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Legends of the Iron Game: Reflections on the History of Strength Training

Bill Pearl with George and Tuesday Coates and Richard Thornley, Jr.

There’s no question Bill Pearl’s name comes up first in a discussion of the hardest working people in the fitness business, from his time on the gym floor as a competitive athlete, gym owner and lifting instructor, to his work as an equipment designer, lecturer and author. And now, Bill’s newest effort is finally in print… eight years of heavy work—no languishing in the bottom drawer waiting for the muse, these were productive years of six hours daily writing. This opus is three indexed volumes, 1,061 pages in a horizontal 11×8.5 landscape format.

Legends of the Iron Game

The books are packed with large photographs, most of which only the true historians will have seen before, and many of the shots will be new to them, too. These are not average photos; these are alive with energy—larger-than-life personalities jumping off the pages.

Somehow I think you’d notice these guys on the street
Somehow I think you’d notice these guys on the street.
L to R, Bert Goodrich, Clancy Ross, Eric Pedersen, Steve Reeves, Floyd Pages & Alan Stephan

147 individuals are covered in detail, with many more mentioned within the commentary. That’s a big number, but there will certainly be important people found missing. How could Bill cover everyone? Answer: He couldn’t. There will be people in here you wouldn’t put in your top 147, and people in yours who are missing from Bill’s… count on it. But once you get sucked into the text, the photos and captions, you’ll forget any slight you may conjure up when you discover your great-uncle’s best friend didn’t make the cut. And of course, just because a person isn’t covered in detail does not mean missing entirely; many, many people have extensive index listings without a table of contents reference.

Volume 1
Beginning with a prologue covering ancient times, this volume covers physical culture the 1950s, vaudeville to the beginning of bodybuilding, then Jack LaLanne to the early battle days of Bob Hoffman and Joe Weider. Following the foreword and prologue, 65 individuals are presented.

Volume 2
This is the golden age coverage of Bill Pearl’s day, including bodybuilders, powerlifters and Olympic lifters of the later ‘50s and ‘60s. 54 of the top athletes of the time are detailed in full, and many others are mentioned throughout the commentary and photo captions.

Bill Pearl
Our hero, Bill Pearl working the crowd

Volume 3
The final volume covers the period of the ‘70s and beyond, in which Bill has chosen 28 men and women to represent these later years. The set closes with some of the best of the series: the history and stories behind the major contests (Mr. America, Mr. Universe, Mr. Olympia, Arnold Classic), the Highland Games, Muscle Beach, the AOBS and Heidenstam dinners, the York Barbell Hall of Fame, the University of Texas Stark Center and a golden era legends weekend memory from 1991. Bill discusses the important physique photographers and iron historians, and of course you can feel his heartfelt appreciation. You’re going to love this section.

Head on over to Bill and Judy’s site, scroll down a quarter page and use the preview slider to click through some of the pages to get an idea of you can be enjoying in about a week.

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