(Excerpts from a 1980’s Super-Seminar)
By Dennis B. Weis "The Yukon Hercules"
How would you like to:
*Gain pounds of solid muscle fast!
*Pack on slabs of rock hard muscle within a few short weeks!
*Add inches to your arms, chest, back, and legs!
Awesome gains like these can be yours as you read about the scientific
realities of empirical bodybuilding recorded at an actual Bill
Pearl seminar. 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 cut up?
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
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
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
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 time 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
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
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
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 accordingly.
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
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 there.
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
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 into use.
* Visit www.billpearl.com