Build Your Shoulders the Vince Gironda Way

A look at the training methods of a legendary bodybuilding coach

If you’re going to talk about shoulder training and Vince Gironda, you need to mention his most famous athlete, Larry Scott.

In 1965, Scott won the first Mr. Olympia competition, won again in 1966, then retired. Scott was blessed with arms that were inserted close to the elbow joint, giving his biceps a long, full look. Those superior bodybuilding genetics, plus intelligent training and hard work, enabled him to develop impressive arms that reportedly stretched the tape at 20 inches, despite his height of 5 feet 7 inches. But was equally impressive were Scott’s delts.

Scott was born with relatively narrow shoulder bones (called the biacromial width), so he had to use every trick in the book to make them appear wider so that his physique wouldn’t appear blocky. One such book is Build Your Shoulders the Vince Gironda Way by Greg Sushinsky. Although not written by Gironda, Sushinsky does an admirable job of explaining the Iron Guru’s training methods.

Second photo
Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia, was known for his amazing biceps. However, he should also be admired for overcoming relatively narrow shoulder bones to develop a symmetrical physique.

Unlike the (as Arnold refers to them) “Coke bottle-shaped” bodybuilders whose thick waists make them appear like the popular soft drink, Gironda favored a physique set off by wide shoulders and lats that tapered down to a small waist. It’s the type of body now referred to as “Classic Physique,” in contrast to open bodybuilding, where mass is king.

Gironda said there were three major heads of the deltoids: anterior (front), lateral (side), and posterior (rear) heads (front, middle, and rear). To sculpt a classic physique, Gironda said that knowing what exercises targeted each head was critical. (Fun Fact: The Strength Sensei says there are actually seven different heads of the deltoids.)

To create the appearance of maximum width, Gironda says bodybuilders should focus the most on the lateral head of the shoulders and be careful about overdeveloping the anterior head. As such, Gironda was careful about performing exercises such as the barbell military press as it heavily emphasized the front delt. Gironda also believed that to create the illusion of broader shoulders, bodybuilders should be careful about overdeveloping the traps.

One great example of the physique Gironda considered more to be ideal was that of the late Christopher Reeve. In preparing him for his Superman movie roles, his trainer David Prowse did minimal trapezius work to enhance his V-taper. (Another fun fact: Prowse played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars movies, although the voice was that of James Earl Jones.)

Sunshinsky says Gironda offered three main guidelines for delt training: emphasize isolation exercises (especially with dumbbells), pay careful attention to form (to better target the muscles you want to develop), and avoid full extension is most exercises (to increase continual tension throughout the movement).

Shoulder cover

The book provides sample workouts for beginner, intermediate, and advanced bodybuilders. One of the book’s most valuable features is the detailed instructions on performing the exercises in the workouts; several of which are demonstrated by Scott and Gironda.

Build Your Shoulders the Vince Gironda Way was independently published in 2018. It’s only 38 pages, and most readers will finish it within an hour. However, Sunshinsky thoroughly explains how the legendary Vince Gironda would train you to look your best. (TSS)

[Build Your Shoulders the Vince Gironda Way by Greg Sushinsky is available in paperback and Kindle formats through]


Lead photo by Miloš Šarčev

Scroll to Top

Join The All-New Dojo

All new programs for women’s training, combat sports, and performance.