Lou Ferrigno is a bodybuilding legend. He catapulted into the mainstream after being depicted as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s primary challenger in the cult-classic bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron (1977). Winning two Mr. Universe titles — 1973 and 1974 — has been the highlight of Ferrigno’s bodybuilding career.
Arnie’s transition into films opened Hollywood’s doors for other bodybuilders. Ferrigno’s towering stature fetched him the green superhero’s role in The Incredible Hulk TV series that ran from 1977 to 1982. This article discusses Lou’s training principles and workout and diet programs.
|Full Name: Louis Jude Ferrigno|
|285-295 lbs (129.3-133.8 kgs)||6’5″ (195.5cm)||American|
|Year of Birth||Professional||Era|
|1951||Pro Bodybuilder, Actor, Personal Trainer||1970, 1990|
|23″ (58 cm)||29″ (74 cm)||20″ (51 cm)|
|34″ (86 cm)||58″ (147 cm)|
Who is Lou Ferrigno?
Ferrigno was born in 1951 in Brooklyn, NY. He lost 80 percent of his hearing ability in his younger years due to an ear infection, subjecting him to bullying at school. Lou, however, didn’t let the bullies affect him and excelled in sports.
At 13, Lou decided to build a physique like his comic book hero Hulk and started lifting weights. After seven years of intense training, Ferrigno entered his maiden competition in 1971 — the WBBG Pro Mr. America — in the teen division and walked away with the gold medal. Lou made a splash in the bodybuilding community by winning the IFBB Mr. America and Mr. Universe contests in 1973 at the age of 22.
Ferrigno appeared in the musclehead documentary Pumping Iron, chronicling the 1975 IFBB Mr. Universe and the 1975 Mr. Olympia competitions. Although Lou ended third in his weight class that year, his 6 feet 5 inches, 275-pound towering physique made the producers of The Incredible Hulk sit up and take notice. Things came full circle when he was cast as The Incredible Hulk in the namesake TV series in 1977, earning him the moniker “The Hulk.”
The show was a hit, cementing Lou’s place in Hollywood. Besides The Incredible Hulk, some of his notable films include Hercules (1983), Sinbad of the Seven Seas (1989), and Cage (1989). Lou is the most successful pro bodybuilder turned actor after Schwarzenegger.
The Hulk returned to the bodybuilding stage in 1992 after a 16-year hiatus. He hung his posing trunks for good in 1994 after a 12th and 10th place finish at the 1992 and the 1993 Mr. Olympia and a silver medal at the 1994 Master’s Olympia.
Ferrigno has coached A-listers like Chuck Norris and Michael Jackson.
Mr. & Masters Olympia Results
- 1974 – IFBB Mr. Olympia: 2nd (HeavyWeight)
- 1994 – IFBB Mr. Olympia: 3rd (HeavyWeight)
- 1992 – IFBB Mr. Olympia: 12th
- 1993 – IFBB Masters Olympia: 2nd
- 1971 – WBBG Pro Teen Mr. America
- 1973 – IFBB Mr. America
- 1973 – IFBB Mr. Universe
- 1974 – IFBB Mr. International
- 1974 – IFBB Mr. Universe
Lou Ferrigno Training Tips
Playing The Hulk before CGI (computer-generated imagery) was no joke. Ferrigno knew he was up for a challenge as soon as he signed up to play the green superhero. He pushed hard in the gym and kitchen for his role. Although Lou had to sacrifice his conditioning, he brought his biggest package to the TV show.
To this day, I can’t think of another superhero that isn’t in costume or CGI.
I had to work damn hard on my diet and exercise for the Hulk. I wasn’t going to let anyone down – especially myself.
The hulk was my hero as a kid as well
Here are 12 training tips that helped Lou break the 300-pound barrier at the age of 20:
Get Your Basics Right
Lou’s dad, Matty Ferrigno, was his training coach. He was a hard taskmaster who ensured Lou left nothing in the tank during a workout. The Hulk focused on compound movements to ensure overall development. Squats, bench presses, and barbell rows were a staple in his training regimen.
Resist Going Too Heavy
Although Pumping Iron shows Ferrigno lifting big weights on the incline bench press, he often clarifies that it was just for the camera. Ferrigno avoided going heavy on pushing movements like the bench press and shoulder press as it increases the risk of injury.
Find an Inspiration
“Everyone remembers that scene in Pumping Iron when I’m doing shoulder presses and shouting, ‘Arnold!’ over and over. I used Arnold to motivate my workouts,” explains Ferrigno. He believes in having a goal physique and working toward it with everything you’ve got.
Choose Your Training Partner Wisely
In his prime, Lou trained with other pro bodybuilders. He, however, ensured that his training partner was as strong as him and would push him to use heavier weights and do more reps. The Hulk didn’t like talking to his training partner during the workout as it hampered his training intensity.
Posing Between Sets
The two-time Mr. Universe champ practiced posing between sets and contracting his muscles as hard as possible to improve his muscle conditioning. He credits Joe Weider for teaching him about iso-tension.
Keep Your Muscles Guessing
Ferrigno is a proponent of constantly changing your training regimen to avoid hitting a plateau. He changes his exercises, their order, angles, poundages, sets, reps, and pace to add variety to his workouts. Even the slightest of changes can help you dodge an overhead ceiling.
Don’t Lock Out
Extending your joints at the top and bottom of a rep removes tension from your target muscles and puts it on your joints. Limiting the range of motion slightly before the lockout point helps keep constant tension on your muscles.
The Hulk relied on forced reps to achieve optimal muscle fiber recruitment. During the later part of the workout, Lou trained to failure, and then his training partner helped him on the concentric portion of the lift for 3-4 more reps while he handled the eccentric motion.
Follow The Same Rep Tempo
Some lifters like altering their rep tempo; they are slow on the way down and lightning fast on the way up. Lou avoided this technique as he believed it led to sloppy reps. He maintained the same rep tempo throughout the set and focused on contracting his muscles with each rep. He believed focusing too much on the rep tempo could hamper your mind-muscle connection.
Avoid Hitting Failure
Ferrigno advises against training to muscle failure in each set, especially at the beginning of a workout. He believes that fatiguing early on in a training session can hamper the quality of your sets.
Have a Plan
Ferrigno has a game plan for every workout. He decides the exercises, sets, and reps he’ll be doing in the gym and even visualizes the pumps. Showing up unprepared at the gym can hamper your performance.
Remind Yourself Why You Started
Following the fitness lifestyle requires constant work. You must, however, never lose sight of the ultimate goal.
Whenever I don’t feel like doing another workout or eating another chicken breast, I only have to remind myself of the benefits of this lifestyle. I owe everything to bodybuilding.
Lou Ferrigno Workout Program
In his prime, The Hulk was one of the hardest-working bodybuilders in the weight room. He trained heavy without sacrificing his form. Given below is his training program:
Lou Ferrigno Chest Workout
The flat barbell bench press is Ferrigno’s favorite chest exercise; he incorporates it in at least every other chest workout. The actor trains his chest from multiple angles using compound and isolation exercises to ensure overall development.
Lou advises against using too broad a grip while performing pressing movements. He believes using a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip can deliver a ‘better stretch at the bottom and tighter contraction at the top.’
Ferrigno incorporates the dumbbell pullover in his chest training regimen as it stimulates the chest and back together, hitting the serratus and stretching the rib cage. He used relatively light weights for the exercise and did more reps.
|Flat or Incline Fly||4||10-12|
Lou Ferrigno Back Workout
Ferrigno advises using your hands and arms like hooks while training your back. To achieve optimal back stimulation, ensure you pull your elbows and contract your shoulder blades with each rep. Keep your chest lifted and pull with your back. If you feel a biceps pump while performing back exercises, lower the poundage and focus on driving through your elbows.
|Bent-Over Barbell Row||5||6-8|
Lou Ferrigno Shoulder Workout
Lou credits overhead presses for his boulder shoulders. He performed behind-the-neck and front barbell overhead presses in each deltoid workout. The Hulk did five sets of each exercise in his shoulder routine.
Ferrigno prefers cable upright rows over barbell or dumbbell shrugs for his traps as it delivers a better pump. He raised his elbows as high as possible to achieve optimal muscle fiber stimulation.
While performing the dumbbell front raise, he moved the dumbbells up the center line of his body or slightly across.
Sometimes, Lou switched the dumbbell side lateral raise with the cable side lateral raise to achieve a better pump. He raised the handles well above shoulder level to attain a better range of motion.
|Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise||5||10-12|
|Dumbbell Front Raise||5||10-12|
|Dumbbell Bent-Over Rear Delt Fly||5||10-12|
|Cable Upright Row||5||10-12|
Lou Ferrigno Arm Workout
Ferrigno trains his biceps and triceps on the same day. The method worked for Lou as he had 23-inch arms in his prime. He started his training sessions with biceps and trained tris toward the end. The Hulk sometimes performed bis and tris supersets to annihilate his guns.
According to Lou, he had to work hard to build up his lower arms. He sometimes trained them thrice a week to ensure symmetry and proportions. The actors did wrist curls and reverse wrist curls to build thick forearms.
|Incline Dumbbell Curl||3-4||8-10|
|Machine Preacher Curl||4||8-10|
|Standing French Press||4||8-10|
|Barbell Wrist Curl||4||10-15|
Lou Ferrigno Leg Workout
Leg extensions, hack squats, and front squats are Ferrigno’s favorite exercises for building his wheels. He believes using moderate weights and performing high reps got him the best results.
Lou alternates between seated and standing calf raises in each workout to target the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles. Since he does only one calf exercise a week, he keeps his training intensity and volume high.
|Seated Calf Raise||10-12||6-10|
Lou Ferrigno Ab Workout
Ferrigno treated his abs like every other muscle group and hit them 2-3 times each week in his prime. He used a giant set to train his abs, performing four exercises consecutively without stopping for rest. After completing a circuit, Lou halted for a 2-3 minute rest and repeated the giant set one or two more times.
|Hanging Leg Raise||3-4||15-20|
|Roman Chair Situp||3-4||50|
|Bench Leg Raise||3-4||30-40|
|Crunch Side Bend||3-4||30-40|
Lou Ferrigno Diet Program
At 6-foot-5, Ferrigno was the biggest bodybuilder of his era. Lou was the first bodybuilder to break the 300-pound barrier, and he did it in his 20s. The Hulk was competing at 275 pounds when Arnie weighed 235. Dorian Yates weighed 265 pounds at the 1993 Olympia, while Ferrigno tipped the scales at a monstrous 315 pounds.
Ferrigno ate seven meals daily and downed 3,500 calories in his prime to maintain his size and conditioning. This is what his meal plan looked like:
- 6 whole eggs
- 4 pieces of toast
- 8 ounces of steak
- 1 can of tuna
- 1 cup of oatmeal
- Apple sauce (unsweetened)
- 8 ounces of grilled chicken
- Baked potato
- 1 can of tuna
- 1 cup of oatmeal
- Apple sauce (unsweetened)
- 8 ounces of ground beef
- Baked potato
- 6 whole eggs
- 2 cups of cottage cheese
Ferrigno is the original master monster. He broke the 300-pound barrier in his early 20s, while his competition hovered around 235-245 pounds in the off-season. Lou prioritized volume in his workouts and did more than 20 sets in each training session.
Internalize The Hulk’s training tips and techniques to build a larger-than-life physique. Follow the training program for 12 weeks while making small weekly adjustments to ensure you are constantly shocking your muscles. Best of luck!