From a 1996 IronMan article by Gene Mozee.
There are many individuals who profess to know the secret of getting maximum definition. They usually try to diet down so they lose all visible bodyfat. Their goal is to get that lean and mean, rock-hard look. The problem is, they lose plenty of muscle, as well as their shape and symmetry, when they lose the fat.
Vince Gironda has demonstrated that he knows the real secrets to getting maximum muscularity while retaining maximum muscle size and contours. The list of bodybuilding champions who have benefited from his training and nutrition advice is without equal: Larry Scott, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Don Howorth, Steve Davis, Don Peters, Mohamed Makkaway, Dominic Juliano, Bob Birdsong and countless others have risen to the pinnacle of bodybuilding success by using his specialized approach.
In this wide-ranging article Vince discusses the importance of the abdominals in achieving a chiselled appearance, provides a routine to result in terrific definition and offers a diet that helps you attain maximum muscularity.
"What good does it do to bulk up to 230 pounds if you have to lose 40 pounds to get cut up?" he says. "I've seen guys lose several inches off their chest, thighs and arms trying to get real definition. When they're finally satisfied that they've got it, they look like they just escaped from a concentration camp.'
Training for maximum muscularity should begin with the abdominals.
Look at the great sculptures from the Golden Age of Ancient Greece. You'll see how much the Greeks emphasized fabulous abdominal development. No physique can look muscular without a totally ripped midsection.
Do not labor under the illusion that ab work will cause you to lose subcutaneous fat. Abdominal work, contrary to popular opinion, won't produce local or spot reducing. Only nutrition produces fat loss. When you do work out, however, you should keep your rests between sets to a minimum because rapid heart rate and lung action is very important in metabolizing fat. My observation in the gym is that very few bodybuilders ever break into a sweat. They sometimes rest as much as five minutes between sets. That type of workout tempo is too slow to produce definition.
Abs, I have found, are the most misunderstood muscles in the entire body. Bodybuilders continue to work them with all kinds of twists and turns and apparently never notice that they aren't getting the results that they want. If they worked as hard with as little result on biceps and triceps movements, they'd ask questions and try new routines -- but not with abdominals.
You need to isolate your abs when you work them, just as you do with any other muscle group. Otherwise you risk overworking them. My experience shows that either performing excessive reps or working abs every day will result in smoothness and a loss of muscle tone.
The function of the rectus abdominis is very simple: It shortens the distance between the sternum and the pelvic basin, to which it attaches. Situps, the most popular ab exercise, don't work the rectus abdominis. The psoas major and minor and the quadratus lumborum perform the work by pulling the body up. The stiff-leg raise, the next most popular ab movement, is primarily a leg exercise and uses the same muscles as the situp. You can work the rectus abdominis by simply sitting in a chair and tightening your stomach muscles by bending forward slightly.
The following exercise is the best I've found for shortening abdominal muscles. Lie flat on your back on a bench with your hands clasped behind your head. Pull your elbows as far forward as possible and roll your shoulders off the bench but keep the small of your back in constant contact with the bench. Draw your knees back until your knees and elbows touch. Let your knees and elbows part about six inches, then draw them together again. Hold the contracted position for a count of two seconds. Exhale as you contract. Use the same number of sets and reps as you use for the rest of your routine.
When performing any trunk-and-hip-rolling movements that I advocate, remember to keep the small of your back in constant contact with the bench or table you're lying on.
One last piece of advice: Never, under any circumstances, work your abs every day. This will result in total disaster.
Vince Gironda's Super-Definition Routine
Use the following program three times a week, with 8 sets of 8 reps on all movements except those for calves and abs.
Note: A little info on the 8x8 for definition and muscularity might be necessary here.
You must move quickly with minimum rest during the entire workout. The speed in which you perform each movement should be quick but not jerky and you must adhere to strict form. Again, rest no longer that 15 seconds between sets.
1) Close-Grip Chins. Using a special short triangular handle, chin at medium speed. The close grip handle works not only the the lats but the arms as well. Remember, concentration is important.
2) Wide-Grip Dips. With your knuckles facing your body, go all the way down for a full stretch and then push back up until your arms are straight. This is a fine all-around upper-body developer that works the chest and shoulders in particular.
3) Pulley Triceps Extensions. Use a long pulley for this terrific exercise. The elbows are cradled in a V-shaped bench for greater isolation. Kneel and face away from the pulley. I prefer a short, thick rope, as it lets me get a very close grip. The triceps stimulation is intense.
4) One-Arm Seated Curls. Place your elbow over your knee to restrict movement, then curl the dumbbell slowly to your deltoid. Use total concentration, which you enhance by looking at the biceps as it moves. After performing eight reps with the right arm, go immediately to the left. Alternate arms without resting after every set until you complete all eight sets for each arm.
5) Kneeling Deltoid Pulley Raises. Kneeling between two pulleys, grasp the handles with crossed arms. Uncross your arms and raise your hands to your sides at shoulder height. The kneeling position limits body movement and prevents cheating. Your delts will ache and burn with this one.
6) Sissy Squats. Perform eight reps of half-squats without using any weight. Try to keep your hips forward because this places greater stress on your thighs. Then, without resting, go all the way down and halfway up for another eight reps. Then combine both movements for another eight reps. After resting a couple of minutes, perform another three sets. This is a very tough exercise, but the shape and definition that it develops makes it well worth the effort.
7) Do six sets of 30 reps with as little rest as possible. Most people have a tendency to turn their heels outward. Pay careful attention to keeping your knees locked and your heels in. It's not easy, but the calf pump is fantastic.
8) Quarter Situps and Stiff-Legged Raises. Do four sets of each movement in superset fashion. Bend your knees and hook your heels over the end of a situp board or flat bench and place your hands behind your neck. Exhale and pull your stomach in and curl forward to the maximum contracted position. Keep the small of your back in contact with the table at all times. Inhale on the way down. Finish your set and immediately begin the stiff-legged raises. Brace your head and shoulder against the back of the situp board. Place your hands, palms down, under your hips. Start the movement with your knees locked and your toes pointed and 10 inches off the board. Lift your legs and feet up and back and pull your head forward until your toes touch the wall or situp board ladder. Contract forcibly and exhale.
Fasting can be a particularly pernicious [having a harmful effect, especially in a gradual or subtle way] technique desperate bodybuilders use to lose bodyfat. What exactly is fasting? You withhold food from your body for a period of time as a method of cleansing the body of harmful chemical byproducts, to recover from illness or to reduce bodyfat.
What actually occurs during a fast is that your tongue becomes heavily coated and your breath foul. This is a result of the body throwing off toxins at an alarming rate. It's accompanied by a bad taste in your mouth; a feeling of feverishness usually follows. This is nature's way of letting you know that your body is trying to burn harmful bacteria.
You can also experience chills because of lowered blood sugar at this stage. Dizziness and headache are next, along with blood pressure problems, cramps, diarrhea, insomnia, indigestion, gas, vomiting, slow pulse and palpitations of the heart. On top of these numerous discomforts, you could also do serious internal damage.
Fasting devotees place a great deal of importance on breaking a fast because that first meal can cause great discomfort. Too much food can cause cramps, excess gas, vomiting and shortness of breath.
I don't advocate a total fast. It produces an acid condition along with the uncomfortable and dangerous symptoms listed above. I think it's better to try to achieve an alkaline state by eliminating all acid foods, as well as overcooked animal proteins, fish, fowl, eggs and milk, from the diet. Heat causes proteins to become acid and, in turn, creates putrefaction in the intestines. Of course, if you stay away from commercial foods and eat only fresh natural foods, your body won't need dramatic changes in diet.
Restricting your diet to alkaline foods is a speedier method of adjusting your chemical balance, and it's certainly a lot less painful than total fasting. You know it's time to change your diet when you lose your normal appetite because of illness or you experience a general lack of interest in food because of an oncoming illness. When your body's balances are restored, you'll know it by the return of your appetitie.
Many people think fasting is the best way to get rid of bodyfat, but contrary to popular opinion, it causes you to lose more muscle tissue than fat. Fasting is not a subcutaneous fat emulsifier; proper diet and cardiovascular exercise are.
I recommend the following diet when you're training hard and trying to increase muscle size without excess bodyfat.
Vince Gironda's Specialization Diet
Breakfast: raw, fertile eggs blended lightly with two ounces of certified raw cream.
Midmorning: 10 liver capsules and four amino acid capsules.
Lunch: Certified raw cottage cheese with raw zucchini, celery, mushrooms, carrots and green peas mixed together and topped with a sour cream dressing. Drink black cherry juice concentrate diluted with 50% water.
Alternate Lunches: Water-packed white albacore tuna mixed with diced cucumbers, minced onions and celery, garlic powder and safflower mayonnaise.
Sliced cold roast beef, cold green beans mixed with minced onions and olive oil dressing.
Midafternoon: 10 liver capsules and four amino acid capsules.
Dinner: Steak tartare or broiled steak and a mxed green salad consisting of spinach leaves, bean sprouts, avocado, beets, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers, with salad dressing made by blending certified raw cream with safflower mayonnaise and seasoning it with garlic or onion powder.
Alternate Dinners: One-half pound chicken breast baked in unsalted butter, accompanied by sliced beefsteak tomatoes and minced onions with red wine vinegar and olive oil.
Fish baked in unsalted butter and lemon juice.
Dessert: Knox unflavored gelatin, molded with unsweetened pineapple chunks and served with whipped cream topping.
For maximum effect take raw eggs in two ounces of half-and-half every three hours.
I discussed my complete recommendations on supplements in the November 1995 issue of IronMan.