RIP Bill Pearl

Pearl entered two San Diego area bodybuilding contests in 1952, winning one. Then in 1953, the year he turned 23, he won, in order, Mr. Southern California, Mr. California, Mr. America, and Mr. Universe. He had only just begun and already he’d conquered the world of bodybuilding. “No one was more shocked than I was,” Pearl remembered of the Mr. America win. “Until that moment I hadn’t given competition serious consideration; my only real goal was to gain strength and size. Winning that contest changed me in a fundamental way. It opened up a door to another world. After the service I went into the gym business and began living and loving bodybuilding 24-7.”
Bill Pearl purchased a gym in Sacramento in 1954 and competed a couple times in 1956, winning the Mr. USA and the tall class of the Mr. Universe. He franchised his gyms to locations throughout Northern California. At 5’10″ and around 230 lbs., he competed only three more times, each time in the prestigious NABBA Pro Mr. Universe (held in London), winning in 1961, 1967, and 1971. Let’s focus on that last show. He was 41, goaded into competing by those who said he was over-the-hill, and he had converted to vegetarianism five years earlier. And he defeated the legendary Reg Park as well as 3-time Mr. Olympia Sergio Oliva and future 3-time Mr. Olympia Frank Zane. And all that 18 years after winning his first Mr. Universe title. Take that, haters!Bill Pearl downsized his gym business. He moved to Los Angeles and focused on one gym, first a trailblazing bodybuilding place he purchased in southern-central Los Angeles and later a health club in Pasadena. He also traveled the world, guest-posing and performing strength feats like blowing up hot water bottles until they burst, spike bending, and tearing license plates in half with his bare hands. He mentored bodybuilders, including Chris Dickerson, who became the 1982 Mr. Olympia. He wrote frequently for muscle magazines, and he authored books, most notably Keys to the Inner Universe, an exhaustive compendium of weight-training exercises (over 1500 of them!) and bodybuilding knowledge.A legend who dominated in three decades, Bill Pearl was one of the greatest bodybuilders of the ’50s and ’60s and into the ’70s. Our condolences to his family, friends, and many fans.

To learn about Bill Pearl’s training philosophy, check out: Bill Pearl Workout: Top 10 Tips
Bill Pearl (1930-2022): The Life of the 4-time Mr. Universe