Before Arnold, there were many other amazing men who deserve recognition for their accomplishments in the world of bodybuilding. One such man is Bill Pearl, who for two decades was considered by many the best of the best. Here’s why.
Pearl entered his first physique competition in 1952 and improved so rapidly that the following year he won the NABBA Mr. Universe title, a competition that included Sean Connery of future James Bond fame. Pearl was so far ahead of his time in the sport that in 1967, at age 37, he competed in the Pro Mr. Universe competition and won the title for the fourth time. Arnold, incidentally, won the amateur version of this event.
The 1967 competition was supposed to be Pearl’s last, but that would change. Over the years, physique magazines had claimed that Pearl had been afraid to compete against top bodybuilders from other organizations. One such bodybuilder was Sergio Oliva, who had won the IFBB Mr. Olympia in 1967, ’68 and ’69, and of course Arnold, who won in 1970. Known as “The Myth,” Sergio had freaky measurements, including arms that were so large (20 1/8 inches cold) that they measured larger than the circumference of his head!
Pearl decided to put the rumors to rest by announcing that in 1971, at age 41, he would once again compete in the Pro Mr. Universe and would welcome all comers. Arnold did not appear, but among those accepting the challenge were future Mr. Olympias Chris Dickerson and Frank Zane. Sergio also entered the event and enlisted the help of Nautilus inventor Arthur Jones to help prepare him. Pearl once again prevailed.
One reason Pearl was able to dominate in bodybuilding competitions for so long is that he had a balanced, symmetrical physique that looked just as impressive when relaxed as when flexed. But with Pearl the one muscle that stood out was his triceps, which dramatically flared out of his deltoids. Much of this development could be attributed to his focus on basic pressing motions, as evidenced by a seated press behind-the-neck with 310 pounds, a military press of 320 and a bench press of 450.
Although the biceps get the attention of many programs, the triceps make up two thirds of the bulk of the upper arms. But it takes more than just additional sets to develop the triceps; it takes the proper selection of exercises and a sound training protocol.
I’ve tried countless programs to develop the triceps, and I’d like to share one with you that I’ve found very effective. It involves supersetting one exercise that overloads the mid-range of the strength curve with another that places the triceps in a stretched position. Exercises fulfilling the first requirement would be dips, lying triceps extensions and any form of close-grip bench press. The second requirement would come from overhead extensions.
In this program you alternate between Routine 1 and Routine 2 until you have done each routine six times. Here are the details.
A-1 Close-Grip Low Incline Presses: 3-5 x 4-6 reps on a 5010 tempo. Select an incline position between 10 and 25 degrees. The grip should be about 14 inches for men and about 10 inches for women – I don’t believe in using the 4- to 6-inch grip recommended by many coaches, as it puts enormous strain on the wrists. Also, to avoid straining the rotator cuff muscles, have a training partner help you unrack and rack the barbell from the supports.
Rest 10 seconds and move on to A-2:
A-2 Seated French Press with an EZ bar: 3-5 x 10-12 reps on a 3110 tempo. It is critical that your elbows point directly at the ceiling to maximize the stretch on the triceps muscles. Be sure to pause for a second in the stretched position.
Rest a full 3 minutes between supersets.
You will probably have to drop the load by 5-15 percent with each succeeding superset. Once the weight on the close-grip low incline presses is 20 percent lower than the initial starting weight, stop the routine for that day. Let’s say you started off with 200 pounds on the close-grip low incline presses, and by your third superset you are down to 160 pounds – do not do a fourth superset.
A-1 V-Bar Dips: 3-5 x 4-6 reps on a 3210 tempo. Use as narrow a grip as possible without compromising shoulder integrity, and try to stay as upright as possible during the exercise. Make certain that the biceps make contact with the forearms in the bottom position – your triceps must be fully stretched. Also, your elbows should only go to 98 percent of full elbow extension to maintain maximal tension on the triceps.
Rest 10 seconds and move on to A-2:
A-2 Overhead Rope Extensions: 3-5 x 10-12 reps on a 3110 tempo. It is critical that your elbows point directly at the ceiling to maximize the stretch on the triceps muscles. Be sure to pause for a second in the stretched position.
Rest a full 3 minutes between supersets. You will probably have to drop the load by 5-15 percent with each succeeding superset.
Once the weight on the V-bar dips and presses is 20 percent lower than the initial starting weight, stop the routine for that day.
The reason I recommend 3 to 5 sets is that one’s work capacity varies greatly from day to day. Further, I recommend rep ranges rather than percentages (letting the reps determine the load, so to speak) because it is impossible to predict in advance how many you can lift on a specific day. In fact, the ability to demonstrate strength can vary within the same day.
I can’t guarantee that you will develop triceps like Bill Pearl’s, but I’m confident that this program will fill up your sleeves in no time!
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