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How Vince Gironda helped Arnold Bring His Legs Up To Par

Written by Dr Juan Carlos Cassano aka The Golden Era Bookworm

When we look at comparison shots of Arnold in 1966, to the later Arnold of the late 60s and later still, the early 70s, the size, cuts, and muscular separation are obvious.

His quadriceps matured and he had clearly improved on the muscular separation in all the different muscles of the quadriceps, running from the base of his knee up until the insertions of the upper thigh quadriceps into the hip area.

These comparison photos that follow are just night and day.

By the late 1960s, Arnold presented a new package on the Mr Universe stage, with upper thigh development to boast! 

As many of us know, Arnold lost his first NABBA Mr Universe in 1966 to the American sensation Chet Yorton due to his lack of definition and lagging body parts, specifically his legs. Unlike Arnold, Chet presented a polished look and was the clear winner.

When Arnold first arrived in the US in 1968, Joe Weider decided that Arnold needed the tutelage of the Iron Guru to bring certain body parts like his legs up to par. Arnold would train at Vince’s gym for up to 9 months and learn to shape and define his physique under the watchful eye of the Iron Guru.

When we see a young Arnold Schwarzenegger posing, we can clearly see that although his upper body is massive whilst his legs lacked both size and shape.

Arnold was used to performing mostly squats, leg extensions, and leg curls for leg development, as can be seen from these images of Arnold training in Germany prior to his arrival in the US.

Furthermore, although Arnold’s powerlifting past meant he had a strong squat, he never gave his legs the attention that they really needed.

Ultimately, this resulted in his first Mr Universe loss and having to reassess his training.

Within the first days of training at Vince’s Gym, Arnold would blast his thighs with 2 major exercises, namely the Hack Squat and the Delinger Squat. Both of these exercises are listed in The Wild Physique. For Hamstring development, Vince taught Arnold his variation of the leg curl on the leg curl machine. 

The Delinger Squat for Mass

The Delinger Squat as the name suggest, was most likely developed by Jack Delinger during the Silver Era.

Many Silver Era bodybuilders preferred it over the back squat and regular flat-footed front squat for adding mass to their thighs. Unlike the back or front squat, the trainee shifts the work onto the quadriceps muscles by placing his heels on a wooden board of usually 2 x 4 inches.

By tipping the weight forward, the exercise shifts the emphasis from the glutes and hips and forward onto the quadriceps. We can see that most Golden Era bodybuilders adopted this style of squatting using enormous poundages. For example, these classic photos (taken by Artie Zeller) show both Arnold and Draper during an epic Leg Day, performing Delinger squats with 300 to 400-pounds at the original Gold’s Gym.

Massive poundages can be used in the Delinger squat, and therefore massive thigh mass can be achieved.

To perform the Delinger squat, do the following (taken from The Wild Physique):

Place feet 12 inches (30cm) apart on a 2-inch (5cm) high block of wood. Hold Barbell in the “clean” position as shown, on the front of the deltoids. Squat down with a straight back. As you come up from the full squat, push the hips forward until the extended position is achieved. Do not forget to lean slightly rearwards to keep stress on the front of the thigh.

The Hack Squat

Now Arnold was not a stranger to the Hack Squat, having exercised with this movement back in Germany. But it is very obvious that the emphasis in training and gaining separation and muscularity was not there.

Vince taught the hack squat as an exercise for both developing the quadriceps and encouraging muscular separation.

Unlike the form that most gym-goers use today, Vince encouraged a FULL RANGE of motion and employed several variations of the hack machine squat to encourage development of the different segments of the thigh musculature.

Arnold took to the challenge and even performed Hack Squats at Don Peter’s gym in the afternoons after having trained at Vince’s in the morning. 

The Hack Squat varieties taught at Vince’s gym included the “Knees together hack squat” which targeted the outer sweep of the thigh, and the “Heels together Hack Squat” which targets the vastus medialis and lateralis just above the knee cap.

As is clear from these photos, Arnold employed these varieties to further accentuate the frontal thigh separation.

The Power Leg Extension

Besides these varieties of squats, Arnold of course would also employ the Leg Extension for maximum thigh separation.

Vince employed a different type of leg extension, called the (Power) Leg Extension, which required the trainee to extend backwards as the knees were extended during the concentric thigh contraction of the movement.

As we can see from these photos, this is another exercise that Arnold employed.

The reason why Vince taught the trainee to extend his upper body backwards during the concentric is because the upper thigh comes into play at the end of the contraction.

By doing this, great upper thigh muscularity could be employed and developed. Other Golden Era bodybuilders also famously employed this technique, most famous of all was of course Tom Platz.

The Leg Curl Variations

Finally, I have previously explained the different Gironda Leg Curl variations which he would teach his students.

It is obvious that prior to Vince’s Gym, Arnold was performing only the standard Leg Curl.

However, after training at Vince’s Gym, he employed the more advanced variations which involved shifting the body in a push-up position either during the eccentric, which works the middle of the hamstring, or shifting into the push-up position during the concentric, which works the top of the hamstring.

No doubt Arnold employed the 3 different leg curl variations to develop his hamstrings further.

It is obvious that after emphasizing leg development and muscular separation, Arnold’s legs finally caught up with his upper body musculature.

He began to present a more muscular, defined, and polished physique in his subsequent NABBA Universe appearances.

This won him several titles, prior to winning his streak of 7 Olympias, all thanks to Vince’s initial teachings.

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