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April 13, 2023 1 Comment
Before there was The Incredible Hulk, there was the one and only Lou Ferrigno, a professional bodybuilder who competed with the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger during the Golden Era of lifting.
But Lou Ferrigno's story is a little bit more interesting than most (and let's be honest, all bodybuilders seem to have pretty awesome stories). Lou managed to make a name for himself in not one, but two industries, both of which are fairly difficult to break into.
Because not only is he known for his massive physique, but he is also known for his acting, starring in TV shows and films such as The Incredible Hulk and the monumental documentary Pumping Iron.
Between bodybuilding and acting, Lou Ferrigno has become an iconic figure in sports and American culture. But, since he hasn't competed in Mr. Olympia since the 90s and made his Hulk debut in the 70s, it leads us to wonder: What's the lifting legend and actor up to today?
Let's find out!
Table of Contents:
Ferrigno was a professional bodybuilder during the Golden Era and competed against lifting legends like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
He was also one of the primary figures in the groundbreaking documentary film Pumping Iron, which followed the training of select bodybuilders as they prepared to compete in the 1975 IFBB Mr. Universe and 1975 Mr. Olympia shows.
Back in the 70s, professional bodybuilders had more star power than today. In fact, the spotlight led to Lou Ferrigno being selected to play The Hulk in the TV series The Incredible Hulk (Bill Bixby played Dr. David Banner). This series was a hit and lasted 5 seasons, thrusting Ferrigno into stardom.
From here, he would be chosen to play in multiple other movies, including Hercules, Sinbad of the Seven Seas, and Instant Death, playing John Bradley, just to name just a few. Today, he mainly plays cameos of himself in big comedies.
And all of this started because of his bodybuilding career.
Considered one of the biggest bodybuilders of all time, Lou Ferrigno retired from bodybuilding after his attempt at the 1994 Masters Olympia, a competition that was at the center of yet another documentary film titled Stand Tall, released in 1997.
But, his '94 bodybuilding retirement wasn't the end of Lou Ferrigno. He has remained relatively active in Hollywood with smaller roles and cameos, while also starting his own fitness business and focusing on his family.
And in 2018, Lou Ferrigno was appointed chairperson of the President's Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition by then-President Donald Trump.
Let's take a closer look at where Lou Ferrigno is today.
Today, Lou Ferrigno is semi-retired and primarily takes on smaller acting roles and cameos in films and reality shows. In addition, he's currently filming an independent horror film titled The Hermit, a movie about a cannibalistic pig farmer.
Lou has remained relatively consistent with his acting and has been involved in an average of 2-3 projects per year for at least the past decade.
Lou Ferrigno also runs a fitness platform with his daughter Shanna Ferrigno. Called Ferrigno Fit, his fitness platform focuses on healthy nutrition, physical activity, and personal coaching.
Lou Ferrigno has been married twice in his life. His first wife was Susan Groff, whom he wed in 1978 and was divorced from in 1979.
Lou Ferrigno's next wife would stand the test of time. Married in 1980, Carla Green and Lou Ferrigno have been married for 43 years, live in Arroyo Grande, California, and have three children together:
Lou Ferrigno Jr (Lou Jr) has followed in his father's acting footsteps, playing roles in different TV series and B films. Lou Ferrigno Jr.'s greatest success is on TV, as he stars in several major dramas, including Swat and Outer Banks.
Shanna has partnered with her father to develop Ferrigno Fit, an online fitness platform. In addition, she also has had several roles in various soap operas.
There is little information on Brent.
From training Michael Jackson to being an LA and Arizona sworn-in sheriff deputy, there is no shortage of interesting facts about Lou Ferrigno.
Here's a look at our favorites.
Lou Ferrigno comes from a family of Italian descent and was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 9, 1951. His parents were Victoria and Matt Ferrigno. His father, Matt, worked for the police department, and his mother, Victoria, was a stay-at-home mom.
During his youth, Lou Ferrigno suffered from hearing loss from an ear infection, which eventually led to a speech impediment as well. Sadly, it led to him being constantly bullied in school.
This abuse led Ferrigno to turn to comic books and hero movies as a source of power. Ironically, one of his heroes at the time was Hercules, played by Steve Reeves, another professional bodybuilding star who competed many years before him.
Lou Ferrigno's family did not have a lot of money. Therefore, when Ferrigno's childhood dream became weight training at 13 years old, he used a broomstick and buckets of cement for weights.
He became obsessed with working out, building muscle, and gaining strength.
Lou Ferrigno wouldn't be Lou Ferrigno if it wasn't for his bodybuilding career. His training is what gave him the size to play a superhero, and his success led him to star in the most famous bodybuilding documentary ever.
Lou Ferrigno started weight training at the young age of 13 as an outlet for the constant bullying he received due to his hearing loss. His love for bodybuilding grew throughout high school, as he continued growing in mass and size.
After graduating in 1969, Ferrigno won his first major competition in 1971, winning first in the WBBG Pro Mr. America Title (Teen division). After a few more competitions, he won his first IFFB competition, the IFBB Mr. America title. He would then go on to dominate the IFBB Mr. America and IFBB Mr. Olympia up until 1974.
It was in 1974 when Lou Ferrigno entered the world of Mr. Olympia. In his first Mr. Olympia contest, he would take second place, followed by 3rd place the following year. After realizing his bodybuilding dream wasn't as financially rewarding as he'd hoped, Lou Ferrigno quit and became involved in other ventures, including playing The Hulk.
Lou Ferrigno wasn't done with Mr. Olympia forever, though. He returned to bodybuilding in 1992 and 1993, receiving his lowest placements at 12th and 10th places, respectively. This was, at least in part, due to Ferrigno being at the outer limits of his age category.
In 1994, Lou Ferrigno returned to compete in Mr. Olympia Masters, coming in with an awesome 2nd place finish.
Despite never taking 1st place at Mr. Olympia, fans love Lou Ferrigno, and he still has a long list of wins and accomplishments to show for his bodybuilding career.
Here's a look:
Two words: Arnold Schwarzenegger. The rivalry between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno is legendary and is the focal point of the documentary Pumping Iron. While it was always speculated that Lou Ferrigno could win Mr. Olympia and beat Arnold Schwarzenegger, it never came to fruition.
Arnold was just too perfect. Even with his smaller size, he was somehow able to look bigger than Ferrigno. Arnold's aesthetics, along with his charm, truly made him unstoppable.
Interested in taking a look at Arnold Schwarzenegger's training plan? Check out our article on the Arnold Split!
Having a physique that enables you to play characters like The Incredible Hulk and Hercules means it's safe to say Lou Ferrigno knows what he's talking about workout-wise. Oh, and the fact he's one of the best professional bodybuilders. That too.
Let's look at some of the principles he used inside the gym.
One thing The Hulk and SET FOR SET have in common? Being huge fans of compound exercises. Prioritizing multijoint exercises stems from Lou's belief in mastering the basics, which is another philosophy held here.
First work on major lifts such as your bench press, squat, deadlift, overhead press, and bent-over row. Then you can focus on including some isolation exercises.
Ferrigno was also known for changing up his routines and workout split. This may be by swapping the barbell for a dumbbell, altering angles, or simply changing the grip width.
But, to be clear, do it in a planned manner.
One of the more interesting practices of Lou Ferrigno includes posing between his sets. He would do this for two main reasons:
Forced reps have been a part of bro science for a very long time, and Lou Ferrigno was a fan. In fact, this was one of Lou Ferrigno's favorite practices as he believed it helped with greater muscle recruitment.
Specifically, Ferrigno would first train to failure and then have a friend assist with the concentric while he controlled the eccentric. He would usually do this for an extra 3-4 reps.
Volume is the key to muscle hypertrophy. Lou Ferrigno knew this and relied on it in his training. There are some who estimate that he would perform up to 80 sets in just one session.
To put that in perspective, a session with 8 exercises that use a 3x8 rep scheme only has 24 working sets.
As mentioned, Lou Ferrigno was a massive fan of compound exercises. He loved the basics and felt everything else came after a strong foundation of large, multipoint movements.
His favorites included:
Let's answer some frequently asked Lou Ferrigno questions.
Lou Ferrigno was actually considerably larger than Arnold Schwarzenegger. During the competition, Arnold stood at 6'2" while Ferrigno stood at 6'5". Weighing 275 pounds, Lou Ferrigno also had 35-45 pounds on Arnold Schwarzenegger's 230-240-pound frame.
Lou Ferrigno primarily used a 6-day split where he trained body parts twice a week. He paired chest and back, shoulders and arms, and legs.
As a young child, his parents first brought him to an ear doctor at the age of 4 as they noticed he did not react to sounds.
Lou Ferrigno lost his hearing due to multiple ear infections as a child.
Yes. Along with Bruce Bixby, who played Dr. Bruce Banner, Lou Ferrigno was the first on-screen Hulk.
Lou Ferrigno is believed to be worth more than $15 million.
The only bodybuilder who's made a bigger impact than Lou Ferrigno on our culture is his rival, Arnold Schwarzenegger. And ironically, it's this rivalry that thrust them both into mainstream popularity.
Regardless, Lou Ferrigno is proof that not all champions win the title. Throughout his career, he has cemented himself firmly as a staple in American culture.
What's perhaps even more inspiring is that he's not finished! He certainly doesn't need the money, but he's still active, making films, educating the public on fitness and health, and staying active on social media.
Lou truly is a star and a fitness industry pioneer. We'll leave you with some parting words from Lou: "Everyone has a little bit of The Hulk inside them."
Curious about what other famous bodybuilders are up to? Check out our article: Where Is 8 Time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney Today?
Images courtesy of Lou Ferrigno's Instagram
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