Vince Gironda Part 2: 8x8 System For Mass And Leanness

Maik Wiedenbach
Written By: Maik Wiedenbach
November 7th, 2012
Updated: March 13th, 2024
208.8K Reads
Man doing a pull up in the gym
Called the "Honest Workout", Vince Gironda's 8x8 training system is an extremely challenging and effective old school approach to bodybuilding.

When looking at Vince Gironda's training methods it must be said that he coached everyone according to their abilities, so there isn't really one method per se. But there are some general ideas that he followed though, and I'd like to outline them in this article.

Disclaimer: Vince never believed that he had discovered the one and only answer to muscle growth (Instead, that can be found through nameless Internet trolls). He was open to criticism. However, his methods do work and have created some of the best physiques ever.

First off, there is exercise selection. Vince believed in bodybuilding, not muscle building. That being said, he always tried to create ascetically pleasing physiques, not blobs. The squat and flat bench were not done at his gym, replaced by the hack squat, incline bench and dips.

In his opinion, these exercises created blocky physiques. I happen to agree there, but in the end this is a very individual matters so everyone needs to decide what works for him.

Vince Gironda's Favorite Exercises

The following are Vince Gironda's favorite exercises, broken down by body part.

  • Legs: Hack squat, sissy squat with added weight, leg press.
  • Chest: Incline bench, V-dips and floor flyes. Floor flyes at the cable are really a lost gem, nothing gives a better pec isolation.
  • Back: Pull ups (chest to the bar), kneeling lat pull downs (where you kneel on the floor in front of the pulley, seated cable rows.
  • Shoulders: Military press, seated lateral raise or circuit, rear delt flyes while laying chest down on a bench.
  • Triceps: Parallel grip dips, kneeling overhead extensions.
  • BicepsZottman curls, incline curls.
  • Calves: Donkey raises.
  • Abs: Crunches and leg raises.

Vince believed in a high reps and (gasp!) high weights for maximum muscle growth. Traditionally, there have always been two schools of thought in bodybuilding: the high intensity-low frequency group, most notably known via Arthur Jones and Mike Mentzer, and the high volume group as represented by that Austrian guy who is in the movies. (Please note that I did not say that Arnold Schwarzenegger trained low intensity and high volume, since that wouldn't be true.)

What constitutes maximum effort and total failure has been subject for debate since decades and goes beyond the scope of this article. Let's just settle on the notion that muscular failure refers to the point where the athlete isn't capable of achieving another rep without using improper technique aka cheating.

8x8 - The Honest Workout​

Gironda experimented with all kinds of different set and rep schemes. After a long period of trial and error he came up with the 8x8 workout or "the honest workout". Yes that amounts to 64 reps per exercise.

What about overtraining? At the risk of becoming unpopular, I believe that the majority of today's gym rats both undereat and undertrain. Less focus on the latest supplement and more on sleep and food would work wonders for most. But I digress...

What did the actual workout look like? Basically there are two variations, a whole body workout and a split routine.

For the whole body workout, one would pick one exercise per body part and perform 8 sets of 8 reps. The goal is to get all 64 reps per exercises on relatively short rest (One minute for legs, back and chest, 30 seconds for arms, shoulders and calves). Personally, I feel you should pick a weight that allows you to make it 8 reps at least for the first four sets, then you simply try to get as close to 8 as you can. As for weight selection, 60-70% of your normal training weight is a good start.

Assuming you are brave enough to undertake the whole body workout, here is a sample.

  1. Hack Squat
  2. Incline Bench Press
  3. Pull Ups
  4. Military Press
  5. Lying Cable Pull Overs
  6. Zottman curls.
  7. Kneeling Triceps Extensions w/Rope
  8. Donkey Calf Raise. If your gym doesn't have one of those machines, use the leg press. Vince actually preferred 8x20 reps for the calves, but that is not for the faint of heart....
  9. Leg Raises

Your other option would be a more classical bodybuilding split. Hereby I would recommend 3 exercises per large muscle group and 2 for smaller ones. The volume is high, rest is short so be prepared for a lot of soreness. Make sure to adjust your food intake and sleep pattern accordingly.

I would also skip cardio. If you have the luxury of time, you can break the sessions in half and train twice a day. This works very well when getting ready for a contest or photo shoot.

Day 1 Back/Triceps

  • 8x8 Pull ups
  • 8x8 Seated rows
  • 8x8 Pull overs
  • 8x8 Narrow grip dips
  • 8x8 Kneeling overhead extensions

Day 2 Legs

  • 8x8 Hack squats
  • 8x8 Leg press wide stance of single legged
  • 8x8 Stiff legged dead lifts

Day 3 Calves Shoulders

  • 8x8 Military press standing
  • 8x8 Leaning side raises
  • 8x20 Donkey raises

Day 4 Chest/Biceps

  • 8x8 Floor flyes with cables
  • 8x8 V-Dips
  • 8x8 Incline dumbbells bench
  • 8x8 Zottman curls
  • 8x8 Drag curl

I am aware that this workout goes against many of the so-called established 3x10 programs, but it pays to have an open mind. Sometimes a new and radical approach is needed to overcome a plateau and force your body to adapt, greater gains will be your reward!

Posted on: Tue, 07/04/2023 - 11:04

I'm starting the full body version today.
Is it ok to continue my twice weekly boxing/cardio session or will it impede progress?
The boxing workout is only 30 minutes total.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 07/10/2023 - 08:05

Hello, Jerry! Keep the boxing in, you should be fine. If you do notice anything negative from doing both, back the boxing off to once a week. I really think you're going to be ok, though. Hope this helps!

Posted on: Wed, 04/05/2023 - 12:44

I'd like to do 8x8 using a full body workout 2-3 days per week.
Any suggestions or input appreciated.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 04/22/2023 - 13:49

To be clear, you want to train the entire body each workout and train 2-3 days a week, correct?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 05/01/2023 - 13:18

Cool. Thanks for confirming.

I would do 4-5 exercises max per workout. If I were to do this, I would choose four.

Workout 1
Bench Press

Workout 2
Goblet Squat or Front Squat
Barbell Row
Overhead Press

Hope this helps.

Posted on: Mon, 05/01/2023 - 14:28

Thanks for setting up 8x8 full body routine for me.
Going to start it today.

Posted on: Sat, 04/22/2023 - 14:13

Yes, Full body using the 8x8.

Mike H
Posted on: Tue, 11/24/2020 - 20:44

With the split routine is there a day off after day 4 or just cycle through it agsin

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 11/25/2020 - 09:27

Hey Mike - you could do this 4-day cycle a few ways. You could do one cycle per week (aka 4 workouts a week) or you could do a running split like this:
Monday: Day 1
Tuesday: Day 2
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Day 3
Friday: Day 4
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Day 1
Monday: Day 2

Daniel Moore
Posted on: Wed, 09/04/2019 - 02:34

I just started doing 8x8. Doing 4 sets of 8x8 for bigger muscle groups and 2 for smaller in a 4 day split I've also been following a modern version of his diet and I'm growing like I've never grown before. No fat just lean muscle. Using moderate weight. Sometimes I have to drop set cause I dont know what I can do at this rate so it's still experimental at this point. Main thing I'm also doing is 20 seconds rest between each set and 30 sec rest between exercise. That's probably most important if you want to try.

mohammad ali
Posted on: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 08:17

can i do this workout on a regular basist to maintain my muscle i know i will not get stronger on this workout Ive been diagnosed with arthritis of neck and i don't want lose my muscle or is 8x8 temporary workout to use

Posted on: Fri, 04/15/2016 - 14:59

I've been following your routine for 5 weeks now, thank you for that. good results!
this is my version that i'm currently running:

Day 1 Back/Triceps

8x8 Rack Chins
8x8 Split Stance Bend over Hexbar rows
8x8 Kneeling Cable Pull overs
8x8 Dips
8x8 Skullcrushers

Day 2 Legs

8x8 Front squats
8x8 horizontal Leg press machine
8x8 Seated Leg Curls
8x8 Leg Extensions

Day 3 Calves Shoulders

8x8 Military press standing
8x8 Laterals
8x8 rear delt bend over laterals
5x20 Standing Calv-Raises (i've tried 8x20, but i got cramps in the night and i couldn't walk for 2 days!)
Ab work (planks)

Day 4 Chest/Biceps

8x8 15 degrees incline DB press
8x8 low pulley upwards cable cross
8x8 Push Ups
8x8 Zottman curls
8x8 Drag curl

Posted on: Sat, 07/02/2016 - 05:46

what is YTWL Thanks

Bruce Gehring
Posted on: Sun, 10/16/2016 - 18:35


Posted on: Thu, 03/17/2016 - 04:06

You do this 2 days on/2 Days off? Or what frequency?
At day 1 there are Dips and at day 4 too; so you do dips at one day (4) and at the following day (1) as well ...
Thats tough on the shoulder joints imo.
What about doing push ups (or maybe paused push-ups) instead of v-dips on chest-day?

On Day 1, the Kneeling overhead extensions ... I can't help it, my ellbows flare out all the time, i have more problems, keeping the ellbows in than lifting the weight ... Maybe i'll be better off with skull-crushers? don't they hit the same fibers?

Posted on: Wed, 01/20/2016 - 12:16

I do this every other week but with a upper / lower split its pretty grueling but I've seen amazing results as opposed to doing it with a traditional split or as a full body

Posted on: Sun, 01/17/2016 - 22:58

What's the rest days if you do the split?

Michael Sans
Posted on: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 15:03

Is there any way to tailor this for an intermediate lifter?


Posted on: Sat, 01/09/2016 - 14:12

In my humble "amateur" opinion, cut the number of sets down to 3sets instead of 8...that's still plenty of volume for an intermediate lifter (ie, an athlete with less than 1 to 5yrs lifting experience), especially if you are taking each set to "fatigue" or near-failure . Also, When I put together routines for clients (usually friends and family), I have them do a chest/tricep/shoulder day and a back bicep day, instead of the Back/Triceps, Chest/Biceps split. This is so that they are focusing on the same muscle areas during the same workout day. Back/Biceps= pulling movements, Chest/Tri = pushing movements. Here's the bodypart regiment I would suggest:

(Do 1 or 2 warmup sets of 15 reps for each bodypart, before using your "work set weight")
Day 1 Back/Biceps
• 3x8 Pull ups
• 3x8 Seated rows
• 3x8 Pull overs
• 3x8 Zottman or Preacher curls
• 3x8 Drag curl
Day 2 Legs
• 3x8 Hack squats
• 3x8 Leg press wide stance of single legged
• 3x8 Stiff legged dead lifts
Day 3 Calves Shoulders
• 3x8 Military press standing
• 3x8 Leaning side raises
• 3x20 Donkey raises
Day 4 Chest/Triceps
• 3x8 Standing Cable flyes
• 3x8 Dips (use added weight if you can get 20reps)
• 3x8 Incline dumbbells bench
• 3x8 Kneeling overhead extensions
• 3x8 Narrow grip dips

Posted on: Thu, 03/17/2016 - 03:56

"Day 3 Calves Shoulders
• 3x8 Military press standing
• 3x8 Leaning side raises
• 3x20 Donkey raises"

No, thats much too little; for this, i don't go to the gym ...

Posted on: Thu, 03/17/2016 - 12:31

For anyone working out consistently for more than 3yrs, it could be "too little work," depending on your goals...which is why I put that conditional "(less than 1 to 5 years gym training time".

Posted on: Tue, 01/28/2014 - 16:51

What is the rest period between sets on the split workouts? 1 minute? 30 seconds?

Posted on: Sat, 12/27/2014 - 12:52

Aim for less than 30 seconds on smaller muscles (calves, arms, shoulders) and less than 45 seconds for larger muscle groups.

Posted on: Sun, 06/23/2013 - 22:25

just a note for those who have never tried this routine but want to: Vince suggested to find your 8 rep max in an exercise and then begin with 40% of THAT weight for 8x8. There's a TON of similar articles out there by the "more hardcore than you" lifters who for some reason feel they must prove how much more of a hardcore weightlifter they are than everyone else and thus take great routines and offer them with horrible advice. They often say to take 60% of your 1 rep max for this routine, BUT THAT MUCH WEIGHT IS TOO HEAVY! These are the same idiots who tell the first-timer to take what they can normally squat for 10 reps and don't stop until you get 20 reps! All this mentality does is 1. get people injured, and 2. turn people off from lifting weights. If you try this 8x8 routine (which is for advanced trainees only) then start light and work your way up. Start too heavy and you'll not only burn yourself out quick, but not even finish the routine.

handdicaped guy
Posted on: Mon, 01/21/2013 - 13:24

Because of medicinally reasons(I'm Handicapped)(rare brian disorder) I can only lift a max of 20 lbs HELP! What can I do, when I can't do a lot?I'm w/o at home since I can't drive anymore.I'm in a wheel chair but I can walk holding on to a treadmill. W/O mostly from the floor .Doc cleared me to w/o.Had a trainer work with me but he left.Just want to get fit & trim I think with the lbs I lift that's all I can do.Lifting heaver make me shake, then I go out of form, and hurt myself.Can You HELP Me.I'm motivated.

Maik Wiedenbach
Posted on: Sat, 02/16/2013 - 16:15

Hi, the 8x8 might be perfect for you. just work on form and get a really good pump in each muscle. floor flyes, overhead presses, side raises, drag curls tri extension should all work.

Posted on: Sun, 12/02/2018 - 10:52

I know this is ages old, but for anyone who is still reading, first of all, up to 20lb weights can still be challenging if a beginner. With lighter weights slow the tempo down, aiming to decrease rest time between sets. I've read elsewhere that you're supposed to use 2x2 tempo and aim for rest of 30 secs down to 15 secs between sets anyway. It's pretty killer. But yeah, guys often don't want to seem like a wuss, so they'll start to cheat on tempo, upping the weight instead of doing the count right. It's way easier to lift explosively than controlled, but DON'T BE TEMPTED TO DO IT for results. I guarantee you 20lbs military press will burn out a beginner/intermediate. If you max out still up to 20 lbs on weights (8 sets, 8 reps, 2x2 tempo, 15 seconds rest) consider a 4x1 tempo and see if that increases the challenge. For lower body, do single leg activities - I promise you even bodyweight single leg split squats (or with elevated rear leg!) will be hard enough with tempo/short rest ifyou DO NOT CHEAT. Add up to 20lbs, you'll be dying.
Also you don't need weights at all to apply this to push ups, anything with a trx system (rows, dips, ab work), or pull ups (you will definitely need assistance bands). For lower body, sub plyos. Yeah it's a different muscle activation, but it's pretty fun, shorter, and better than nothing if you can't use weights at all.

Posted on: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 13:29

Trent, lean forward for the dips so you ll hit the chest more. As for the leg press, it is a typo in deed, should be wide stance or single legged. You can change it on a weekly basis.

Posted on: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 09:15

What exactly is the leg press wide stance of single legged? Just a regular leg press but a wider stance? Just sort of confused on the wording. Also, is there anything I can do as far as form that will make sure I hit the chest with the "V-Dips"? Seems like my arms are more sore then the chest after them no matter how many form videos i watch

Posted on: Tue, 11/13/2012 - 17:02

What is this? "8x8 Leg press wide stance of single legged"
Is it a wide leg press or a single leg press??

Maik Wiedenbach
Posted on: Sun, 11/11/2012 - 11:00

as for full body workouts, I keep to 3 days at most. You should finish the first exercise, all 8 sets, then move on to the next

Posted on: Wed, 11/07/2012 - 21:00

Are you supposed to complete all the sets of an exercise before you move to the next exercise or do you giant set them? I guess you could giant set them to mix it up...

Posted on: Thu, 11/08/2012 - 07:11

I think you would complete the 8 sets first you'll be to tired to finish if not .

Posted on: Wed, 11/07/2012 - 18:28

If I do full body workout how many days can I do this I been working out since 1979 and I'm in great shape (for my age) lol

Christian Winowiecki
Posted on: Wed, 11/07/2012 - 17:58

how many times a week should I be lifting if i use your full body workout vs. the spit up body parts.

Christian Winowiecki
Posted on: Wed, 11/07/2012 - 17:44

If I do the full body workout. How many times a week should I lift then?

Lou leone
Posted on: Fri, 12/19/2014 - 01:03

8x8fullbody mon/wed/Friday is that correct