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Workout Systems: Lou Ferrigno’s “Incredible Hulk” Workout
8/22/2017 9:47:25 AM

 
Lou Ferrigno won two Mr. Universe titles and was considered Arnold’s greatest challenge in bodybuilding. He was a 6’5” mountain of muscle who reportedly weighed 325 pounds in the off-season and sported 22.5-inch arms. Although he couldn’t dethrone the Austrian Oak, Ferrigno was able to use his physique as a gateway to many movie and television roles, including his long-running portrayal of “The Incredible Hulk.”
 
Ferrigno was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1951. A series of ear infections caused him to lose the majority of his hearing; his hearing problem affected his speech and resulted in him becoming introverted and bullied. There is a flip side to this coin, as the bullying motivated him to succeed as an athlete and an entertainer. “I got picked on,” says Ferrigno. “I was fascinated with power, and then I decided to take that direction because I knew that would make me feel good about myself."
 
Considered a genetic marvel, Ferrigno won his first bodybuilding competition in 1971. He quickly got the attention of bodybuilding entrepreneur Joe Weider and frequently appeared in his magazines, along with many others. He faced Arnold twice in the 1974 and 1975 Mr. Olympia competitions, earning the runner up spot to Arnold in the heavyweight division in 1974. The 1975 event, where Ferrigno placed third in the heavyweight division (behind Arnold and Serge Nubret of France) was featured as part of the documentary “Pumping Iron,” where Ferrigno placed a disappointing third.
 
In “Pumping Iron” it was portrayed that Ferrigno’s father was extremely supportive of his son’s career and helped guide his training – not quite. Ferrigno said the documentary was scripted. “I wouldn’t have competed at all but for the fact that, for the time being, I still had to live at home, and Dad viewed both the contest and particularly the film as tremendous publicity vehicles for himself. He saw Pumping Iron as his opportunity to be a 'movie star' and saw me as his vehicle to accomplish this. We were shown together in the film, whereas in real life we never trained together at all. He was depicted in the film as being compassionate and caring about my career, whereas in real life he never gave it a second thought.”
 
Ferrigno returned to the Olympia stage in 1992 and 1993, placing 10th in the second event and coming in at what many consider the best shape of his life. His last competition was the 1994 Masters Mr. Olympia, where he placed second. Now past 60 years of age, Lou still packs on a lot of muscle and is frequently seen at pop culture conventions to meet and share his stories with fans.
 
As for how Ferrigno trained to become the Hulk, consider that many of the workouts of champion bodybuilders were a product of the creative minds of ghostwriters -- so often some of the workouts programs attributed to these champions were never performed. However, the following workout has been reprinted in numerous muscle magazines over the years, and it follows the training principles he has spoken about in many interviews.
 
One of the characteristics of Ferrigno’s training was high volume – as many as 80 sets in a single workout! -- and as such is not appropriate for those with little training experience. He says he didn’t use many supersets, although he often alternated between agonist and antagonist muscle groups, and took at least two minutes between sets – thus, his workouts often lasted as long as three hours! He would work each major muscle group twice a week; here is an outline of a weekly schedule:
 
Monday: Chest and Back
Tuesday: Shoulders and Arms
Wednesday: Legs
Thursday: Chest and Back
Friday: Shoulders and Arms
Saturday: Legs
Sunday: Rest
 
Ferrigno would perform 2-3 sets as a warm-up, then finish the remaining sets with the same weight. If he did not complete the lower end of his training goal for reps during the working sets (such as 6 reps of a set of 6-8 reps), he would reduce the weight by up to 10 percent in his next workout. He performed a lot of exercises in his workout, and for variety he would slightly reduce the volume of work on the second workout for a specific body part or change the order of the exercises. Here are the details:
 
Monday (Day 1)
Chest and Back:
5 sets of 6-8 reps in the following exercises:
 
Incline Barbell Bench Press
Dumbbell Pullover
Chest Flye
T-Bar Row
Dips
Deadlift
Bent Row
Chin-ups (weighted)
Pull-ups (weighted)
 
Tuesday (Day 2)
Shoulders and Arms
4-5 sets of 8-10 reps in the following exercises:
 
Dumbbell Overhead Press
Bench Press
Front Dumbbell Raise
Side Dumbbell Raise
Barbell Curl
Scott Press
Dumbbell Curl
Concentration Curl
Cable Pulldown
Cable Pushdown
Incline Dumbbell Curl
Standing French Press
Skull Crushers
 
Wednesday (Day 3)
Legs, 5 sets of 10 reps in the following exercises:
 
Leg Curl
Leg Extension
Leg Press
Squat
Hack Squat
 
Thursday (Day 4)
Chest and Back
5 sets of 6-8 reps in the following exercises:
 
Chest Flys
T-Bar Row
Dips
Deadlift
Pull-ups
 
Friday (Day 5)
Shoulders and Arms
4-5 sets of 8-10 reps in the following exercises:
 
Barbell Curl
Scott Press
Dumbbell Curl
Cable Pushdown
Cable Pulldown
Standing French Press
Incline Dumbbell Curl
Concentration Curl
 
Saturday (Day 6)
Legs
5 sets of 10 reps in the following exercises:
 
Leg Curl
Squat
Leg Extension
Hack Squat
Leg Press
 
Sunday (Day 7)
Rest Day
 
Hard training has taken its toll on Ferrigno as he had both hips and knees surgically replaced. He admitted to using steroids “under a doctor’s care,” but says he is now against their use and believes they should be banned from competitive bodybuilding. Ferrigno still looks good for his age and still trains hard, but his workouts only last for one hour and his rest intervals are shorter. And thanks to advances in medicine, in 2012 Ferrigno underwent a surgical procedure that successfully restored his hearing.
 
Although the workout presented here is impractical for most people, and the volume of training can only be handled by the most advanced athletes, it shows how hard Ferrigno was willing to work to become a champion. This work ethic, combined with superior genetics, enabled Lou Ferrigno to succeed in his careers as an athlete and as an entertainer.
 
 
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