Welcome to this new “Get inspired by…” article. While this website is mainly for natural bodybuilders, it’s undeniable that old-school bodybuilders were inspiring and were in great condition on stage – steroids or not. It would be a shame not to get inspired from their stories and work ethic, so we’re looking back to the golden age stars!
We will go through a quick biography of the athlete presented and discuss their main beliefs and training principles. Then, we will talk about their program and see what, as natural bodybuilders, we can learn from them.
This article will only take you 5 minutes to read! Feel free to leave your questions in the comment section, they will be answered!
Today we are talking about someone special: the incredible hulk.
In the 1980s, Lou Ferrigno played the incredible hulk due to the sheer size of his frame. While many bodbuilders have had acting careers, very few live up to the same fame as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Steve Reeves – but Lou Ferrigno is definitely up there in 3rd place!
Lou Ferrigno and Serge Nubret also had their moments of fame in the movies. For Lou, it was definitely the role as incredibly hulk – where he was just painted green – and showed off his monstrous size on the silver screen as the famous angry green muscle-monster.
If you do not know who Lou Ferrigno is, this guy was a monster – there are no other words to describe him.
Lou Ferrigno was Arnold’s rival in the movie Pumping Iron, where their competition was fierce. Lou did everything he could to beat Arnold but unfortunately for him, he got the 3rd place at the Mr. Olympia in 1975, with Serge Nubret at the 2nd place – an incredible year for bodybuilding!
These are Lou Ferrigno’s titles:
- 1971 : Mr. America Pro (WBBG), 1er
- 1971 : Mr. America Teen (AAU), 4e
- 1972 : Universe (NABBA), 2e
- 1972 : Mr. America Pro (WBBG), 2e
- 1973 : Mr. America (IFBB),
- 1973 : Universe (IFBB),
- 1974 : Mr. Olympia (IFBB), 3e
- 1974 : Mr. International (IFBB),
- 1975 : Mr. Olympia (IFBB), 3e
- 1992 : Mr. Olympia (IFBB), 12e
- 1993 : Mr. Olympia (IFBB), 10e
- 1994 : Olympia Masters (IFBB), 2e
Clearly, Lou Ferrigno was an accomplished bodybuilder in his own right, even if he never ended up winning the Mr Olympia.
When Lou was a kid, he suffered an ear infection and partially lost his hearing. When he was a teen, other kids would make fun of him and call him “Deaf Louie”. This is one of the reasons Lou started bodybuilding at the age of 13: he gained a lot of motivation and confidence through the rigorous training and dieting bodybuilding provided.
Lou also had a complicated relationship with his dad which led him to work even harder.
Growing up, he was a fan of Steve Reeves, Larry Scott, and Sergio Oliva. You’ll not be surprised that Lou was into comic books as a kid: superman, batman, the fantastic four and – yes – the incredible hulk.
Lou tells us that these iconic heroes were part of his motivation to work on his body. And it’s no surprise – Lou Ferrigno’s physique was superhero-esque and shocking in its own right.
During his bodybuilding years, Lou was working in a sheet metal factory in Brooklyn. Bodybuilding was not enough to fund his lifestyle – especially in the earlier days before he was winning competition. He then quit this dangerous job after one of his co-workers lost his hand on the job, a sobering reminder of the risk of machine-work.
After his fight for the Mr. Olympia title in 1975, and subsequent losses, he took a break from bodybuilding. He then made a comeback in 1992 and 1993 for Mr. Olympia and finished at the 10th and 12th place. By the 90s, bodybuilding’s whole landscape had changed and the new generation including competitors like Dorian Yates simply outclassed the 70s legend!
In 1980, Lou married psychotherapist Carla Green who was also his manager and went on to become a personal trainer. It’s easy to see this transition: Lou did what many have done, and converted his personal success into coaching – sharing the secrets of his success.In 1980, Lou married psychotherapist Carla Green who was also his manager and went on to become a personal trainer. Lou and Carla have 3 children: Shanna, Brent and Louis Jr.
In this article, we’re carrying that legend on – bringing Lou’s perspective on bodybuilding to you!
What was impressive about Lou Ferrigno?
Lou Ferrigno was a mass monster. He was always heavier than Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime, and as Nick’s Strength and Power said in his youtube video, he made Dorian Yates look small in 1992, due to his height and the sheer size of his frame.Lou Ferrigno was a mass monster. He was always heavier than Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime, and as Nick’s Strength and Power said in his youtube video, he made Dorian Yates look small in 1992.
Here are Lou Ferrigno’s stats:
His height: 6″4/ 195 cm
His competition weight: 275lbs/125 kg
His off season weight: 310lbs/140 kg
His arm size: 23″/58 cm
His thighs: 29″/74 cm
His calves: 20/51 cm
His waist: 34″/86 cm
His chest: 58″/147 cm
Lou Ferrigno just like Arnold Schwarzenegger had a massive chest and massive arms – the hallmarks of classic bodybuilding.Lou Ferrigno just like Arnold Schwarzenegger had a massive chest and massive arms!
It is even said Lou had bigger arms than Arnold in his prime. In Pumping Iron, you can hear his dad tell him to intentionally show his arms to the judges, as these are bigger than Arnold’s. This is a reminder of the classic strategy: play to your strengths! Lou lost out in other areas of proportion (such as his wider waist), but made the most of his strengths and defining traits.It is even said Lou had bigger arms than Arnold in his prime. In Pumping Iron, you can hear his dad tell him to intentionally show his arms to the judges, as these are bigger than Arnold’s.
Another impressive fact about Lou Ferrigno is the amount of volume he would do in a session. Just like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Serge Nubret, Lou would stay in the gym for a very long time and do a great number of sets. You can see in a lot of his training that he does this with partial reps, and often cheating, in order to pack in the most possible amount of volume.Another impressive fact about Lou Ferrigno is the amount of volume he would do in a session. Just like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Serge Nubret, Lou would stay in the gym for a very long time and do a great number of sets.
Talking about impressive numbers, here are what Lou Ferrigno’s best lifts are:
Lou Ferrigno workout routine analysis
Lou Ferrigno was hammering volume and he was not going light! According to his program, sourced from the website workoutinfoguru, he was doing most of his sets in a 6-8 rep range, but we also see Lou performing many “burnout” sets to failure.
Looking at his Tuesday session, this is the kind of workout which takes a good 5 hours. This is the sheer volume Ferrigno was doing some days and – inevitably – was tied into his steroid use.
Lou Ferrigno’s program was very smart. And when it’s your full time job, it’s easier to fit a lot in your training and be smart about it. As I said in many other old-school bodybuilder workout analysis, Lou seemed to just stick to his training days no matter what. It is very important to keep the same routine to improve in bodybuilding, where consistency and proper control of training variables makes all the difference.
By keeping the same routine in bodybuilding, you then have landmarks and because you always practice the same exercises – you improve on them quicker. You can change things when you know that the general idea of the program is working and consistent.
Doing chest and back the day before shoulders and arms was definitely his best option there. You would not want to do shoulders and arms the day before chest and back as it would be more detrimental than the other way around: your shoulders and triceps would make you very sore for your chest session.
Your biceps the day before would make you very sore for back session. Doing back the day before biceps might not be the best, but if you are an advanced bodybuilder then it is ok. If you are starting out, you do not need to train that much in a week, which means you can have recovery time in between your sessions.
If you’d like to “train like” Lou Ferrigno as a beginner, here is what you could do:
Wednesday: Shoulders/ Arms
Friday: Chest/ Back
The same would apply for intermediates, but you can add some more:
Friday: Chest/ Back
Saturday: Legs/ ARMS OR SHOULDERS
As an advanced bodybuilder, you could try Lou’s routine, but you need to tailor it to you and your needs. Focus on your areas of strength and weakness – just like Lou did – to shift focus onto weaknesses.
What can we learn about Lou Ferrigno?
As in most of old-school bodybuilder articles, here are a few quotes which we can learn from:
“I certainly don’t agree with the bodybuilders who say you can get big forearms just by squeezing the dumbbell handles when doing curls. In a few cases this may be true, but those guys would build big forearms by merely eating eggs in the morning. Most bodybuilders, myself included, have to work very hard for any kind of meaningful forearm development.”
This tells us a lot about forearms. These kind of muscles, just like calves, are neglected and often done at the end of the session. Truth is, if you want big forearms or calves, you have to do big sessions and train them seriously. You can’t just grow your forearms by working them for 15 minutes at the end of your workout – they need the same deliberate progression and training as any other body part.
There is an article on how to get bigger forearms where I explain those points.
“Pumping iron is not what it used to be. It doesn’t have the personality it used to. When we started out, people who worked out had nothing. Now there is so much money involved; back then it was the love of the sport. We appreciated what we have. Today it’s not the same”
This quote might be a bit more controversial, but it is to remind us that old-school bodybuilding had its own great vibe of hard-work with no shortcut. The modern bodybuilding industry is all about marketed products and an aggressive underground market of PEDs, steroids, sarms… We often hear that bodybuilding is not the same anymore, the passion is gone.
Although, this is a pretty hard point to prove, since even the 70s bodybuilding culture was run by the Weider corporation and the competitors were all using steroids. There has been a significant change in the culture, for sure, but it’s hard to say that it’s all negative – I’m sure Lou Ferrigno would’ve liked to get paid for his bodybuilding as a beginner competitor!
The lesson is this: don’t go for the shortcut, go in for the passion first! Otherwise, you will burn out fast!
How is Lou Ferrigno doing now?
In the video above, Lou Ferrigno said he was keeping himself active but he does not train like he used to do. He said there is no need for the heavy weights anymore. He simply keeps it pretty light and uses friendlier movements with accessories like machines.
He does quite a lot of cardio in one session, 30 to 40 minutes and then does 30 minutes of weights. Considering he is almost 70 years old, that is a great everyday routine.
Sadly, Lou Ferrigno is beyond the age of needing to worry about getting enormous – and he’s already lived that life. As a man in the later decades of his life, he has nothing left to prove and returns to that same passion that drove him in his career!
Will his son Lou Ferrigno Jr. catch him on his size?
Lou Ferrigno Jr. has been seen quite a few times with his dad working out and is already an actor. This is probably going to limit the amount of time and effort he wants to put into his physique: as an actor, it’s all about looking fit and athletic, but the 80s are gone now and the time of mass monster action heroes feels far away!
It seems like Lou Ferrigno Jr. inherited his father’s love for the silver screen, rather than bodybuilding competition!
Conclusion, what to remember from Lou Ferrigno’s program:
- Find a good routine and keep at it
- Don’t be scared of doing too much as a natural bodybuilder, but know where you stand and what your current level is
- Train small muscles like calves and forearms like any other bigger muscles. Give them proper sessions.
- Passion should come before anything else in bodybuilding!