Bill Pearl Full Training Routine

bill pearl bodybuilder
Bill Pearl at the age of 40. Photo taken by Leo Stern.

(1) Mr. America Training (1953)
(2) Training For Variety
(3) 1961 Mr. Universe Training 
(4) Bill’s Best Training Routine (Gained 50lb solid muscle!)


(1) Mr. America Training Routine designed by Bill’s coach ‘Leo Stern’ (1953)

He started working out regularly with weights in November, 1950. He followed his own routines based on oldschool bodybuilding magazines. As time passed he began working out at Stern’s gym. Owner and coach Leo Stern helped Bill Pearl to make rapid gains. In a few months he had to buy a new dress jumper!

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays

Chin behind neck, 4 sets 15 reps
Swingbell pullover, two sets 10 reps, 85lb
Benchpress, close grip 3 sets 10 reps, 250lb 250lb 280lb
One arm rowing, 3 sets 10 reps, 105lb
Swingbell pullovers, 1 set 10 reps, 85lb
Inclined laterals, 3 sets 10 reps, 85lb, 90lb, 100lb
Bent-arm laterals, 2 sets 10 reps, 100lb
Dumbell crossovers, two sets 10 reps, 40lb
Military press, seated, two sets 10 reps, 145lb
Triceps “kick-backs,” 3 sets 10 reps, 120lb
Dumbell curl and press seated, 3 sets 10 reps, 50lb
Triceps extension, dumbells, 3 sets 10 reps 60lb
Sit-ups 300 reps
Leg-raises 300 reps

Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays
Dumbell swings, for a warm-up 10 reps, 15lb
Bent-over rowing, 3 sets 10 reps, 170lb
Pull-down on “lat” machine, 3 sets 10 reps, 180lb
Swingbell pullover, one set 10 reps, 85lb
Press behind neck, 3 sets 10 reps 150lb
Breathing squats, 1 set 15 reps, 250lb
Straight-arm pullover one set 10 reps, 70lb
Breathing squats, one set 10 reps 285lb
Straight arm pullover one set 10 reps 70lb
Squats (45 degree angle machine), three sets 10 reps 300lb, 325lb 350lb
Leg curl three sets 20 reps, 70lb
Leg extensions, five sets 12 reps, 15 lb
Rise-on-toes, standing three sets 30 reps, 200lb
Rise-on-toes, seated, three sets 30 reps, 245lb
Sit-ups 300 reps
Leg-raises 300reps

Age 22
Weight 210lb
Shoulders 56 1/2inches
Waist 32
Thighs 26
Biceps 18 3/4

Height 5’11”
Neck 18
Chest (ex) 51
Hips 38 1/2
calves 17
Wrist 7 3/4

Leo’s routines consisted of working on the entire body and doing a lot of specialized work on those muscles that were lagging behind. His bodyweight was about 195lb and after Leo started with Bill a bulk up routine he got his weight up to nearly 220lb. He worked out six times a week during the final six weeks, and would work the upper body every other day, and parts of the upper body and the legs on the other three.

With this routine he won the the Mr. Southern California contest and Mr. California contest 1953 and the Mr. America contest. The poundages he used was very light, but he tried concentrating on exercise and training as hard as he had been for the previous contests. 

(2) Training For Variety

According to Bill variety is the spice of life. You should change your workouts from time to time. But don’t continue on a shedule for just a couple of months and then change to antoher. Here are some of Bill’s thoughts/suggestion how to alternate or vary your training routine. 

1. Alternate sets of Bent Arm Laterals and Incline Presses, 4 sets of each. Also alternate the repetitions from 6 to 12 with every other set. (Example: 12 BALs, 6 IP, 6 BAL, 12 IP, 12 BAL)

2. Alternate sets of Supine Rowing and Lat Pulls, three sets of each; 10 reps rowing and 8 reps lat pulls

3. Alternate sets of Press Behind Neck and Lateral Raise, Seated, three sets of each. Also alternate the reps from 8 to 10 (Ex: 10 PBNs, 8 Lrs, 8 PBNs, 10 Lrs, 10 PBNs)

4. Alternate sets of Kick Backs and Seated Dumbell Curls, 3 sets of each. Reps are as follows: 10 Kbs, 8 Dcs, 8 Kbs, 6 Dcs, 10 Kbs, 8 Dcs

5. Alternate sets of Triceps Pullover and Press and Alternate Dumbell Curls, three sets of each. Reps are as follows: 10 Tps, 8 ADCs, 8 Tps, 6 ADCs, 10 Tps, 8 ADCs.

6.Alternate sets of Triceps Extension with Towel and Isolated Curls, two sets of each. Eight reps for triceps and 10 reps for curls.

(3) 1961 Mr. Universe Training 

Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Incline Laterals 4 sets 85lb adding 5lb per set 10 reps
Bent Arm Laterals 4 sets 85lb adding 5lb per set 10 reps
Dips on parallels 4 sets 55lb adding 5lb per set 10 reps
Press Behind Neck 4 sets 140lb adding 5lb per set 10 reps
Seated Dumbell Press 4 sets 80lb adding 5lb per set 10 reps
Seated Side Laterals 4 sets 30lb adding 5lb per set 10reps
Dumbell Shrugs 4 sets 100lb adding 5lb per set 12 reps
Incline Curls 4 sets 55lb adding 5lb per set 10 reps
Standing Curls 4 sets 55lb adding 5lb per set 10 reps
Biceps Curls Lying 4 sets 50lb adding 5lb per set 10 reps
Barbell French Press 4 sets 110lb adding 5lb per set 10 reps
Triceps Exercise on Lat Machine 4 sets 120lb adding 5lb per set 10 reps
Tricep Exercise Dumbells Lying 4 sets 55lb adding adding 5lb per set 10 reps
Side Bend Compound 25lb – 100 reps
Leg Raises 2 sets – 100 reps
Sit-ups 2 sets – 100 reps
Run a quarter mile full blast

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
Wide Grip Chins 5 sets – 12 reps
Medium Grip Chins 5 sets – 12 reps
Close Grip Chins 5 sets – 12 reps
Stiff-Leg Deadlifts 5 sets – 10 reps
Forearm Curls 5 sets – 40 reps
Reverse Forearm 5 sets – 20 reps
Squats 6 sets – 12 reps
Leg Curls 5 sets – 12 reps
Straight-Arm Pullovers 4 sets – 12 reps
Calf Raises 30 sets – 15 reps
Trunk Twists & Side Bends 1 set – 100 reps
Leg Raises 2 sets – 100 reps
Sit-ups 2 sets – 100 reps
Run a quarter mile full blast

(4) Bill’s Best Training Routine

Exercise and repetitions
Incline laterals 5 sets 6
Bent arm laterals 5 sets 6
Decline laterals 5 sets 6
Press behind neck 5 sets 6
Military Press 5 sets 6
Lateral raise dumbells standing 5 sets 8
French press 5 sets 6
Tricep dumbells lying 5 sets 8
Tricep ex. Pulley 5 sets 8
Barbell curls 5 sets 6
Incline curls 5 sets 6
Concentration curls 5 sets 6
Sit ups, flat board 100 to 200
Alternate leg raises 100 to 200
Side bend dumbell 50reps
Twisting for waist
Same waist work
Wide Grip chins 5 sets 10
Close grip chins 5 sets 10
Shoulder shrugs 5 sets 10
Stiff leg dead lifts 5 sets 8
Neck exercise (training partner affording the resistance)
Wrist curls, palms facing up, seated 5 sets 20
Squats 5 sets 8
Hack squats 3 sets 10
Leg curls 3 sets 12
Calf raises every day. Standing and donkey 15 sets 10

Important notes



He spent in his earlier training years on a “bulk-up” then “cut-back-down” method. In 1960 he decided to try something different and reversed the cycle.

For the Mr. Universe title he cutted down on bodyweight and then began to increase it more gradually. He began doing high reps while still keeping the same number of sets. In the past he used to follow the “heavy poundage and low rep system”.

For cutting down
Same number of sets but higher reps usually around 20
Cut down also calaroy intake, used to take steam bath
After cutting down he followed the above routine and cutted down on the reps

For Bulking
In earlier years he used to drink plenty of milk ( 4-5 quarters per day). In his 60s he stopped drinking and used only to drink low fat milk.
Ate 5 meals a day (eating smaller but more often helped him to increase bw)
Diet: Fresh vegetables, baked potatoes and meat. All foods were either baked or broiled for easier digestion.

Bill Pearl: “Make one point clear(..) it’s an all-important detail to me. Regardless of my desire to gain weight I always endeavor to train regularly, and very hard.(..)
It is not sensible to increase your chest three inches and have your waist increase along with it. My aim is always to add good firm muscular size and with hard training good food and plenty of protein


Editor’s note: Use the tag system and click “Bill Pearl” for more articles and If you were interested to read Bill Pearl’s full training history and thoughts then I would suggest to visit his homepage. He wrote books about training and his life with over 300 pages. Have fun and keep lifting! – Mr. Berg


(1) S&H October 1953
(2) S&H July 1955
(3) S&H 1960
(4) MD February 1964

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