IFBB Bodybuilding legend, Vince Taylor, is no doubt a name all bodybuilding pundits will recognise. Known for his crowd-pleasing, engaging and dynamic ‘Terminator’ posing routines, he’s also one of the highest-achieving bodybuilders of our time, having amassed 22 IFBB titles in addition to a record 5 Masters Olympia titles in a career spanning well over two decades.
We recently had the privilege of speaking with Vince, where he shared his bodybuilding stories, highlights, training insights, the rationale behind his Precision Grips training accessories and much more. So, sit back, relax and soak up our exclusive interview with an icon from the Golden Era of bodybuilding, here’s Vince Taylor!
Hi Vince, how are you?
I’m good. How are you doing?
Not bad thank you. First of all we’d like to thank you for taking part in this interview. I’ve got to say it’s an honour to sit and talk with one of the best bodybuilders on the planet.
It’s my pleasure. Thank you for that intro!
So, had you taken a look around the Keep Fit Kingdom.com site, what did you think?
I looked at it just the other day to get a deeper insight into what you guys are doing. The mission and reach that you have makes it quite a platform. Thank you for the opportunity to get onboard!
That’s great! I’m glad you like it Vince. Okay, so to start off, please tell us how you first got started in bodybuilding and who were your first influences?
Whoa! That takes me back. It started as a child. I loved the fact that I saw guys with muscles on TV, I think it was Steve Reeves and the Hercules movies was where it all started and the idea of having biceps. Man, I saw a picture of Arnold of course and the magazine with Bill Pearl walking on the beach, I was always flashy and attracted to this muscle. So when I saw this magazine on muscle and bodybuilding, that’s when I started reading and learning.
Great influences there. Steve Reeves and Bill Pearl are two of my favourites too.
So, what do you consider to be the highlight of your career with the IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilders)?
In the beginning the highlight was about being able to create that physique and put me into that whole atmosphere of what bodybuilding was all about. That long road to get there wasn’t planned, it just happened. From the standpoint of getting out there and arriving, one of my biggest highlights to take away wasn’t necessarily the victories (the Olympia Sandows, Arnold Classic, Mr America or any of the other 27 other world titles) but standing onstage after a posing routine that just freaked the world out and have the appreciation of my fans and audience that liked what I was doing. That was the real me, and all about building body and soul.
On his competitive experiences & physique favourites
Excellent! Here’s a challenging question: who are the Top 3 best bodybuilders in the world in your opinion – who’s had the best physiques ever?
That takes you back to guidelines. What I considered a beautiful physique in my mind was the ability to create a magnificent masterpiece, creating a beautiful, symmetrical and balanced body. I looked at some of the women bodybuilders because of the beauty in this. There was Anja Langer when I first started bodybuilding over in Germany and Juliette Bergmann, a smaller physique, yet both beautifully sculptured women bodybuilders. For the men, Serge Nubret displayed an aesthetic, balanced physique. One of my favourite physiques at the time he came about was Flex Wheeler, I never saw such a beautiful canvas. Something to appreciate, he had a structure. That was something that was eye candy for me when I saw that total package. I really appreciate my boy Flex Wheeler.
One of the best, I agree. So obviously you knew lots of the Olympia contenders back in the 1990’s. Do you have any stories you’d like to share about them from back then?
Story wise, the games that people play, it was just about socializing. The stories of preparing for shows, getting there, the ups and downs that you go through, the mind work you go through. I look back when the sport started for me in Berlin, Germany, 1984 when I won my first contest. A great friend of mine helped me learn bodybuilding while I was in Berlin and when I got to Berlin for the first time in my life, I was blown away. It was just magnificent.
I started bodybuilding not knowing anything, I just started getting the books and reading them. Then you see these names and pictures: Lee Haney, Mohamed Makkawy, Jusup Wilkosz, guys in the 80’s who were Mr. Olympias. I’d think, that’s a stature you’re never going to reach! Here I am, just a 27 year-old guy trying to pick up a weight for the first time.
Getting involved and trying to find my way around, wanting to have muscles. To be able to walk down the street and somebody stop and turn their head. Those were the things that got me started. Later, as I made friends in the sport, then they were the ones now around me, they knew about bodybuilding, and helped teach me.
Anyway, winning that first contest, and the drama I went through to get to the event. I had two car accidents, right outside the theatre! After the first one, the cops came and wrote everything up, then I was free to go. Then, two minutes later, I get into another one! I was a bit late getting into my weight class onstage and was told to go home. Crushed! Then another guy says to me, “you can compete with the heavyweights”. Long story short, guess who wins the heavyweight class?
Fast-forwarding to today…are there any modern-day bodybuilders that influence you? Which physiques do you admire?
These guys today are impressive. Looking at the stature and statuses of finishing off where I did in 2006, (my last Mr. Olympia at the age of 50), those physiques were a challenge to obtain.
In this new evolution of bodybuilding, the physiques are fantastic, but I just don’t think the quality of the physiques are as appreciable. I don’t honestly think that one guy should be winning the Olympia every year. Physiques, depending on what you’re looking for, should be up and down. The criteria has dropped so much.
On the ‘Golden Era’ of bodybuilding
So would you like to see the standards and criteria return to the Golden Era like in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s?
Yes! You can take a physique like Samir Bannout, for example, when he won in that era, and you saw what people were looking at. You had Lee Haney coming out, you had Bertil Fox, yet Samir wins the show and you start looking at why. You can appreciate that, you start analyzing and use that as the standard.
Lee just dominated because of his balance, shape and so on. Then we took a different direction with Nasser El Sonbaty, rest his soul, huge mass if you know what I mean, but he didn’t have that look. Then we’ve got Dorian Yates and everybody was enthusiastic about this particular look. Yeah, he’s a big guy and he can do this, he can do that, but I’m going like, “Yeah, but now you’re going to have a different look, and change the standards.”
Then you’ve got the smaller physiques like Shawn Ray, and Lee Labrada, and guys who bring out that elegant stuff. Then you want to dominate the King (Ronnie Coleman) because he’s big. I’m so glad he came up and showed what big could be. Ronnie took it to a new level but he took it to a level with balance and quality and separation. Unbelievable. That’s my guy.
Vince Taylor’s Precision Grips & training mechanics
Thanks for sharing your views! So you’ve invented some gym training equipment, let’s talk about your Precision Grips and Precision Balls, they’re based on a very interesting concept. What gave you the idea for them and can you explain exactly their purpose?
Well, I was at home working on the security lights on my garage roof, two months before an Olympia that I was getting ready for back in the 90’s. So I had the ladder on the roof, changed the security lights, and as I stepped around to put my behind on that ladder to step down, this damn ladder fell. I was gripping the garage roof, but dropped to the floor, tearing the tendon in my right tricep. So after the Olympia, I got some rehab underway and was doing some tricep extensions at the gym and I took the handle off which many people do. I took the cable off and just used the key. As I was doing that, for some reason I placed the cable between two fingers and as soon as I extended it, felt an instant 100% contraction of the outer tricep head.
I put it between my middle fingers and the resistance was directed from the outer head to the rear. I put it in between the pinky and as soon as I extended it, that activation of the damaged tendon which I was rehabbing was getting that maximum amount of attention like the other two heads separately. I could redirect the resistance to this one muscle head.
As soon as you make a fist, you activate your forearm flexors and extensors, it’s a powerful move. So while I’m trying to rehab this muscle with a very light weight, I’m training all 3 heads trying to get to this specific one. But when I place it in a certain position, I can go directly to that one head. That was a smarter, more precise way to train a muscle. I’m getting all this stimulation utilizing light weight because it’s being delivered properly.
Now I figured out if I keep my hand open, I can deactivate that forearm assistance and get that resistance going directly to any muscle I’m training now. So then you have to rethink. The purpose of the training and resistance is to create full muscular contraction. You want to stimulate that muscle and get a better blood flow to those fibers by utilizing high intensity workouts. Not necessarily heavy workouts, I’m getting full muscle contraction by utilizing the lighter weight approach.
The only thing people change when they’re training nowadays is the amount of weight. My whole concept changes right there. My concept is to go to the gym to create muscle stimulation and activate muscle. I want to PULL the resistance into my muscles. With precision training, the idea is to complete full muscular contraction. That’s why I’m in the gym, I’m not just going there to lift weights. That’s the approach the average person will take from 8 years-old to 80! As a ball or cylinder shape, the VT Grips give you a way to redirect resistance to a particular section of your muscle.
For me it’s like this. I have a light switch on the wall. Stimulating the muscle using heavy weight is like walking into a dark room, hitting the lights, electricity hits those bulbs, the lights are on. I don’t care how many times you hit that light switch, it’s gonna be that same brightness unless you have a dimmer control to control the ambiance of that light. If we can get a dimmer control onto the resistance that you’re putting into a muscle, we can turn it up and down to allow that muscle to work functionally, without having to worry about heavy resistance and creating joint problems. This my friend, gives you complete control.
So what I’ve done with the Precision Balls is give people a tool to control where you place the resistance, how you can control the resistance, or how your muscle should be responding to certain types of weight. The goal again, is maximum muscle contraction. These tools add to that goal and take you to another level. I utilize this approach with anybody who wants to train, for example, kids. So they’re safe for everybody.
Can you buy these in the UK and Europe or are they only available in the US?
They’re only available on my website right now. I get a lot of orders from the UK and Europe is opening up a little bit, so the word is trickling out. The grips belong with a major manufacturer. Let’s go back and recreate a healthier way of training, a less stressful way of training on joints.
You’ve clearly put a lot of thought into these. Really appreciate your detailed explanation.
My system makes you train differently. These things are great, they make you train your entire body in a functional way. This lightweight approach is designed to get everybody back in the gym. This precision ball training puts you in the driver’s seat. There’s a new training sheriff in town, and it’s called VT Grips!
I think you’ve convinced us to buy some!
I love it. I’m trying to make people smarter – to train smart, to train lighter. I’ve got baseball players utilizing them, I’ve got all types of athletes using these.
OK, so in your competition days, you used to have a laid-back approach to your diet, eating red meat and drinking Coca Cola. (Both laugh) So, err…How much has your diet changed?
My diet hasn’t changed a whole lot over all these years. Not because I’m stubborn, it’s only because I’ve adapted myself to eating a certain way. I’m doing just fine with my meat and my Coke, and sometimes my French fries! It’s crazy. I still eat pretty much the same. Very limited amounts of food, I don’t have a big appetite, I never did. I was never that bodybuilder that ate 7 or 8 meals a day, I couldn’t do that, it’s just too much food. I eat three meals a day, every day, sometimes two. I have not stopped drinking my Coca Cola from day one. I’ve been drinking Coke since I was 12 years old religiously everyday! I drink protein shakes second to Coca Cola.
Unbelievable! What’s your view on vegan or vegetarian food, does that interest you at all?
Green foods, that’s too healthy! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with those approaches, they were just not for me. I’ve never taken the time to think about going down that route. I will advise many to do that if it’s something they need to do. I think they’re great for those who need them.
In terms of training, lifting weights for years and years takes a toll on the joints. Have you had to make any modifications in your own training to accommodate for that?
Only because from a physical standpoint I’ve had back injuries long before I got into bodybuilding. My knees were always a problem. I recall having to tape my knees in order to run, play football or track. There was always an issue with my lower back and knees, but never anything other than that. The advice given was “stop doing any exercise that required something that’s going to feed back as a joint issue.” Things like dips or French curls behind your head, they would blow my elbows out. It was like, “Man, I’m gonna stay away from those exercises.” I’m pretty fortunate though, no major injuries.
That’s great to hear. Do you have any favourite exercises that you like to perform?
Now I do. Only because I’m doing it differently. These Precision Grips and the way I’m utilizing them affect bicep training and other exercises. This is due to the ease with which you can use them and then get the benefits that I’m getting.
I kind of liked training my calves a lot because I didn’t do nothing with those, they were always there. Biceps grew pretty quickly as well. I had 16 or 17 inch arms in high school and I had almost 18 inch calves, but I only weighed 150lbs. They responded easily. When I was training to build other muscle groups, chest for example, I hated chest workouts because I couldn’t lift enough. The weight was always too heavy, so my elbows were hurting. The exercises that I could execute and got results from, I liked. The ones that were just heavy duty, I wasn’t a great fan of.
On bodybuilding and the internet
I see. So, how do you think the internet has affected bodybuilding these days? You’ve got platforms like YouTube and Instagram. Do you see that as something positive, or negative, or maybe a mixture of both?
You’ve got the two-headed monster right there! It’s so positive because it shows advancement. It lets you see and understand what’s going on. At the same time it can be used as platform for a bunch of negativity. Overall though, it’s a great tool. Man, in this sport I love it because everything is out there, and if you have questions you can find out all about it.
So both good and bad points…
I’m on it all the time. I see it because it gives me a humorous day. You find stuff that makes you laugh and stuff that makes you mad. Information is a good thing, especially in this sport we’re in, it’s such a great help. You don’t have to sit there and scratch your head anymore, it’s just you’ve got to filter through the BS.
Fun & leisure
Do you have any hobbies outside of bodybuilding?
Now that I’m older, not really, because life in general can be so busy, trying to get and stay ahead. There’s no time to go, “I like doing this.” My hobby is survival!
Definitely. That’s key! What’s your favourite music?
I’m not a rap guy. Probably old school. When I go online, I find myself more and more drawn to find something from back in the day, like listening to Lionel Richie. That’s the kind of music that makes sense.
I know what you mean. So, if you could be a superhero Vince, who would you be and what superpower would you like to have?
That’s a good question! I would want to be the first black Hercules. Why? Because he had the muscles and he got the women! Special powers? Probably read minds. Give me your thoughts, that would be crazy!
Are you coming back to visit the UK, I do hope we get to see you if you do.
I’m trying to get over there, hopefully soon. I’d like to promote my Precision Grips outside of the United States. So, I’m definitely looking forward to coming over there – haven’t been back in years. I had a serious amount of fans in the UK when I was over there. Love it!
I’ve had interest about the Grips from people in the UK too and ultimately, I want to get these Grips distributed worldwide.
Sounds like a plan. Well Vince as we wrap, I’ve got to say I’m grateful to have connected with you, thanks for the pleasure of doing this interview with us, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Great! We’ve got to stay in touch, man!