific aspects of bodybuilding and sports. Nutritionists, physiologists, therapists, etc., learned from them - their newly-proved physical results in this field that were unknown before. It didn’t start the other way around.

Let’s take the chemical sciences, for instance. The amateur investigator of the physical world of the past - called alchemists - were stimulated into an energetic, untiring, greedy and well-documented search for the secret with which to manufacture gold from base elements . . . and this caused our science of chemistry to be realized. It didn’t start with scientific concepts; it was developed from accumulated facts. The same is true with bodybuilding. The scientific approach is to take knowledge - known and/or suspected facts - then engineer or weave these into a controlled blend of happenings that do the desired job. Experience first, then the progressive variations follow to further enhance it. The scientist (the instructor, teacher, equipment designer, coach, etc.) has to know the real facts before successful experiments will follow.

JW: When something is “tested” in order to determine its merits, a number of relevant and intelligent considerations of the initial and supporting facts are necessary . . . and are very important if the true measure of the thing’s general or specific purpose and function is desired. These considerations must be understood and entered into only by qualified researchers lest the experiments, in reality become failures even while they are being disproportionately praised as successes. True scientists fully realize that the results of their experiments are completely dependent upon their own knowledge of the ingredients they are working with, and their consideration of the “unknown” factors involved. True scientists and researchers also appreciate the separate meanings of the words theory, theorem, and fact - and do not confuse one with the other. It is a theory that the Nautilus machines can be a productive bodybuilding/sports training aid. Its whole principle and resulting mechanical design should be the result of a number of supporting facts concerning anatomy, physiology and exercise methods, etc., in careful and intelligent combination. It is a theorem that the Nautilus is being proposed and/or accepted as a demonstrable truth in this respect. In other words, its usage should prove-out its theory. Theory has to be conclusively demonstrated in connection with its claims before it can even hope to be considered as, and eventually recognized as, a fact. A fact that Arthur Jones’ Nautilus machines, method of exercise, and what he claims for both of them, is not factual in theory or demonstration - in fact, the reverse is usually true.

VG: If he wanted to be scientific about it, he would follow the muscle physiology throughout its complete extension and contraction, as well as consider the many compound functions the muscles have in their job of moving and rearranging the skeleton. It is a vastly complex variety of movements, not isolation of movements. This variety of natural movement is where thorough muscle development takes place, and where conventional exercise equipment reigns supreme.

JW: There is just no real comparison.

VG: The Nautilus machines do not develop the body thoroughly or safely as does conventional equipment. Barbells, dumbbells, pulleys, combined with the various conventional and specialized exercise benches, chinning and dipping bars are the best pieces of exercise equipment available today, and there’s no exception. So far, especially where the Nautilus machines are concerned, nothing can compete with this sensible stuff we use today - the stuff that is turning out all the thousands of well-built men all over the world. Just look at the top Mr. Americas on through the other Mr.'s up to the greatest, the Mr. Olympias. They are all products of our conventional bodybuilding equipment.

If these Nautilus machines can do it alone, don’t just talk about it . . .

We all know Arnold and Sergio and other greats were brought down to Nautilus in hopes that they would endorse Jones machines but in the end they returned to their former methods. I’m wondering if Jones had not pushed his rush rush between exercises and other things he pushed them on and just let them use his machines in a manner they preferred maybe they might have left with a better appreciation of Nautilus?


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That’s a good point.

The exchange cited above has mostly has to do with equipment - Nautilus machines versus free weights, and not the training protocols that Jones pushed, which were single set to failure, rush factor training, and negative overload. Of all those things, it is the lower volume, single set to failure approach which has still not caught on with a lot of fitness enthusiasts.

Back in the early 1980’s, when I belonged to a fitness club with nautilus equipment, there was one bodybuilder who trained there. He worked out during the day, when it wasn’t busy, and trained around the other customers, who where just going through the circuits once. But this guy would be doing multiple sets on every machine… He had a pretty good build, and seemed quite happy with the machines, just not the lower volume approach.

Over the past few months, I’ve started occasionally watching some of the training videos that Jay Cutler puts out. He is retired, of course. But he still trains multiple times a week just because he loves the training. He does a lot of machine work in his training, but ends up doing multiple sets on multiple different machines for the the same body part. So when he trains hamstrings, he will do leg curls on three different machines, each for 3 sets of 10-12 reps, plus 3 sets of RDL’s. That is pretty typical for him - 12+ sets for most body parts, using a mix of machines and free weights.

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This sort of fits in with that earlier discussion about Boyer Coe and how much he gained under Jones. Depending on who you listen to Boyer didn’t gain much size training under Jones but what Boyer might have gained had he trained his way but on Nautilus machines we will never know. I’m guessing left to his own methods but still on Nautilus machines Boyer would have made superior gains all around.

You also have to note, both have an interest in Nautilus failing. Weider had a LARGE financial interest in its failure, and Gironda was very set in his ways. I dont think either was very open to much change in the field

Very good discussion

Welders strength in the muscle business was making a buck off it, and promoting his self and Vince was very closed minded. Not good examples to listen to.

Interesting. I agree that both Weider and Gironda had their own agendas. Gironda seemed to be an inventor of methods in his own right, but very selective. Nevertheless, they both represent the narrow-minded high volume guys.

Their arguments is not far fetched from politicians; A primary focus on criticism of your opponent. Or perhaps like most humans, scared of the new.

I believe Arthur Jones would have outsmarted the two - but he probably never got a proper chance to reply (was this from a Weider mag?).

According to a Dr Darden book (The new HIT?) Arnold puked from the intensity - Franco made it through. They probably were insulted and ridiculed by Jones, which may have had an impact on their opinions on Nautilus. Never heard of Arnolds pec tear?

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But did they develop more muscle or get stronger than they did using the methods being discussed by Weider and Gironda- free weights and pulley/stacks.

I mean, I’ve puked from wrestling practices, but that didn’t win me any matches. And I’ve torn pects/delts, bi’s, quads, spinal erector, etc.

Those aren’t measures of success.

I agree with you @SkyzykS, but the point is they just tried out the Nautilus equipment, before returning to conventional training equipment - which obviously worked wonders! Then again, the winner dictates what’s true or not.

Personally I combine any strategy I can think of, and find the aforementioned conversation between Weider and Gironda ridiculous. Arthur Jones was not necessarily any better - making enemies. It’s good fun reading though, and a great source for debate (see, I’m becoming a politician too).

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Sure. But what were they supposed to do? Stick to a training methodology and equipment that isn’t working or sustainable for them??

Training time for pro bodybuilders is money.

You dont think Weider paid those fellas to speak negatively about nautilus

Weider never got to Mentzers, Roger Schwab, Viator, Dorian Yates, Darden or a few others…maybe they had more principles than Arnold and Franco and Sergio

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Me too. I remember when we switched things up at my buddies home gym. Started using bands and chains, conjugate methods, tendo units for measuring bar speed, all kinds of neat stuff.

I didn’t like it. It was weird. But it was what the strongest guys in the world were doing at the time, and it got results.

Yeah. All in good fun. :+1:

I’ve never been too campy. Heck, I’d even go so far as to say that different methods work for different people.

I know if I had some curmudgeonly old task master bossing me around a weight room while he video taped it the one thing that would get biggest fastest would be my bank account.

That type of tolerance doesn’t come cheap!

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If you’re familiar with the true story, neither gave it a chance to see any results.

What does that entail, giving it a chance to see results?

Something else to wonder about: there is an economic consideration which would encourage the use of single set to failure protocols with a circuit of Nautilus machines.

Consider that, at the time Nautilus was introduced, the amount of money it would have cost to put in a full line of Nautilus machines (10+) could have bought a whole bunch of barbells, plates, squat stands and benches.

With that free weight gear, you could easily have supported 10+ customers at a time, all doing higher volume programs. No big deal if a guy wanted to do 5x5 squats for 30+ minutes. He just needs a bar, some weights, and some kind of squat stands. There are still plenty of other bars and squat stands for other guys to train the legs. But if you only have one leg press machine, and everyone wants to do high volume leg training, it really gums up the works.

Some have said that the real genius of Arthur Jones was convincing people to invest in a large amount of expensive machines when much cheaper and simpler alternatives were available. But to make it justifiable to a gym owner, he had to be able to shuffle people through that line of equipment as a circuit. That would really only work with the 1-set per customer per session.

Now if you are a cynic, you might wonder if Jones invented single set to failure to help him sell equipment. If you are a fan, you’d say if discovered something useful (i.e., one hard set is enough) and decided to build a business around that approach. Who knows???


Of course Weider paid people to trash Nautilus but not everybody can be bought! Weider pretty much owned Arnold and many other bodybuilders. Do as he said or you don’t even get into the contests . Sergio knew all about that!

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All very good points! One left out, which couldn’t be discussed then is the durability/ longevity of the machines. I personally have 5 of the nautilus 1 or 2 line. 40 yrs later still in great condition