The Wisdom of A Bodybuilding Jewel: Bill Pearl and His Keys To The INNER Universe

If you’ve never heard about Bill Pearl then you probably didn’t grow up a fan of bodybuilding. Don’t worry about it too much. There was a time when I too had never heard of weight-lifting legend Bill Pearl. Now, I only wish I’d found him (or been introduced to him) sooner, so I could have started his custom program, 20 Months to a Champion Physique, ahead of time. Check it out. It’s a totally free guide to building your body, educating yourself on the fundamentals of strength training, and advancing your physical potential for almost two years!

Enter Bill Pearl

In the 1980’s Bill Pearl wrote a book that is still known around many weightlifting social circles  as the Bodybuilder’s Bible. His “The Key’s to The INNER Universe” stands at tall order of 638 pages of sheer awesomeness dedicated to improving your muscular shape. This goliath of a book weighs nearly five pounds and contains over 1,500 weight lifting techniques.

Complete with almost everything you need to hit the ground running toward your first bodybuilding competition except the gym itself, Pearl’s Key’s to The INNER Universe teaches you how to breathe properly during weighted lifts, how to eat (and gain weight) like a total gym boss, and how to conduct yourself like a champion in public by not acting like a complete meat head. Pearl’s book even includes a bodybuilding lesson plan for women which is quite remarkable considering that this particular book was released more than three decades ago!

It’d be extremely difficult to argue that anyone besides Bill Pearl has had more of a profound impact on the competitive sport of professional bodybuilding, strength training, and weightlifting since the 1950’s. Bill has dedicated his life to shaping, evolving, and promoting his passion for bodybuilding with the world.

Pearl admits in his Conditioning Unlimited seminar that his greatest accomplishments are not his own, but the capabilities he has helped others reach, develop, and achieve. By the sound of it, Pearl’s greatest achievement is serving others in an area he is passionate about and helping them succeed by gaining significance in their careers. Pearl has coached 9 Mr. America winners, 14 Mr. Universe winners, and 1 Mr. Olympian champion. Besides this remarkable feat in a sport he largely dominated for almost two decades, Pearl himself won Mr. Universe five times over a period of 19 years and was voted WBBG’s “World’s Best-Built Man of the Century.”

At the age of 39 and with a recommendation from his doctor, Pearl converted to a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. This major transition in his eating habits has allowed his fame to spread out past the confines of muscle-focused, meat-consuming, and protein- obsessed weightlifting communities towards and into the likes of  more ecologically-sound social circles concerned with the detrimental effects of meat farming, animal abuse, and conscious eating online. Bills admits he’s not as obsessed about his eating habits as he once was, he tries to stick to eating eggs, dairy, legumes, lentils, and fresh veggies/fruits. But as some people have said online, if you look carefully out in public you may find Bill sneaking a steak from time to time. But honestly, who cares? Let him eat what he wants to. Just remember: Bill converted to lacto-ovo vegetarianism after the bulk of his personal success in the world of competitive bodybuilding. If you are interested in being a vegan or vegetarian bodybuilder, please do some proper research before getting started. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but please don’t injure yourself through poor nutrition practices.

During my research for this article, I found an old seminar that Mr. Pearl spoke at called Conditioning Unlimited. Despite being filmed in 1997, there’s an abundance of information that flows out of Bill’s mouth during this short seminar. As you can imagine, someone who has dedicated over 50 years of their life to the sport of bodybuilding, nutrition, and amassing their physical shape has more than plenty to say about the most efficient means of developing your physical potential. Needless to say, he’s an expert worth listening to!

I highly recommend you watch the entire video but if you are short on time, I quoted some of my favorite topics addressed in his Q&A session below. I’ve marked the minutes if you’d like to jump around the film and hear what Bill has to say for himself and listen in deeper context.

If you’d like to know more about Bill Pearl, feel free to check out this preview from Bill’s Pearl’s of Wisdom film or his site’s products page. I particularly a fan of some of the Health Hints articles that Bill has written.

Here’s Bill’s talk at Conditioning Unlimited: 

Various Topics From Conditioning Unlimited

On Guidelines and Tracking Progress

Q: If you’re training for mass, how long should your workouts be and rest between? (minutes 8:30-9:30)

Bill Pearl: There again there are no guidelines or rules to weight training… So the bottom line of it is you should keep a record of everything that you do and find out what works best for you and then go from there. But, don’t just randomly kick any program you see in a magazine or shoot for that thinking that’s going to do the job for you because some world class athlete does this.

(Most importantly)

Keep track of what you are doing.

Keep records of what you are doing.

And then you’ll find out for yourself what works best for you.


On Being Self-Motivated

Q: Have you always been a self-motivated individual? (minutes 24:30-25:30)

Bill’s Answer:

[Please listen to Bill’s response for yourself! It only takes a minute. -Stephan]


On Constructing a Home Gym

Q: If you were going to train someone at home, what would be the best equipment to use? (minutes 25:30-26:30)

Bill Pearl: A power rack, Olympic set, and a multi-purpose (incline, flat, decline) bench.


On Pain, Prevention, and Mistakes (minutes 32:15-33:10)

It’s difficult to make out the question asked, but what Bill says resonates with my opinion on flexibility training. Guys and gals, make sure you stretch!

Bill Pearl:

If I can look back on all my years of training… and I’ve made a lot of mistakes.

I probably haven’t spent as much time on stretching as I should have.

I should have done more stretching.


Q: Over the years, have you had any problems with joints?

Bill Pearl:

Something on me hurts everyday.

If my elbow hurts, I go out and hurt my knee and it goes away

Never try to work through an injury.

Always try to work around an injury.

Keep coming regardless.

Don’t let some muscle group pull you out of coming.

Work what you can.


Don’t quit and I hope this article has motivated you enough to get up and get outside long enough to exercise today. At least hit the gym and get a nice lift in for health’s sake. Be safe and have a great workout!

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