How do you build more muscle in the shortest time possible?
This is the intent of A Muscle Has Four Sides by Vince Gironda, a book that provides a complete exercise plan, nutrition plan, and workout tempo aimed specifically to get the fastest gains possible in the shortest amount of time.
The secret to this intense workout plan is how Vince targets the back, chest, shoulders, biceps, forearms, calves and thighs from all four sides, focusing on four muscle-burning exercises he hand-selected — and perfected — to spur maximum muscle growth.
In fact, a well-known Mr. Universe winner with 20 years experience, once told Vince that the program was the most difficult routine he had ever done. So without further ado, let’s review The Muscle Has Four Sides to see what all the fuss is about.
What Makes A Muscle Has Four Sides Different From Other Programs
From the start, Vince recommends you “read every word several times before you start,” and that’s good advice, considering it’s not just the movements that count, but also the technique and method in which they are done.
But don’t worry, Vince provides exact instructions on how to perform each exercise, and that alone is gold, considering it’s the next best thing to having the Iron Guru himself training you in your living room.
All the exercises (with the exception of the calf exercises) follow a 1×12 set and rep combo to challenge even the most experienced lifters. And because there are four sides, the exercises are performed in such a way to stimulate the right order of side within each muscle group.
This sequence is vital, and Vince recommends you set up the equipment required before you start, in order to “move directly from one exercise to the next without delay.”
Golden Era Nuggets
Vince provides “aha” moments throughout. For example, on each exercise you perform, he recommends you focus on what he calls “inter-muscular contractions,” which is where you “tense the muscle voluntarily at the top of each movement.” Modern trainers call this the “effort level” but the idea is worth remembering; there is power in intent.
These are the sorts of principles that make A Muscle Has Four Sides so much more than your standard exercise program. This is Vince Gironda himself, in his own voice, providing clever little tidbits of information to accelerate that muscle growth in less time.
For example, Vince talks about short-distance sprinters who develop more leg muscle development, not because they do more work, but because they “pump up the capillaries for increased muscle size,” he says. “Additional exercises and sets would only cause overtonis, shock to the central nervous system, and loss of muscle size.”
Exercises and Routine
As far as weight goes in The Muscle Has Four Sides, Vince suggests just enough to “force yourself to complete the required number of repetitions, even if this requires some cheating on the last two or three,” Vince says. Since all four exercises are performed consecutively, you naturally will be stronger on the first ones, but it will probably take you a couple of workouts before you can adjust the weights.
And that’s one of the pure joys of discovering Vince’s exercises. You don’t need a lot of weight to see results. In fact, many of Vince’s most famous exercises are designed to stimulate the central nervous system, and activate muscle fibers (that normally lay dormant) through precise movement, rather than overbearing the body.
When it comes to the actual routine, The Muscle Has Four Sides is a variation of the split routine, except that you workout twice each day, performing the same exercises in the second workout as you did in the first. The workouts must be separated by at least four hours, and in the second workout, you may have to use slightly less weights than the first.
However, if you do be sure to use stricter style and tighter muscular contractions. These are the body parts you will work day by day in the following order:
- Day 1 – Back, Chest and Shoulders.
- Day 2 – Triceps, Biceps and Forearms.
- Day 3 – Thighs and Calves.
- Day 4 – Same as Day 1
- Day 5 – Same as Day 2
- Day 6 – Same as Day 3
- Day 7 – Rest
Notice there is no abdominal work in this course. That’s because this is a muscle size building course and ab work can shock the solar plexus and slow down gains. Vince found that abdominals can be developed in six weeks, and he had a complete course just for abs.
The Four Sides of Each Muscle
The best part of the course is how Vince explains each exercise. Here’s an example of how he describes exercise 1, on day 1:
Exercise 1 – Low pulley pull. This exercise works two different parts of the lats,
the teres major, and the section of the traps between the shoulder blades. Use a
low pulley machine with the pulley 16M off the floor, and try about 125 to 150
pounds. Pull the bar from a full stretch position head down, until it touches just
under the low pec line. Keep your elbows out wide, and at the completion of the
movement your chest should be high, and the shoulders drawn down and back.
As you can see, Vince really digs in to explain how to perform each exercise correctly. The goal is to reach a perfect technique before adding weights. This way, your central nervous system records the right movements and allows your muscles to reach max contraction.
Finally, here is the full list of exercises in The Muscle Has Four Sides, along with the muscles they activate:
Day 1 Exercises
- Exercise 1 – Low pulley pull. This exercise works two different parts of the lats, the teres major, and the section of the traps between the shoulder blades.
- Exercise 2 – Reeves alternate rowing. This exercise develops the teres muscles for width across the upper back at the shoulders.
- Exercise 3 – Low pulley rowing from racing dive position. This exercise will give you that long lat sweep.
- Exercise 4 – Two dumbbell rowing, lying face down on a bench 20” high. This exercise will thicken your upper back and bring out all the muscular
- Exercise 1 – Barbell press to the neck. This exercise develops the pectoralis minor.
- Exercise 2 – V bar dips. This exercise will give you that lower and outer pec outline.
- Exercise 3 – Incline Dumbbell Press. For the pectoralis minor.
- Exercise 4 – Modified bench laterals. This exercise is for the middle pectoral.
- Exercise 1 – DB lateral side swing. For the outside part of the deltoid.
- Exercise 2 – Barbell upright row. This exercise develops the lateral deltoid where the lateral and posterior heads meet.
- Exercise 3 – Scott press. For the deltoid where the anterior head meets the side.
- Exercise 4 – Bent over dumbbell laterals. For the rear deltoid where it meets the lateral head.
Day 2 Exercises
- Exercise 1 – Tricep barbell pullover. This exercise is for the inner tricep head, between the elbow and shoulder.
- Exercise 2 – Barbell rollover and press. The pullover part of this exercise affects the high tricep and presses the outer head.
- Exercise 3 – Reverse close parallel dip. For the high head of the triceps. This is not the same parallel dip given for chest in your day 1 program.
Exercise 4 – Dumbbell Kickback. This exercise is for the high head of the tricep.
- Exercise 1 – Barbell preacher curl. This exercise is for low biceps.
- Exercise 2 – Reverse preacher curl. For high bicep. This exercise is the same as the previous one except your body position is reversed.
- Exercise 3 – Alternate incline curls. For the middle bicep.
- Exercise 4 – Seated dumbbell curls. For the middle and high part of the biceps.
For more on the Preacher Curl, check out our deep-dive article
- Exercise 1 – Barbell wrist curl. For the belly of the forearm.
- Exercise 2 – Reverse curl, body drag style. For the upper and outer part of the forearm.
- Exercise 3 – Zottman curls. This exercise affects three different aspects of the forearm and the biceps.
- Exercise 4 – Thumbs up dumbbell curl. For the upper outer part of the forearm.
Day 3 Exercises
- Exercise 1 – Sissy squat. For the high thigh fibers, it produces a longer look. The sissy squat is the exercise that will give your thighs the champion’s look. Vince regarded the sissy squat as being so important he wrote an entire course on it.
- Exercise 2 – Power leg curl, for the hamstrings.
- Exercise 3 – Wide stance frog squat. For the outer thigh curve.
- Exercise 4 – Power leg extensions, for the front of the thighs.
- Exercise 1 – Seated heel raise. For the soleus muscle to give your calves width. Remember to do twenty reps on each calf exercise, instead of the usual twelve.
- Exercise 2 – Standing heel raise. For the inside of the calf.
- Exercise 3 – Toe press on the leg press machine. This is a stretching exercise for
- the high part of the calf.
- Exercise 4 – Hack slide heel raise. This is a peak contraction exercise to define the calf.
The Muscle Has Four Sides provides a nutritional program that should go with the exercise program. Vince includes this plan to provide the “materials your body needs to grow at the fastest possible rate.”
You might want to substitute the “raw eggs” with cooked eggs but other suggestions like liver tablets and taking vitamin E, chelated mineral, and zinc are bodybuilding nutrition principles followed by top athletes and bodybuilding champions today.
Vince also provides suggestions on what to eat for dinner and how you can train your body to accept any changes to your diet.
Overall, the Muscle Has Four Sides is a great course for anyone who wants to accelerate their gains in much shorter time. It works for bodybuilders who are coming up to a competition and want to carve specific muscle sides, or for beginners who want to learn accurate exercises that shape and tone the perfect physique.
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