Big Louie

Our exclusive one-on-one with the original mass monster, Lou “the Incredible Hulk” Ferrigno

Louis Jude Ferrigno started lifting weights when he was 12½ years old to protect himself against bullies who made fun of his hearing loss, the same punks who made it a game to pull Ferrigno’s hearing aids out of his ears at school and in the neighborhood (as a baby, an untreated ear infection cost Ferrigno 85% of his hearing). This little boy from Brooklyn, driven by fear, insecurity, and his survival instinct, grew into one of the most massive men—6'5" and 325 pounds at the 1992 Mr. Olympia—ever to grace a bodybuilding stage and the planet.

The original mass monster, Ferrigno’s competitive heyday was the mid-1970s. During this, the sport’s golden era, bodybuilding’s “Big Louie” battled it out against the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Serge Nubret, and Sergio Oliva. He left competitive bodybuilding when his acting career took off, but made a comeback to the Olympia stage in the early 1990s. The names in the game had changed to Dorian Yates, Kevin Levrone, and Flex Wheeler, and Ferrigno found himself in arguably the most competitive era of the sport. At the 1992 Mr. Olympia, where a 41-year-old Ferrigno placed a respectable 12th out of 22 competitors, the men he beat included 1983 Mr. Olympia Samir Bannout and future eight-time champ Ronnie Coleman. In 1994, he placed second at the inaugural Masters Olympia.

Today, at age 62, this 1973 IFBB Mr. America and two-time IFBB Universe winner (1973–1974), is a quiet, thoughtful, introspective man. Thanks to his enormous physique and run as CBS’ The Hulk from 1977–1981, Lou Ferrigno is one of two bodybuilders who are truly household names (Arnold Schwarzenegger being the obvious other). He still works out and his acting career continues with work on The Celebrity Apprentice and The King of Queens, as well as voice-over work in Adventure Time and 2012’s blockbuster movie The Avengers. A family man, Lou and his wife of 34 years, Carla, have three grown children and live in California, where they held this November’s NPC and IFBB Ferrigno Legacy Contest.

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