Tony Pearson on Bodybuilding: “It’s Art”

Tony Pearson, famed for his aesthetic physique, symmetry, and electrifying stage presence, clinched the World Bodybuilding Guild (WBBG) Pro Mr. World and WBBG Olympus in 1979. A year later, he scored gold at the National Amateur Body-Builders’ Association (NABBA) Pro Mr. Universe contest. He boasts six World Mixed Pairs Championship crowns (1982-86, 1988) and won the 2020 AAU Mr. Universe Masters at age 63. 

On the Jan. 12, 2024, episode of The Mike O’Hearn Show, the show’s namesake sat with Pearson to discuss Pearson’s unique training approach and hear Pearson’s tips for building a chiseled physique. Check out the interview below, courtesy of Generation Iron’s YouTube channel:

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The Art of Bodybuilding

Pearson likened building muscle to creating art. He encouraged visualizing the desired physique before resistance training.

Every cut, every striation you see, I created it… it’s kind of like art; you’re sculpting yourself.

Addressing genetic constraints, Pearson acknowledged that despite favorable structure, he initially lacked muscle mass and put in considerable effort to build it. Pearson stressed the importance of building a balanced and symmetrical physique to achieve an ideal bodybuilder’s silhouette. 

Pearson highlighted the importance of a personalized approach to dieting and muscle building. In his prime, Pearson followed a rigorous training regime. During a contest prep, he trained twice daily for 20 consecutive weeks. Such discipline, he noted, is essential for achieving a chiseled physique.

You keep your mouth shut and go do your work and see what happens on stage. I’ve lost more shows than I won, but I keep coming back.

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The Importance of Posing and Performance

Pearson shed light on the significance of posing in bodybuilding. He described posing as art, where the bodybuilder is both the artist and the canvas. Learning to pose to properly display a physique’s strengths is just as important as the quality of the physique.

It’s a lot of work and rehearsal time; getting those poses together.

[Related: “I Think I Went Into Shock”: Dorian Yates Reflects on Winning the 1997 Mr. Olympia With a Torn Triceps]

The Role of Passion and Commitment

According to Pearson, loving the sport is key to a long bodybuilding career. He described bodybuilding as a labor of love, a fight against naysayers, and a journey of self-improvement. Pearson’s almost five-decade-long bodybuilding career is a testament to his commitment.

“It’s love. You have to love what you do,” said Pearson. “To me, it was a fight…I lasted 20 years up there and just kind of walked away from it, but I still do it. I always felt that [the judges] wanted me to go away and placed me really low, but I refused to go away… I said, ‘OK, I will use this as energy when I train.’”

Pearson encouraged aspiring bodybuilders to find their passion, work hard, and stay true to their vision. Success in bodybuilding isn’t only about competition accolades; bodybuilding a way of life.

Featured image: @tonypearson87 on Instagram

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