Vince Gironda’s 8×8 system of training was originally termed as the « honest workout », because it is simply one of the most difficult and challenging workouts there is. Similar to the 10×10, it stimulates serious muscle hypertrophy along with fat loss. Although highly unorthodox, the 50 year old system continues to be used up until this day to to its effectiveness.
Origins of the Vince Gironda 8×8 Workout
From my understanding, the 8 x 8 system was originally used along with the 10 x 10 system by Vince Gironda in preparation for the NABBA Mr Universe competition. In combination with the anabolic Steak and Eggs Diet, Vince was able to get into peak condition after training in the 8 x 8 system for 6 months. The program was originally published in Vince’s Definition booklet, and later editions contained several different programs.
The Original 8 x 8 Routine
Vince believed that to maximise the effect of an exercise on one’s physique, one should :
- Train the exercise for several months, up to 9 months to get everything out of it
- Therefore at times, it is necessary to only use one exercise to train the specific bodypart at a time
For this reason, Vince’s original 8 x 8 routine has you training ONLY one exercise per bodypart only. Vince would typically have the client working the routine as an upper body and lower body split on separate days, as follows :
- Mon, Wed, Fri: Upper Body Split, each exercise performed for 8 sets of 8 reps
- Tue, Thur: Lower Body Split, each exercise performed for 8 sets of 8 reps
For weight selection, you want to use a weight that you could handle for 12-15 reps, which represent between 70% of your 1RM load. Therefore if you’re 1 RM for the bench press (as an example) is 300 pounds, then 70% would be 210 pounds.
Vince’s 8×8 Exercise selection
Exercise selection is very important in the 8 x 8 routine. The important point is to understand your needs as a bodybuilder. Your needs will indicate whether you need more mass as a beginner, or to work on a certain weakpoint if you are an intermediate or advanced bodybuilder, to acquire a certain look and therefore your priority might be to work on shape and definition. Understand that the suggested exercises are just that, a suggestion. There are beginner exercises which should not be an issue for most, and advanced exercises that require a superior level of mobility and range of motion to perform such as those recommended by Vince. I repeat, these are advanced exercises!
Beginner exercises recommended for each Body-Part
- Chest: Barbell Bench Press
- Back: Lat Pulldown
- Delts: Seated DB Press
- Biceps: Standing Barbell Curl
- Triceps: Rope Pressdown
- Calves: Standing Calf Rase
- Quads: Leg Press
- Hamstrings: Lying Leg Curl
- Abs: Crunch
Advanced exercises recommended by Vince Gironda for each Body-Part
- Chest: Wide Grip Parallel Dips
- Back: Seated Cable Row
- Delts: Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise
- Biceps: Preacher Curl
- Triceps: Triceps Rope Pull in Race Car Drive Position
- Forearms: Seated Barbell Wrist Curl
- Calves: Donkey Calf Raise
- Quads: Hack Squats
- Hamstrings: Leg Machine Curl
- Abs: Crunch
Many people might think that this seems boring, but it is very important to emphasize the effect of such a system. Because you are performing such a high volume using only one particular movement, the result is EXTRAORDINARY HYPERTROPHY ! I can’t emphasize this enough !! This program like the 10 x 10 will add muscle FAST !
Mohamed Makkawy’s 8 x 8 routine
If you are still not convinced then get this….Mr Unvierse champion Mohamed Makkawy, who was one of Vince Gironda’s prize students also used the 8 x 8 routine! In Vince Gironda’s The Wild Physique, Vince describes Mohamed Makkawy’s training prior to the Mr Olympia, where Vince prescribed a very advanced 8 x 8 routine that he devised for Makkawy. Here is what Vince had to say about Mohamed Makkawy’s training :
Mohamed usually visits me twice a year for a refresher course in the spring and again, four weeks prior to the Mr. Olympia contest, in the fall. The last time I saw him, his precontest routine included three 2 1/2-hour workouts on the first day, with one hour off between training sessions. The workout consisted of attacking three different body parts with three exercises per part (a total of 24 sets per muscle area—8 sets per exercise). He repeated this same routine exactly twice more. From the moment he arrived in California, I started him on one dozen eggs a day and 20 liver tablets every three hours. The second day of Mohamed’s training was his arm day. When I work his triceps, we do a great job on his outer triceps head. This muscle adds something very special to an arm, and I always try and maximize its development in my pupils. The exercise we use for this is the kneeling ropepulley extension, the best triceps builder of all. It is performed on a cradle bench, a very small leather-covered platform, 16 inches (40 cm) high with an indented middle to support the elbows.
After we worked three different aspects of Mohamed’s biceps—the bottom, middle, and top—it soon became evident that gaining size was no problem. His arms were huge. It was at this time that I designed a specific exercise for the belly of his biceps. It is called the cable shortrange curl. He found this new exercise to be perfect for his needs.
On that second workout day, I noticed that Mohamed’s calves were a little down in size, and I concluded that he was overworking them in Canada. Accordingly, I only gave him 8 sets of 20 reps on the prone hack-slide machine.
On the third day, we worked his upper legs. I started Mohamed with 8 quick sets of 8 reps on the hack-slide machine. I hurried him through in just ten minutes. This was followed by 8 sets of 8 reps on the Roman chair squats. Finally, we hammered the thigh biceps with a variety of thigh-curl machine exercises and concluded working the thighs with lay-back leg extensions.
Abdominals were trained with 8 sets of flat leg raises and 8 sets of half sit-ups (crunches). I kept his reps to 8 in these exercises, too. Mohamed’s pre-Olympia routine varied slightly according to his energy levels, and, of course, whether he was training in my gym in California or Ken Wheeler’s in Toronto.
So if you are stuck in rut and need to kick-start hypertrophy again, give the 8 x 8 a chance and you will be surprised with thte gains. Similar to what Arnold Schwarzenegger said…. «It’s old, but not obsolete»!
What Makkawy did and what Gironda wrote in his manuals are two different things. He was doing 8 X 8 but he was using many exercises per body part and only for a short period of time, and not without any chemical help, either.
But there are exceptions. If you’re an intermediate strength trainee with a decent level of conditioning, there’s an effective, albeit painful way to achieve the Holy Grail of building muscle and losing fat. The late Vince Gironda, considered by many to be the first bodybuilding coach – and definitely the most eccentric – referred to 8 sets of 8 reps (or 8) as the “honest” workout.
[…] PS: If you’re STILL looking for a challenge, why not check out Vince Gironda’s 8×8 Workout regime? […]
I\’m not a bodybuilder, however I do lift every other day. 8×8: routine is exhausting when using15 second rest with last set to failure at age 63. I do two exercises per muscle group when performing.