Who is Tony Pearson?

The Michael Jackson of bodybuilding

Bodybuilding certainly has seen countless amounts of top notch talent to have graced the bodybuilding stage. Household names include those such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronnie Coleman, but one name that is making an unlikely comeback at 66 years old is none other than Tony Pearson. Nicknamed the “Michael Jackson of Bodybuilding”, Tony Pearson is the subject of an upcoming Generation Iron documentary. But, who is Tony Pearson?

With the new film coming out, pushing Tony Pearson back into the spotlight, let’s take a look at the bodybuilder who was mentored by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Below is a complete breakdown of Chris Bumstead’s profile, stats, biography, training and diet regimens.

Full Name: Tony Pearson (Golden Era Bodybuilder)

Weight Height Date Of Birth
205 – 215 lbs 5’8″ 1957
Division Era Nationality
Bodybuilding 1970s, 1980s, 1990s American

Tony Pearson’s Intro to Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding was not something that he had always thought of doing. Starting out as a high school wrestler, Tony Pearson had suffered a knee injury during his career. To help with the recovery process, his coach had introduced him to strength training, and Tony had fallen in love with it, this is how he discovered bodybuilding. From there, he put on 20 lbs of muscle mass and realized his potential in the sport of bodybuilding.

From there, Tony decided that he would pursue a future in the sport, and back in the 1970s, also referred to as the Golden Era of bodybuilding, California was the capitol for this endeavor. By the time Tony had arrived in Venice Beach to train at Gold’s Gym, Arnold Schwarzenegger had just won his 6th Olympia title.

Schwarzenegger was impressed by Pearson’s physique and almost spot-on resemblance to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, and took him under his wing, even helping Pearson begin his competitive career. 

Tony Pearson’s Contribution to the Sport

Pearson won several titles like the Mr. Universe and the Mr. World, but he contributed heavily to the idea of couples bodybuilding. In 1979, Joe Gold asked Tony Pearson to pose with Lisa Lyons on stage, which was the first time in history that a man and woman posed on the bodybuilding stage together.

From there, Tony dedicated a lot of his time to couples bodybuilding, and from the years of 1982 through 1988, Pearson went on to win six pro-mixed-world titles. Pearson certainly carved a unique mark into the sport of bodybuilding, but Arnold Schwarzenegger helped boost his career immensely.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tony Pearson

Arnold Schwarzenegger muscle
Image via Instagram @schwarzenegger

As stated above, Arnold Schwarzenegger took Tony Pearson under his wing when Tony originally arrived in Venice Beach. Arnold had noticed how hard Tony was training and the (at the time) 6x Mr. Olympia had approached the young bodybuilder, giving him advice and helping him during his training sessions. However, it was much more than just taking Tony through a couple workouts. 

Arnold ended up giving Tony Pearson the address of none other than Joe Weider. Now, Joe Weider was the one who founded the IFBB pro league, and the Mr. Olympia contest, and mentored Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Mr. Olympia champion had told the young bodybuilder to go ahead and contact Joe Weider. “Go there, tell him that I sent you. He should write an article on you for his magazine Muscle Builder.” Arnold’s book, The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, also featured Tony Pearson. 

Joe Weider’s Verdict on Tony Pearson

The young 19 year old Tony had to take 3 buses just to get himself to Joe Weider’s house, and from Tony’s point of view, Joe seemed disappointed in the fact that Arnold had sent him there. Joe turned to his friend Jack, instructed him to write an article on Tony, and then walked away. In Tony’s words, the two had never gotten along after that, and Tony spent the rest of his career feeling as though he was trying to prove something. 

Banned From the IFBB

Tony Pearson did tons of amateur shows after the encounter with Joe Weider, winning a good amount of them. However, in 1978 he was suspended, and went broke. Luckily he was invited to South America to guest pose, but it was not in an IFBB sanctioned show, so the IFBB had threatened to ban him for life Pearson posed. So, he posed.

After receiving the ban from the IFBB, he got a call from Rhode Island for another guest posing, and he did it. Someone there was so impressed with Pearson, that they drove him to the Mr. World competition the following week, where he won and earned his professional status in a WABBA sanctioned competition. 

Eventually, after a few more shows, Pearson wrote a letter to the IFBB and they reinstated him, where he would be competing from there on out. However, a very important judge had told Tony at an IFBB sanctioned show that he would never win a show. Despite that unfortunate news, he continued to give it his all and compete. You can check out the rest of the interview with Tony Pearson below:

Competition History

  • 1976 AAU Gold’s Classic Teen overall winner
  • 1976 AAU Gold’s Classic Teen, Short1st
  • 1977 AAU Junior Mr. USA Short 3rd
  • 1977 AAU Mr. Los Angeles Junior1st
  • 1977 AAU Mr. Southern California Junior 1st
  • 1978 AAU Mr. America overall winner
  • 1978 AAU Mr. America Medium 1st
  • 1978 AAU Mr. California Short 1st
  • 1978 AAU Junior Mr. America Medium 1st
  • 1978 AAU Junior Mr. America overall winner
  • 1978 AAU Junior Mr. USA overall winner
  • 1978 AAU Junior Mr. USA Medium 1st
  • 1979 WBBG Olympus winner
  • 1979 NABBA Mr. Universe Medium 2nd
  • 1979 WBBG Pro. Mr. World winner
  • 1979 WABBA World Championships Medium 1st
  • 1979 WABBA World Championships overall winner
  • 1980 NABBA Universe Pro. winner
  • 1980 WABBA World Championships Professional 3rd
  • 1980 WABBA Pro. World Cup 5th
  • 1981 IFBB Canada Pro. Cup 4th
  • 1981 IFBB Grand Prix Belgium 6th
  • 1981 IFBB Grand Prix Wales 5th
  • 1981 IFBB Universe Pro. 3rd
  • 1981 WABBA Pro. World Cup 7th
  • 1981 IFBB World Grand Prix 4th
  • 1981 IFBB World Pro. Championships 3rd
  • 1982 IFBB Night of Champions 6th
  • 1982 IFBB World Pro. Championships 6th*
  • 1983 IFBB Grand Prix Denver winner
  • 1983 IFBB Grand Prix England 4th
  • 1983 IFBB Grand Prix Las Vegas 6th
  • 1983 IFBB Grand Prix Portland 2nd
  • 1983 IFBB Grand Prix Sweden 6th
  • 1983 IFBB Grand Prix Switzerland 6th
  • 1983 IFBB World Pro. Championships 8th
  • 1984 Canada Pro. Cup 3rd
  • 1984 IFBB Olympia 12th
  • 1984 IFBB World Grand Prix 3rd
  • 1985 IFBB Night of Champions 9th
  • 1985 IFBB Olympia 12th
  • 1986 IFBB Los Angeles Pro. Championships 5th
  • 1986 IFBB Night of Champions 4th
  • 1986 IFBB World Pro. Championships 9th
  • 1987 IFBB Night of Champions did not place
  • 1987 IFBB World Pro. Championships 8th
  • 1988 IFBB Grand Prix US Pro. 6th
  • 1988 IFBB Niagara Falls Pro. Invitational 5th
  • 1988 IFBB Night of Champions 8th
  • 1988 IFBB World Pro. Championships 8th
  • 1989 IFBB Grand Prix France 11th
  • 1989 IFBB Grand Prix Germany 9th
  • 1989 IFBB Grand Prix Spain 9th
  • 1989 IFBB Grand Prix Spain (2) 9th
  • 1989 IFBB Grand Prix Sweden 11th
  • 1990 IFBB Arnold Classic 6th
  • 1990 IFBB Houston Pro. Invitational 6th
  • 1990 IFBB Ironman Pro. Invitational 8th
  • 1991 WBF Grand Prix 11th
  • 1993 IFBB Chicago Pro. Invitational 13th
  • 1993 IFBB Night of Champions did not place
  • 1993 IFBB Pittsburgh Pro. Invitational 16th
  • 1994 IFBB Ironman Pro. Invitational 14th
  • 1994 IFBB San Jose Pro. Invitational 16th


Tony is a big believer in the mind muscle connection, stating that when he does a movement such as the bicep curl, he is not just hoping for his biceps to grow, he is connecting the mind the muscle on every rep. That being said, he uses strict form, lighter weights, and higher volume for his workouts. Typically, his sets will consist of 8-12 reps, sometimes going higher when he was closer to competition.


Tony Pearson always stayed close to competition shape year round, meaning low in body fat but maintained a good amount of muscle mass, and even now he is still lean. He eats very low fats and carbs, with his main food sources consisting of whole foods such as chicken breasts, ground turkey meat, egg whites with a couple of yolks, asparagus, broccoli, two apples a day and one grapefruit with very little brown rice.

He stays away from supplements like protein powder or even complex carbs like porridge.

Shredded at 66

Tony Pearson still maintains an awesome physique at 63 years old, posting a video to his Instagram in July of 2023 hitting a front double bicep at Muscle Beach. Pearson’s biceps are still incredible.

Driven: The Tony Pearson Story

While this article details a few aspects of Tony Pearson’s life, Driven: The Tony Pearson Story, is the true, full story. Tony did not have an easy life, and Driven shows how one person can rise above their situation and be stronger physically, mentally and spiritually, by simply picking up a weight. 

Driven will be streaming on Vimeo, iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play on October 6th, 2023. Check out the trailer for Driven: The Tony Pearson Story below: 

Wrap Up

Tony Pearson, the Michael Jackson of bodybuilding, did not have an easy life growing up and that is certain. However, despite trials and tribulations, he still contributed very much to the sport of bodybuilding, especially for that of couples posing. On October 6th, you will be able to see the full story of Tony Pearson, in the movie Driven: The Tony Pearson Story. 

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

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I work mainly in content writing, focusing my free time on bodybuilding and strength sports. I was introduced to fitness in high school and after watching Generation Iron movies. I love to train. I have competed multiple times, even winning a junior title in classic physique. I have a bachelor's in criminal justice and business obtained through Alvernia University. When I am not focused on work or training, I enjoy watching films or reading about anything and everything.