1. Training

How Vince Gironda Trained Apollo Creed

Written by Dr Juan Carlos Cassano aka the Golden Era Bookworm

The Iron Guru was so known because of his unbelievable and uncanny ability to transform actors into tip-top shape ready for their roles in Hollywood movies. Therefore, it is no surprise that Vince helped Carl Weathers shape and cut his physique for the iconic role of Apollo Creed in the epic ROCKY film saga.

When Rocky hit the cinema screen back in the mid to late 70s, critics the world over acclaimed the film as having the most exciting fight scene ever created for the screen, of course, referring to the last few minutes of the film now infamously called THE FIGHT.

When Rocky burst through the screen, the contrasting roles of Stallone, who shown in the film through his undeniable talent as the credible character of Rocky, an uneducated, kind-hearted working-class Italian-American boxer, working as a debt collector for a loan shark in the slums of Philadelphia, who facing incredible odds, takes a shot at the heavyweight title of the world against the powerful and charismatic character of Apollo Creed. The most amazing this is that Carl Weathers’ training with Vince Gironda for the role of Apollo Creed was so good, that critics actually thought he was a real-life fighter and not an actor!

It is said that initially, the film producers ignored Weathers until he finally begged and pleaded his case and got an appointment. When they asked Carl if he had boxing experience which he didn’t. Carl tried to fool them, and then one of the producers asked him to take off his shirt….and that clinched it…he landed the part!

Carl’s Body looked like a boxer’s body, and like the body of the Heavy Weight Champion of the World. Vince had been able to transform a relative no-name actor to one of the most iconic roles in boxing films history!

Carl Weathers Joins Vince’s Gym

After making his move to LA, Carl Weathers joined Vince’s Gym to begin sculpting his body. He trained under the tutelage of the Iron Guru for two years before he landed the role of Apollo Creed.

Carl employed a routine similar to the Peripheral Heart Action system made popular years ago by Mr. Universe Bob Gajda, but using the unique exercises taught by Vince Gironda. In many ways, Carl trained using the program designed by Vince that he used to get movie stars ready for their movie roles.

As Carl stated in an article in 1977:

“It’s a great system for building hard muscle”. I pick out six to seven exercises that will work the whole body. I perform sets but not in the usual way. That is, I start with maybe a chest movement, go on to a leg movement, then something for the shoulders until I have done one set of every movement in my program, without pausing, as is the case in the usual fashion. When I have done the six or seven exercises, I take a short rest and repeat the cycle. I do this six times, sometimes more. The idea here is to work as fast as possible. I get a great muscle pump and it’s good for my cardiovascular too. I like to grind out the reps”.

The Apollo Creed Training Programme

Now Vince’s “How I train the Movie Stars” program which was a circuit-based program used to get movie stars in shape in record time was essentially the same program that Carl Weathers was using, except he would train each circuit at least 6 times, training once each day.

Considering that in “How I train the Movie Stars”, Vince had his clients training the 5 circuits only once a week, it is easy to see why Vince regarded Carl Weathers as an incredible athlete. He even once stated that if Carl Weathers wanted to, he could have become a professional bodybuilder, such was his incredible genetic potential. Judging from the photos and footage of Carl in his many movie roles such as Apollo Creed in Rocky and Dillon in Predator, it is easy to see why.

Carl would perform 6 circuits DAILY, 6 days a week, training with super intensity!

As Carl mentioned, he only used up to seven exercises, and these would have been similar to those used by other movie stars following Vince’s “How I train the Movie Stars” program, as listed.

  1. Barbell Neck Press
  2. Reeves Alternate Dumbbell Rowing
  3. Dumbbell Lateral Raise
  4. Lying Tricep Pullover
  5. Two Hand Seated Dumbbell Curls
  6. Barbell Wrist Curl
  7. Concimetric Double Up Crunch
  8. Frog Squats
  9. Standing Heel Raises

Carl was also known to use other exercises like Leg extensions,  EZ bar curls, crunches, seated dumbbell raises, and many of the other exercises that Vince Gironda taught him to shape his physique whilst at Vince’s Gym, most of which can be found in The Wild Physique. Most of the exercises that Vince taught would emphasize certain parts of the target muscle, with the goal of accentuating certain lines to achieve the desired look, that of a classic physique.

Carl’s Philosophy on Bodybuilding

Carl however was never to become a bodybuilder, neither did he have the ambition, as he in his own words, considered himself an actor.

To quote Carl:

“I work at keeping my muscle size down. It’d be the easiest thing in the world for me to gain 15 more pounds of hard muscle. Right now I tip the scale at 220, at a height of six feet 2 inches…..I am not interested in bodybuilding in the way, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger, does it…..I am, first and foremost, an actor”.

Interestingly, Carl Weathers was set to compete in the Mr. California contest during the mid-1970s, but his appearance in Rocky prevented that from ever happening.

The Apollo Creed Diet

Carl’s diet was strictly vegetarian, where he would focus on eggs and dairy as protein sources, eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and grains.

Vince of course also advocated vegetarian diets, especially during a cutting phase for obtaining maximum definition, as with his Lacto-Ovo vegetarian diet.

Apollo and Vince

And what was Carl’s opinion of Vince?

Well, let’s put it this way. The night he appeared on the Mike Douglas show with Stallone, he wore a spanking new training shirt, with the word Vince’s clearly showing on his chest, and that was some heavy advertising, but Carl did it for free. To quote Carl ”Yes, it was all for free and millions of people must have seen it. That’s how much I think of Vince”.

The next morning a sign appeared on Vince’s Gym’s noticeboard reading: Carl Weather’s We Salute You!

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