FREE Muscle Building Program
Gain Muscle, Burn Fat And Increase Strength!
Enter your first name and a valid email address for free instant access to these muscle building workouts.
Bill Pearl Pic
by Dennis B. Weis “The Yukon Hercules”
Bill Pearl is a classic bodybuilder and author of "Keys to the Inner Universe"
and "Getting Stronger". Read on as this multi-
Mr. Universe 1953, 1961, 1967, 1971 shares his 50+ years
of training wisdom.
Q: “Would you briefly tell us what a good basic routine
would be for gaining size when you’re not trying to totally
B.P. “If a person wants to gain massive muscular bulk, if
I want to get my arms as big as I can possibly get them, I
would probably do around 20 sets a day of say 4 exercises
and 5 sets each for the triceps and 20 sets for the biceps
per workout 3 times per week. That would be around 60 sets
of triceps and 60 sets of biceps work per week. I would
keep the repetitions between 6 and 8 and I would do all
basic movements where I can handle as heavy weights as I
can and then I’d take my diet and I’d consume any
nutritious food that had calories in it and just flat eat!”
Q: “I was wondering when you talk about volume training
like 20 sets for the biceps three times per week, what you
think about lower volume, high intensity type of training
that (the late) Mike and Ray Mentzer use. They said you
can theoretically become a champion even if you’re not a
genetic freak in just 5 years if you apply their method of
high intensity type of training.”
B.P. “Mike and Ray Mentzer used to write to me when they
were young kids back in Pennsylvania, when Ray was 9 years
old and Mike was 11 years old. They’d send me little
pictures of themselves and all types of stuff. I’d answer
them back. I’d never dreamed they’d end up like they were,
but Mike and Ray are genetic freaks. Ray is one of the
strongest bodybuilders I have ever seen in my life and
Mike is equally as strong.
They have trained heavy all these years. They must have
tendons like the size of my thumb. Their bodies can stand
that Heavy Duty type of training where they limit the number
of sets to no more than five for either the triceps or
biceps, while carrying each set to total failure in both
the positive and negative rep levels for maximum growth
stimulation. I can say with all sincerity that Mike and
Ray do not train like this year in and year out.”
Q: “About the use of dumbbells. Do you use a lot of
dumbbells in your training as opposed to barbells or does
it make any difference to you?”
B.P. “Well, it does make a difference because you want as
much variety in your training as you can possibly get and
if I had to pick dumbbells over barbells I would go with
the dumbbells. I think if anybody gets on a training
program where the same exercises, sets and reps are done
day in and day out, month after month, your body becomes
so accustomed to what you’re doing that muscle growth will
stop altogether. I will change my entire training program
every 6 to 8 weeks. Different sets, different reps, and a
different goal for yourself can generally shock you into a
new growth range.”
Q: “Can you give me a typical workout that you might use
from time to time?”
B.P. “I train 6 days per week. On Monday, Wednesday, and
Friday I will train all the muscle groups for just one
exercise each for 6 sets of each. I group the body parts
in such a way so that I can do super sets and in doing so
I won’t rest too long between sets. I change the exercises
every workout day. As an example I might do Incline
Dumbbell Flys for the chest on Monday, while on Wednesday
I might go with the Bench Press and on Friday it might be
Decline Bench Presses. Each of the 6 sets I do is
increased from the previous one and each week I try to
add 5 pounds to all my previous 6 set poundages.
On Tuesday I will do 18 to 20 sets for the chest and the
back and on Thursday I will work the legs and shoulders for
18 to 20 sets each. I break up the back and leg training
in the manner I have just described because they’re the
two largest muscle groups and it’s not as tiring this way.
I work my calves every day for a half hour. Saturday
is arm day and just a laid-back fun day.
There are four muscle groups which I work six days per week
for 6 sets of one different exercise each day. They are
the Forearms, Abs, Leg Biceps and the Neck. I will train
at about 85-90% of maximum and I try to do 30 sets per hour
which is 1 set every two minutes. My rep scheme is varied
in that I will do 6 to 10 reps per body part, but as I grow
stronger I will up my reps to 15 for the upper body and
25 reps for the legs.”
Q: “I was just wondering how long I should be working out
before I make the transition from say a 4 day a week
workout schedule to something like 6 days per week and
doing 18 to 20 sets per muscle group like you just
mentioned, or 6 out of every 8 days like three time former
Mr. Olympia, Frank Zane, does or something like that? I
mean, how long should a bodybuilder be working out
basically before switching to something a lot more intense
like your workouts?”
B.P. “If a bodybuilder is not responding on a hard and
heavy 20 sets per muscle group three times a week and he is
not growing, believe me, doing five times that much is not
going to do it for you. There has to be a limit to this.
There is no set answer to this question. I know guys who
can train 3 or 4 days a week, 45 minutes a day and make
very good progress and others just don’t grow at all. I
would never do more than 20 sets per muscle group three
times per week. I don’t care what I did, to me it just
isn’t worth the effort. You’re going to spend your whole
life in the gym.
No one says that more time in the gym is better.
Personally, I can tell you that I can get all that I need
in a lot less than 6 days a week, 3 hours a day in the gym.
I don’t have to train that much, it just means I like it.
I like the surroundings, and I like the people. I use this
as my time of the day to do what I so desire, but I’m sure
I could be as healthy and fit as I could possibly be in
one-half of that length of training time. But I enjoy the
sport and I don’t mind being in the gym. The minute it
becomes a drudgery and I don’t like it the smart thing to
do is back off. Making the transition over from say a
4-day to a 6-day workout schedule and going from multiple
sets to mega sets of say 20 will depend on how much time
you have had in the sport of bodybuilding. I have
trained for so many years I am sure I could do 25 sets per
muscle. It’s like trying to get 6 gallons of water into a
5-gallon bucket. You can’t do it because there is going to
be a gallon which will be wasted.
It’s just like in bodybuilding, you can only put so much
into a particular effort and get so much out of it. Now
for the length of time you have trained it may be 8 or 10
or 12 sets or even 6 sets per muscle group would be just
as good for you as 20 sets would be for me. So you’ve
got to realize the length of time you’ve been in
bodybuilding and how much of a background you have
understanding what you are doing with regard to your
training and how mature your muscles are. All this has
a big bearing on this.
Now I’m sure that if I do less than 20 sets per muscle group
I’m not even going to maintain what I’ve got alone make
any growth factor. The longer you have in the sport of
bodybuilding, if you want to continue to improve, you’ve
got to spend more time at it. If you want to get big,
thick, coarse, bulky muscles, handle heavy weights, keep
your reps low at about 6 to 8, and do numerous sets and
you will grow!
I’ll say one thing. Any time a guy is training and the
minute something negative about whatever you are doing comes
into play, you had better get off it. Say you’re doing a
really heavy bench press like 300-400 pounds. You walk
into the gym on Monday and do it, no sweat. Now on
Wednesday, lo and behold you don’t get the 300 or 400
pounds that you easily got on Monday, because you’re still
tired from your last bench routine. You come back in the
gym again on Friday and you blow your benches again.
Pretty soon you are gearing your whole workout to that
300-400 pound bench press. So you walk out of the gym and
say ‘I had a lousy workout because I missed my bench
presses.’ Psychologically, you can’t succeed in your
workouts if you have a bad attitude toward it.
Another example. Guys will come up to me and say, ‘Bill,
my arms won’t grow. Everything I do my arms won’t grow.
What will I do?’ If every time you pick up a barbell and
curl it they aren’t going to grow, because you are
programming your arms not to grow, isn’t this true? Your
muscle doesn’t have a brain. Your head controls the
muscle. The muscle doesn’t control the brain. So you’ve
got to say, ‘O.K., I’m going to work my arms and my arms
are going to grow.’ I say, change your mental attitude
about your training, because if you don’t you can’t take
anything negative that you are doing in the sport of
bodybuilding and turn it into positive results, it won’t
work. Everything you do in the gym has to be done on a
positive note. You must condition your subconscious mind
to think that you are getting bigger and training with
more intensity, and your body will have to respond
Q. You say that you train 6 days a week. What exercise do
you use to keep your abdominals in shape?
B.P. “There is no one specific exercise that I do for my
abdominal development. I do 5 to 6 different abdominal
exercises for 100 repetitions each or maybe 7 exercises and
100 reps each. There are plenty of exercises to choose from
in the abdominal section of my book Keys to the Inner
Universe, and the combinations are virtually endless. I
don’t care how much you work your abs, if you’re carrying
fat there you can’t do situps and burn that fat off your
midsection. You cannot spot reduce a bodypart through
exercise. All those situps are going to do is burn calories
and tone the abs a certain amount, then Mother Nature is
going to pull fat off your body where it wants to, not
where you want it to. If you have got heavy, thick
obliques, which is normal on most guys, and you think side
bends are going to reduce them and you don’t change your
diet, you’re crazy. You’re never going to get it off of
Q. How much excess bodyweight do you think a bodybuilder
should carry before he begins physique contest training?
B.P. “I would think that you should try to stay within
2 or 3 months of being in peak condition at all times if
you’re constantly competing in physique contests. Never
let yourself get out of position where you can’t in a
period of 2 or 3 months get back in the best shape you’ve
ever been in your life. If you gain more bodyweight than
that, you’re asking for trouble.”
Q. Would you suggest taking a couple of days off from
training just prior to a physique contest?
B.P. “I would think you should take a couple of days off.
For instance, if the physique contest is on a Saturday, you
should probably get your last workout on Wednesday, but if
you’ve been on a very strict diet like most people are
today and you’ve been on this diet for the past 6-7 months,
what happens if you take the two days off before this
contest which is so important to you and you totally blow
the diet? What would this do to your mental attitude? It
would ruin it. So you will have to make this call yourself
based upon your knowledge of contest training.”
Q. Who do you think is the strongest bodybuilder that you’ve
ever trained with?
B.P. “The strongest bodybuilder that I’ve ever trained with
was probably Franco Columbu on specific lifts, but the guy
I’ve seen handle the most weight on all sets and repetitions
on all the exercises was Ray Mentzer. I saw Ray training
at a gym over in Germany a few years ago, and he was using
about 240 pounds on a Nautilus bicep machine. Ray took
that thing and sat down and with one arm curled that weight
(240 pounds) up. When Ray went in to take a shower, I went
over to that machine, and with two arms I could not curl it,
and I consider myself strong. All of a sudden my attitude
towards Ray changed tremendously.”
Q. What’s the best bench press you've ever done?
B.P. “Four hundred and fifty pounds. At my age I don’t
squat 600 pounds any more. I’ve squatted 605, I’ve done
the seated press behind the neck with 310 pounds for 2 reps.
I was probably one of the strongest bodybuilders around for
a long time until recently.”
Q. Do you include running in your workout schedules?
B.P. “I run at times, but I don’t run on a steady basis.
I think it would be a good idea if a person wanted to burn
calories and consume more food, then running is good, but I
think if you're in hardcore bodybuilding, I don’t think
you're going to run too far because if you have got that
much energy left over, then you're doing something wrong
in your workouts.”
Q. There was a big change in your physique in the late
1960s and early 1970s where your torso took on a more
muscular look. How did you do that?
B.P. “By becoming more aware of my diet, which meant just
taking all the nutrition I knew and started putting it
Disclaimer: This information is for entertainment purposes only. We strongly recommend that you consult a physician before beginning any exercise program. MuscleNet.com is not a licensed medical care provider. The reader should understand that participating in any exercise program can result in physical injury and agrees to do so at his own risk. The findings and opinions of authors expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily state or reflect those of MuscleNet.com.