Friday, August 23, 2019

Bill Pearl's Arm Training - Gene Mozee (1998)

Note: Bill Pearl's "Build Big Arms" booklet:

I first saw Bill Pearl compete in the '53 Mr. Southern California contest. He was an unknown at the time, having done all his training at Leo Stern's gym in San Diego.

Pearl decimated the precontest favorites, Zabo Koszewski (R), Joe Barrata and Dom Juliano, winning the title as well as Best Arms, Best Legs, and Most Muscular awards.

Six weeks later he returned to the Embassy Auditorium in Los Angeles, the scene of the first contest, and won the highly coveted Mr. California title.

Two months after that he won the AAU Mr. America. 

Shortly thereafter he flew to London, where he won the amateur Mr. Universe crown.

When you consider he won them all on his first try, Pearl's clean sweep of four major titles in one year has never been duplicated. In his final competition 18 years later he defeated all of the top bodybuilders in the world - Reg Park, Sergio Oliva, Frank Zane, Serge Nubret, Franco Columbu and Dave Draper -- with the exception of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who declined to enter because he was obligated to compete in the IFBB Mr. Universe. Pearl had issued a challenge a year before the contest to every bodybuilding superstar on planet earth to compete against him at the NABBA Mr. Universe in London on September 17, 1971. Only Arnold was a no-show. In the estimation of many bodybuilding authorities this was the greatest muscle contest ever held. 

When Bill Pearl won the Mr. America in 1953, he weighed 202 pounds. When he won his final Mr. Universe in '71, he weighed 242 with laser-sharp definition. It was one month before his 41st birthday.

A couple of years ago IRONMAN published an article about bodybuilding immortals John Grimek, Steve Reeves and Segio Oliva. Although I was asked to contribute my thoughts about those all-time superstars of bodybuilding, I decided not to do it because Bill Pearl hadn't been included in that select group. 

In my opinion Pearl deserves to be heralded as the greatest physique champion of all time. In 18 years of major competition he was only beaten once, in 1956, when he over-confidently entered the Mr. Universe and didn't even shave his chest, and lost the overall title to Jack Delinger. Pearl did win the Mr. Universe tall class at that contest, however. 

His total of five Universe titles and his unmatched record of longevity as a world champion rank his Number One in my book. What other champion has been at the top for 18 years? None. Case closed. 

Pearl opened his first gym in Sacramento, California, in 1954. The tremendous training knowledge he gained during his years under Leo Stern's guidance enabled him, in turn, to begin turning out Northern California bodybuilding champions like Don Farnsworth, Al Souza, Walt Horton and future America and Universe winner Ray Routledge. 

In 1962 Pearl sold his Sacramento gym and moved to Los Angeles, where he purchased the George Redpath Gym and started producing local champions like Jerry Roquemore, Mike Barnett and Jerry Wallace. 

World powerlifting champion Pat Casey, the first man to bench press 600 pounds, trained at Pearl's gym, along with world shot-put record-holder Dallas Long and many 

Wait . . . here's some reminiscences and a beautiful tribute to Jerry Roquemore, in case any of you are missing someone lately in a big way . . . you are not alone! 

In the mid-1960s Bill opened his famous gym in Pasadena, California, where he proceeded to turn out several Mr. America and Mr. Universe winners like Chris Dickerson, Jim Morris and Dave Johns. He also helped several other physique stars, like Dennis Tinnerino, Boyer Coe and Tony Pearson. Bodybuilders from all over the world flocked to Pearl's facility for his specialized training techniques and his inspiring guidance. Rory Leidelmeyer, a superstar of the '80s, received his first professional training advice from Bill Pearl.

Pearl's physique was famous for its total development -- from the ankles to the neck, no muscle was incomplete. His arms, in particular, were acknowledged to be among the greatest of all time because the biceps, triceps and forearms were massively developed from all angles. Pearl was one of the very first men to appear on stage with an arm that was legitimately 20 inches cold. 

I interviewed Bill Pearl about his arm training at his Pasadena gym. Although it was many years ago, the techniques he revealed to me at that interview will work just as well today . . . if not better, because of the improved nutrition practices now being used. 

Here is how his described his program: 

My approach to training has always been to push yourself in your workouts, but 
DO NOT TRAIN TO FAILURE! The last rep should be difficult, but not impossible or unachievable. And I've always been a great believer that you should leave the gym each day feeling like you had a great workout but you've still got a little bit left in the gas tank, so to speak. 

So, speaking from experience, I urge you: 
Train hard, yes, but not to failure.
Complete what you start, and that means every rep.

Big arms dominate the thoughts of all bodybuilders. I've had more requests for advice on arm training than any other bodypart. I'm going to tell you about a terrific mass-building program that also builds shape and cuts. It not only works for me, but I've given it to many of my pupils, and they've made excellent gains on it. 

I train my arms three days a week. On those days, I do abdominals first as a warmup, then move on to back, arms and calves. I work my abs and calves at each of my six workouts a week. 

I've tried every known arm-training technique. I've always done arm exercises that enabled me to use heavy triceps. For triceps, for example, I was never much for repetition dips of bentover kickback exercises, and was more inclined toward heavy dumbbell triceps extensions, heavy barbell curls, and heavy lying triceps extensions. The lighter stuff was okay for pumping and shaping, but it didn't trigger the growth factor. I have always handled as heavy a weight as I could in the STRICTEST STYLE.


I always begin my arm workouts with triceps. Of all the muscle groups, I think I enjoy training biceps the least, and I tend to do things I like best first, which I admit isn't always a good idea. Nevertheless, working triceps is most enjoyable for me and I can handle very heavy poundages. It gets my arm workouts off to a good start. These are the exercises: 

Barbell or Dumbbell Triceps Extensions - 
I use both hands, keep my elbows in close to my head, let the weight go all the way down behind my neck and lock my arms at the top. I do all reps as strictly as possible - 5 sets of 6 with all the weight I can handle strictly. 

Lying Barbell Extensions - 
With my head off the end of the bench and my chin up, and using a close grip, I lower the bar to my chin, then return to the fully locked out position. I prefer to isolate the triceps by using a grip that's 6 to 8 inches wide. By doing the movement strictly I eliminate the necessity of using excessively heavy weights, and that has helped me avoid injury as I lower the bar to my chin and push straight up. I use about 135 pounds now but have used as much as 185. I do 5 sets of very strict, controlled reps.

Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extensions - 
Using one dumbbell while lying on a flat bench, I lower the weight to the opposite side of my head. I keep the upper arm vertical by gripping the biceps with my free hand. I use a 60-pound dumbbell for 5 sets of 6, alternating the right and left hands without resting.

Reverse Grip Bench Press - 
I use a fairly close grip on these. I lower the weight to just below the lower pec line and then press it all the way up and fully lock out my elbows. I do 5 sets of 6 strict reps.


After completing the heavy triceps workout, I go on to biceps. Here are the exercises: 

Seated Dumbbell Curls - 
While seated on the edge of a flat bench, I curl two dumbbells together until they touch my delts. I use a back support and keep my elbows close to my sides with the dumbbells turned out. Using strict style I do 5 sets of 5 reps. 

I follow this immediately with light reverse grip triceps pressdowns or leaning triceps pushups for 15 reps. 

That allows me to keep the pump in my triceps while blasting my biceps. I do a set of one of those light triceps pump movements after completing all the sets of each biceps movement. They are easy movements, and you don't have to set up for them so you don't waste time. 

Lying Barbell Preacher Curls - 
I perform these while lying face down on a bench. This truly isolates the biceps and builds thickness in the lower portions. I do 5 sets of 5 reps. Note: this is similar to a spider curl. 

One Arm Concentration Curls - 
I do these seated. I don't like to do them standing because of the tendency to hump the weight up and cheat the reps. I keep my free arm away from my leg and do 5 sets of 5 in strict style, curling the weight to my deltoid rather than my chest. 

Standing Barbell Curls - 
Using a shoulder width grip, I do 5 sets of 6. I might go as low as 5 reps but never fewer than that. I can go as high as 8, but if I'm handling heavy weights I don't like high repetitions because I get more fatigued mentally than physically. I can't keep myself geared up through a high rep, heavy set. When I was a kid, I could do anything, but I'm not up to that now. I grow better on lower reps.

Here's the complete routine: 

Barbell or Dumbbell Triceps Extensions, 5 x 6  
Lying Barbell Triceps Extensions, 5 x 6
Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extensions, 5 x 6
Reverse Grip Bench Presses, 5 x 6

Seated Dumbbell Curls, 5 x 5
Reverse Grip Pressdown, 1 x 15
Lying Barbell Preacher Curls, 5 x 5
Reverse Grip Pressdown, 1 x 15
One Arm Concentration Curls, 5 x 6
Reverse Grip Pressdown, 1 x 15
Standing Barbell Curls, 5 x 6
Reverse Grip Pressdown, 1 x 15.

Note: The Triceps Pump, explained here:
works in a wonderful way as an alternate to the Reverse Grip Pressdown above. 

The above program is for advanced bodybuilders. Here's a program for less experienced lifters: 

Pushdowns, 3 x 10
Lying Triceps Extensions, 3 x 8
Dips, or Bench Dips, 3 x 10-12
Barbell Curls, 3 x 8
Incline Dumbbell Curls, 3 x 8
Standing Dumbbell Curls, 3 x 8.

Arm Training Tips

No matter which program you use, you'll find the following suggestions helpful for building bigger arms. 

1) Do all the exercises as strictly as possible. Do not cheat. 

2) Use a weight that allows you to get a complete extension and contraction on each rep. 

Note: Charles Glass uses two perfect words for this - 
Stretch, and Squeeze. Finding just the right words is so Cool! 

3) Concentrate on the area you're working and train at a speed that will keep it warm. With a little experimenting you'll find the pace that's best for you.

4) Don't forget about weight progression. The following system works best for me.

Take, for example, triceps pressdowns. Let's say you start with 60 pounds and do 3 sets of the required repetitions. 

I'd use the same weight for the first three workouts. 

On the fourth workout I'd do 2 sets with 60 and 1 set with 70 pounds.

On the fifth workout I'd do 1 set with 60 and 2 sets with 70.

On the sixth workout I'd do all 3 sets with 70 pounds, and the cycle has begun again at a higher level. Cosmic. Tear down, build up, forget what you were and move forward to the next step.

Remember that of course these are just sample poundages. Use the weights that are best suited to your ability and strength. Just be sure to start fairly light so that you can do all of the exercises correctly.

5) Keep a daily record of the weights you use on each exercise and always




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