Bodybuilding Legends – Bill Pearl

Every serious bodybuilding fan should know the name Bill Pearl. One of the most outstanding bodybuilders ever, this four times Mr Universe is one of the greatest champions who has spent most of his life contributing enormously to this sport.

Bill Pearl started lifting weights at an early age and already had some physical conditioning from playing sports like softball and (American) football. He inherited good genes for bodybuilding and adopted a great work ethic from his hardworking father.

Although he built his body with a well varied diet and hard training, he didn’t switch over to a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet until his late thirties (due to health concerns). It was a positive change in his life and he said  “I can train with more energy.”  He believes that the change in diet helped to reduce pains in his joints too.  He got his nutrients from foods like eggs, low fat cheese, beans, raw nuts and fruit.

Pearl had some great successes in bodybuilding competitions. In 1953, he won an impressive five titles including Mr America and Mr Universe. One of his most remarkable wins was in 1971, when he beat bodybuilding legends Frank Zane and Reg Park to take his fourth Mr Universe title.

As well as being famous for being vegetarian, Bill is well known amongst bodybuilders for his lower arm strength. His mighty hands and wrists of steel enabled him to break horseshoes, bend metal rods and tear metal car licence plates in two. He was capable of repetitions with 225lbs on barbell wrist curls! In fact, Pearl’s heavy wrist training inspired Larry Scott, the first Mr Olympia, to use heavy weights to pack muscle onto his own forearms.

It goes without saying that Pearl was ultra strong in every one of his muscles. He lifted some truly heavy weights in the basic compound lifts. Some of his best lifts included bench pressing 450lbs, squatting 605lbs and deadlifting 650lbs. These are still impressive numbers even by today’s standards. If he had competed in powerlifting back then, he surely would have been up there with the best.

Bill’s achievements within bodybuilding made him well sought after for getting advice. Big names like Tom Platz and Dave Draper learned directly from the expertise of Pearl and Arnold Schwarzenegger also had great admiration for him. He coached many bodybuilders and helped guide Chris Dickerson to victory in the 1982 Mr Olympia.

The experiences that this unique man gained in bodybuilding created many other opportunities for him. He owned several gyms, judged bodybuilding competitions, guest posed, wrote books and even got to train astronauts in the 1960’s!

Now in his eighties, Pearl continues to inspire thousands of bodybuilders around the world. He still trains six days a week and he’s just as disciplined as he ever was. With over seven decades’ of training behind him, no other bodybuilder on Earth can rival the incredible knowledge and experience that one single Bill Pearl has accumulated. Do stop by his website, Bill and Facebook page!

Alan Riseborough

Alan is a strength and physique enthusiast and has 28 years' of training experience behind him. He has competed in powerlifting, arm wrestling, bodybuilding and grip strength competitions. He also includes rigorous bodyweight, sprinting and kettlebell training regularly in his routines. He believes in the transformative power of the squat which is (believe it or not) his favourite exercise!

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