By Jon Finkel
It’s been almost thirty years since the final episode of The Incredible Hulk television series aired, but the show’s star, Lou Ferrigno, 58, still has the presence of the iconic comic book hero—minus the green paint and wig, of course. In person however, Ferrigno more closely resembles another character he played on screen: Hercules. For the bodybuilder-turned-movie star, both roles marked what could be called “dream come true moments,” as he idolized the Hulk comic books as a child and credits actor Steve Reeves’ original portrayal of Hercules as a major reason he got into bodybuilding.
But after spending nearly forty years at the top of the fitness world, it’s questionable whether even Hercules himself could have maintained his Herculean physique for as long as Ferrigno has. Not to mention the fact that after nearly half a lifetime of playing action stars and super heroes, he’s reinvented himself in the comedy world with his recent co-starring turn in the 2009 hit comedy I Love You, Man.
What’s at the core of Ferrigno’s success? The answer is simple: a commitment to healthy living. Standing at 6’5” and still weighing a rock solid 250 pounds, Ferrigno is a walking testament to a life spent devoted to nutrition and fitness.
“I have a tremendous passion for fitness,” Ferrigno says. “And now as I age, I want to maintain what I have. I like being lean and light.”
For someone who competed against Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding contest in 1974 at a staggering 285 pounds, being light is a relatively unique concept. However, like most people, Ferrigno has had to make various adjustments as he’s aged, one of them is learning to control his appetite.
“The difficult thing for me now as I get older is to eat enough to satisfy my hunger without overeating,” Ferrigno says. “I eat three times a day and maybe a snack at night.”
This is a far cry from the 8,000 to 10,000 calories a day he would consume when he was competing for bodybuilding titles. Still, just as important as eating less is eating smart, and Ferrigno’s personal eating regimen is based on his own version of the much publicized Mediterranean diet.
“Go back to the days of the Romans and Greeks,” Ferrigno says. “They just had fruits and vegetables. They didn’t have fried foods or heavy dressings. I eat the way they ate, focusing on fruits, vegetables, fish, and some meat. I avoid butter, salt, foods high in fat and sodium as well. Everybody wants the easy way out, but you need to have discipline. I probably eat half as much as I used to.”
Ferrigno, who has been a personal trainer for some of the biggest stars in entertainment, including Chuck Norris, Mickey Rourke, and the late Michael Jackson, preaches discipline as well as balance when it comes to eating well to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
“You really need to eat balanced,” Ferrigno says. “Too many people skip breakfast, have a quick lunch and then eat a big dinner. That’s not the way to do it. You have to be consistent with your eating.”
Consistency is Key
Consistency is a word you hear a lot when you talk to Ferrigno—consistent eating, consistent exercising, consistent living. It’s no wonder then that while he may not be as strong as he was ten or twenty years ago, his commitment to healthy living has kept him in such tremendous condition that he can still go almost rep for rep in the weight room when he lifts with his son, Lou Jr., who is only two years removed from being a linebacker on the University of Southern California’s football team.
In fact, as he approaches 60, nearly everyone Ferrigno works out with at the Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach, California, a.k.a, the Mecca of Bodybuilding, is younger than he is, but that doesn’t stop him from throwing around weights usually reserved for men half his age.
“Exercising as you get older becomes more and more about having proper form,” Ferrigno says. “I have no injuries in my upper body because I have always focused on perfect form. As I get older, I feel more comfortable and more efficient. I feel better than ever.”
Ferrigno also focuses more on cardio now because he acknowledges that as he’s gotten older, it takes a little longer to recuperate. “I make sure I get a full stretch, too,” he says. “And I don’t lift as many sets. You only need to do body parts two or three days a week to see the benefits of an exercise program. Personally, I like to challenge myself, so I’ll create different short term goals to try and meet. It keeps me focused.”
In addition to changing his workouts to fit his goals, Ferrigno has also beefed up his supplement regimen to reflect his current health strategy.
I have always focused on perfect form. As I get older, I feel more comfortable and more efficient. I feel better than ever.
“My workouts have adapted to the change in my body and the change in my goals,” Ferrigno says, “but the supplements that I take haven’t changed that much over the years. I still take a multivitamin every day and I take vitamin E, calcium, and magnesium. One of the things that I’ve added is vitamin D to help prevent osteoporosis and to boost my immune system. The supplements are good for my heart, good for my skin, and they help prevent future health problems.”
Whether he’s winning Mr. America and Mr. Universe titles, playing for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, competing in the World’s Strongest Man contest, becoming a deputy for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, or pursuing successful careers in television, film, and theater, Ferrigno has always managed to surpass expectations by keeping his core commitment to healthy living, which is why he’s not only the Incredible Hulk, he’s the seemingly Ageless Hulk as well.
Learn more about Lou Ferrigno at www.louferrigno.com