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The Complete Guide to Gironda’s 8×8 Training (2022)

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Vince Gironda was a renowned bodybuilder, coach, and author. He was a co-founder of a supplement company NSP Nutrition and is the person who developed Gironda’s 8×8 training. His nickname back in the day was the Iron Guru. 

Gironda’s 8×8 is a method, unlike any workout plan you’ve seen before. One of the defining features is that you must perform 8 sets of 8 reps on exercises. The late Vince Gironda was considered an eccentric bodybuilding coach, but he claimed it was the “honest” workout. Vince deemed his method honest because it forces you to use lighter (“humbling”) weights to complete each workout.

The 8×8 program is similar to German volume training, which was created in the 1970s and made popular by Rolf Feser, the national weightlifting coach. The training consists of 10 sets and 10 reps which you would perform 3 times per week.

The 8×8 program was designed strictly for aesthetic improvements and is therefore not suited for people interested in maximizing physical abilities: strength, power, and explosiveness. Vince used to prescribe his method primarily to people during contest preparation, and many found great success with it, considering how simple it is. 

To apply the method, you must pick a load that’s 60 to 70 percent of your one-rep max (1 RM), preferably on compound exercises like the bench press instead of isolation movements, such as lateral raises. You must do 8 sets of 8 reps, resting for only 30 seconds. The program allows you to do 8×8 on up to four movements per session, but we recommend starting with one to see how the method feels. 

The 8×8 method is good and will get you to work hard to complete all the sets. Training with 60 to 70 percent of your max and only doing sets of 8 reps might feel easy, but do that eight times within six to eight minutes on a compound lift to see if that’s the case. Working out in such a way leads to lots of metabolic stress, burns calories, and improves your endurance (1, 2).

You can create and log your Gironda-style workout with Hevy and monitor how you are progressing.

Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own Gironda’s 8×8 Training with Hevy, and track your progress – for free

What are the Benefits of an 8×8 workout? 

1. Great For Muscle Gain

While heavy weight training is often deemed the holy grail for muscle growth, much can be said about utilizing lighter loads to stimulate hypertrophy. Gironda’s 8×8 plan is based on training with moderate loads but doing a lot of work in little time, resulting in massive disruptions that can lead to more growth (1, 3).

2. Endurance Benefits

Gironda’s 8×8 plan follows a typical training structure where you do a bout of activity, take a break, and repeat until you complete all sets and go down the list of exercises. But, unlike most plans, 8×8 has you train in a moderately high repetition range and rest for 30 seconds or less. Doing so increases your average heart rate and improves your endurance (2).

3. Time-Efficient Training

The beauty of Gironda’s training plan is that you can work your entire body and cause a significant disruption in as little as 30 minutes. On average, each exercise will take 6 to 8 minutes to complete. Two movements and a warm-up would take 20 to 25 minutes.

4. Good For Developing Grit

Doing an 8-rep set with 60 percent of your max is easy, and most people wouldn’t even break a sweat. But repeating that 8, 16, 24, or 32 times inside a single session is a huge challenge that shows you where your limits lie. 

Gironda’s 8×8 is excellent for developing grit because you have clear rules to follow, and there is no way to deviate from the plan and make it easier for yourself. You must dig deep and find the discipline to keep going, despite your burning muscles and lungs.

Rules of the Workout 

Rule: Rest Periods

Your rest periods play a pivotal role in Gironda’s 8×8 plan. The objective is to recover for 30 or fewer seconds between sets, thus keeping your heart rate elevated and causing more metabolic stress.

Rule: Training Tempo

Vince Gironda’s 8×8 plan is based on fast execution. You must perform repetitions at a moderate to quick tempo, always training through a full range of motion. The program calls for quick repetitions, but that doesn’t mean you should dive-bomb squats (dropping uncontrollably) or the barbell during a bench press. Always control the weight and maintain a steady tempo from start to finish.

Rule: Load Progression

Progressing the load always plays a role in long-term improvements because you must continually shock your muscles (4). Gironda’s plan doesn’t specify a progression scheme, but you should increase the load to keep yourself challenged over the weeks. Of course, you have to be conservative because attempting to lift too much weight can stop you from completing all 8 reps.

Rule: Exercise Selection

Gironda’s 8×8 plan works with a wide range of exercises. Still, it is best to apply the principles to compound exercises: squats, bench press, overhead press, barbell row, etc. One reason is that you can train with reasonably heavy weights for 8 reps without risking technique breakdown. In contrast, doing 8 reps on movements like lateral raises could lead to poor training form and higher injury risk.

What about Cardio?

Unlike many bodybuilders and personal trainers from his time, Vince Gironda didn’t believe cardio was necessary for melting fat. Some sources claim that Gironda was against cardio so much that he would remove people from his gym for discussing activities like running. 

Judging by his training approach, it is safe to say that Vince enjoyed aerobic training but preferred to combine it with lifting weights. He believed doing so would deliver much quicker and more pronounced benefits without having trainees waste their time on dull activities. Instead of doing a slow training session and dedicating 30, 40, or even 50 minutes to cardio, Vince would speed up his lifting sessions to push himself hard, build muscle, and work on his endurance. 

Aerobic exercise is valuable and offers numerous benefits related to health, well-being, and energy levels (5). Developing your cardiovascular system is also necessary to perform at your best and recover well from weight training (6). Still, we recommend keeping cardio exercise, such as running, low while following Gironda’s 8×8 program. For one, the 8×8 program will work your cardiovascular system well and help you burn extra calories to support fat loss. Second, cardio can interfere with your recovery, leading to a drop in your lifting performance (7). 

If you must do cardio, keep your sessions light and short––no longer than 20 to 30 minutes. It’s also best to do your cardio on rest days to minimize the risk of it interfering with your weight sessions.

Exercise Selection with the 8×8 Workout

As discussed above, you should apply Gironda’s training principles to compound exercises simply because they are more effective, better suited for 8-rep sets, and allow for good overload.

man barbell back squat weights

You can start with machine-based compound movements before using free weights. For instance, apply the 8×8 principles to the leg press instead of starting with barbell back squats.

Similarly, use a chest press machine instead of doing the bench press, a T-bar station instead of barbell rows, and a machine shoulder press instead of standing overhead presses. You can also work with dumbbells if that’s what you prefer. For instance, you can have dumbbell-only back workouts if you can’t do pull-ups and don’t have a barbell around.

Here is a list of good compound exercises you can do:

Bench Press (Barbell, Dumbbell)Incline Bench Press (Barbell, Dumbbell)Bench Press – Close Grip (Barbell)
Floor Press (Barbell, Dumbbell)Shoulder Press (Barbell, Dumbbell)Chest Press (Machine)
Chin UpPull UpPush Up
Seated Shoulder Press (Machine)Push PressOverhead Press (Barbell, Dumbbell)
Bent Over Row (Barbell)Pendlay Row (Barbell)T Bar Row
Upright Row (Barbell, Dumbbell)Chest Supported Incline Row (Dumbbell)Shrug (Barbell, Dumbbell)
Romanian Deadlift (Barbell, Dumbbell)Squat (Barbell)Front Squat
Goblet SquatHack Squat (Machine)Leg Press (Machine)

The good news is that you don’t have to limit yourself to compound exercises because you can mix them with isolation movements. For example, you can start with one compound 8×8 activity and mix it with some regular sets of assistance and isolation exercises. Once you gain experience with 8×8 training, you can introduce a second, third, and even fourth 8×8 movement, making them the majority of your training sessions.

Here is a list of isolation movements you can include in your workouts alongside the 8×8 exercises:

Chest Fly (Dumbbell)Cable Fly CrossoverLeg Extension (Machine)
Lying Leg Curl (Machine)Seated Calf RaiseStanding Calf Raise (Machine)
Lateral Raise (Dumbbell)Face PullRear Delt Reverse Fly (Machine) 
Triceps Rope PushdownTriceps KickbackBicep Curl (Barbell, Machine, Dumbbell)
Hammer Curl (Band, Dumbbell, Cable)EZ Bar Biceps Curl

Sample Workout Plans

3 Day split

A 3-day split is one where you do three weekly sessions. It’s best to have at least a day of recovery between workouts to ensure optimal recovery. For example, you can train Mondays-Wednesdays-Fridays or Tuesdays-Thursdays-Saturdays. 

man seated shoulder press dumbbell

The following routine borrows from the principles of push/pull/legs splits. Day one is push, day two is pull, and day three is legs. Complete the three sessions, take a break, and return to the gym for week two.

Day 1: PushDay 2: PullDay 3: Legs
Bench Press (Barbell) 
8×8
Seated Shoulder Press (Machine) 
8×8
Incline Bench Press (Dumbbell)
3 sets of 8 to 12 reps
Lateral Raise (Dumbbell) 
2-3 sets of 12 to 20 reps
Triceps Rope Pushdown
2-3 sets of 12 to 20 reps
Bent Over Row (Barbell) 
8×8
Chest Supported Incline Row (Dumbbell) 
8×8
Lat Pulldown (Cable)
3 sets of 10 to 12 reps
Bicep Curl (Dumbbell) 
3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Hammer Curl (Dumbbell) 
3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Face Pull 
3 sets of 15 to 25 reps
Squat (Barbell) 
8×8
Romanian Deadlift (Dumbbell) 
8×8
Leg Extension (Machine) 
3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Glute Bridge
3 sets of 12 to 20 reps
Standing Calf Raise (Machine)
3 sets of 12 to 15 reps

Schedule 
Monday – Push
Tuesday – Off
Wednesday – Pull
Thursday – Off
Friday – Legs
Saturday – Off
Sunday – Off

5 Day split

As the name suggests, a 5-day split is one where you complete five training sessions each week. Training five times per week is more challenging because you have less time to recover. Still, you can design your weekly training so that individual muscles get enough time to recover. One good option is to leverage a body part (bro) split, where you train each major muscle group once per week. For example, you can have a shoulder workout, an arms day, a session for your back, and more. 

Day 1: ChestDay 2: BackDay 3: Legs and Abs
Bench Press (Barbell)
8×8
Incline Bench Press (Dumbbell)
8×8
Push Up
3 sets of 5 to 20 reps
Cable Fly Crossover
3 sets of 15 to 20 reps
Pendlay Row (Barbell)
8×8 
T Bar Row 
8×8 
Lat Pulldown (Cable)
3 sets of 10 to 12 reps
Seated Cable Row
3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Squat (Barbell)
8×8
Romanian Deadlift (Dumbbell)
8×8
Leg Extension (Machine)
3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Lying Leg Curl (Machine)
3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Seated Calf Raise
2 sets of 15 to 20 reps
Cable Twist (Down to up)
2 sets of 12 to 20 reps (per side)
Lying Leg Raise
2 sets of 15 to 30 reps
Day 4: Shoulders and TrapsDay 5: Biceps and Triceps
Shoulder Press (Barbell)
8×8
Shrug (Barbell)
8×8
Upright Row (Dumbbell) 
3 sets of 8 to 12 reps
Lateral Raise (Dumbbell) 
3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Face Pull
3 sets of 15 to 25 reps
Bicep Curl (Barbell)
8×8
Bench Press – Close Grip (Barbell) 
8×8
Triceps Rope Pushdown
3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Bicep Curl (Dumbbell)
3 sets of 12 to 15 reps

Schedule 
Monday – Chest
Tuesday – Back
Wednesday – Legs
Thursday – Off
Friday – Shoulders and traps
Saturday – Biceps and triceps
Sunday – Off

What to be Cautious about with the 8×8 Workout?

The first thing to be cautious of with the 8×8 training plan is how well you recover between workouts. You won’t be training as frequently as you would on a 7-day split, but each workout is demanding, and you should start with a lower training frequency. Doing so is necessary for reducing the risk of overtraining. 

A three or four-day split would be more than enough to see good results. We must also consider that Gironda’s 8×8 is designed for fat loss. Being in a calorie deficit impacts your recovery and makes muscle growth much more difficult, so there isn’t a need for doing a ton of training volume (8).

The second thing to be cautious of is your exercise selection. As discussed above (and recommended by Vince Gironda), you should apply the 8×8 principles to compound lifts instead of isolation exercises. Doing so is necessary to stimulate a more significant percentage of your musculature, promote overload, and maintain good technique on 8-rep sets. Still, not all compound movements are suitable for 8×8 simply because of the demand. For example, we don’t recommend doing 8 sets of 8 reps on conventional deadlifts because the risk of technique breakdown is high, and you will struggle to recover well in 30 seconds.

You must also be careful with how close you train to failure. The objective is to pick light enough weights and do 8 reps per set, resting only half a minute. Lifting a heavy load might work for a couple of sets, but you could have to grind reps to complete the final sets. Aside from increasing the risk of injury, training to failure can slow the recovery process (9).

The Hevy app is a great tool to keep track of your 8×8 workouts and to ensure you are resting for the full 30 seconds before starting the next set.

Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own Gironda’s 8×8 Training with Hevy, and track your progress – for free

What is the Gironda’s Diet?

The Vince Gironda diet isn’t a single nutritional approach but refers to numerous eating styles the bodybuilder developed in his lifetime. Each of his diets, including the Steak and Eggs Diet and the 36 Eggs a Day Diet, was something he developed and tested on himself before sharing with others. 

It’s also important to note that Vince’s diets weren’t meant for long-term use. His dietary approaches served a purpose; trainees were meant to replace them with a more ‘normal’ way of eating once they reached their objectives. For instance, the 36 Eggs a Day Diet is one where people eat three dozen eggs daily, but you’re only meant to follow it for six to eight weeks. 

Another example is Gironda’s steak and eggs diet, where people must only eat steak and eggs for five days before enjoying a high-carb ‘cheat’ day to refeed. Like his other approaches, the diet is designed for a short-term objective––fat loss. Once you’ve reached the desired level of leanness, you must stop the diet and return to normal eating.

One notable drawback of Vince’s diets is that none were meant to work in the long run or to help people maintain their results. Each approach was goal-oriented and meant to be followed for a few weeks. People interested in a more sustainable eating plan would do better with a long-term diet. 

Gironda’s diets are decent and work well when followed diligently. But, to reap their full benefits, trainees must have a plan for how to eat once the specific diet runs its course. For instance, you might follow the steak and eggs diet for eight weeks, but you need nutritional structure to maintain the fat loss.

Final Thoughts

Gironda’s 8×8 plan has been around for a long time and has helped many dedicated trainees prepare for bodybuilding competitions or achieve specific fat loss goals. Despite its simplicity, 8×8 is a practical training approach that causes a strong growth stimulus and leads to impressive effects. 

Doing many sets with minimal rest in between pushes you to your physical limits and causes a lot of metabolic stress––one of two primary factors related to muscle hypertrophy. Completing many demanding sets with only 30 seconds of rest also taxes your cardiovascular system, improving your endurance, work capacity, and ability to recover. As an added benefit, you can finish your workouts quicker and stay fit, even on a tight schedule.

The primary drawback of Gironda’s training is that it isn’t as suited for strength gains. You can (and should) aim for progressive overload, but improvements will occur more slowly than with a more traditional approach like the 5×5 program. Another potential issue is that you might experience a breakdown in technique because you’re forced to do many reps in just six to eight minutes.

We believe that Vince Gironda’s 8×8 plan is good. It certainly isn’t a long-term training approach, but it works well for its purpose––fat loss. The method is better suited for more advanced trainees who aren’t strangers to high-repetition training. Doing sets of 8 reps might not feel challenging, but you must do 8 sets and 64 reps, which can be exhausting, especially on demanding exercises like the barbell squat.

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