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Lou Ferrigno is at the top of his game. And that’s saying something, considering he starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the legendary 1977 documentary Pumping Iron before landing his hallmark role in The Incredible Hulk shortly thereafter. Most bodybuilders would have peaked in their 20s with that résumé—and let’s be honest, some Pumping Iron cast members certainly did. Not Ferrigno.
Since the Hulk series went off the air 35 years ago, Ferrigno has had more than 40 other movie and TV credits to his name, not to mention dozens of magazine covers. But his recent work is arguably his most notable—and it has landed him on yet another cover.
Weeks before this issue went to press, news broke that President Trump had appointed Ferrigno as the head of the prestigious President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. Arnold Schwarzenegger famously had a similar position under President George Bush in the 1980s.
If the appointment goes through, Ferrigno will be as busy as ever. He already spearheads the annual Ferrigno Legacy in Palm Springs, CA—a weekend-long event, that features physique and strength competitions, a host of other sporting events, and a new fitness expo.
With these two endeavors, Ferrigno has saved potentially his most important work for late in his career. In an exclusive interview with FLEX, the former Hulk and bodybuilding icon discussed the council appointment and his fast- growing Legacy event, among other topics.
We have a feeling this won’t be Lou Ferrigno’s last magazine cover.
FLEX: What would it mean to you to be appointed the head of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition?
LOU FERRIGNO: It would be an important role for me. I want to make America healthy again. I want to deal with the obesity problem we have, and I want to work with kids in schools and get them more involved in fitness and weight training. I want to get kids off the couch. There’s too much involvement with kids sitting around playing video games and living a lazy lifestyle. Playing video games all the time instead of being active with other things makes you very lethargic.
FLEX: It’s great that you bring up video games. That seems to be an epidemic these days with young people. When you were growing up that wasn’t the case.
LOU FERRIGNO: For me, when I was a kid I never even wanted to watch sports on TV. Because in my household, a lot of people were watching games all day. I would rather be active and be outside working out and doing things. You need to divide that time and put more effort into athletics and a fitter lifestyle.
FLEX: Would getting kids off the video games be part of a specific program you’d want to implement with the appointment?
LOU FERRIGNO: Well, I can’t lay the groundwork yet because I haven’t gotten the position, but if it happens I would focus more on maybe having kids play video games that include exercise as well. How can we make video games where physical exercise is part of the game? I see too many kids with headphones on—and adults, too. People walking on the train platforms with their headphones on and not paying attention or walking across the street. We’re too involved with our phones and computers.
FLEX: You’re right. It’s not just a problem with kids, is it?
LOU FERRIGNO: No, it’s not. Older people need to be more active, too. In California more people exercise outdoors because it’s a warmer climate. But in the Midwest and other places where it’s colder, they should be more involved with going to the gym or exercising at home. The problem with parents today is they need to be more involved with their children as far as physical activity goes. There needs to be more involvement in fitness with the whole family— parents and kids doing it together.
FLEX: Let’s switch gears and talk about the Ferrigno Legacy event. It looks as if it’s getting bigger and better every year. What can we look forward moving forward?
LOU FERRIGNO: This was the first year we had the “FLEXPO” [fitness expo]. We featured 300 booths, a strongman competition, powerlifting, and pole dancing as well. We have the best show on the West Coast, and I’m working together with the Arnold Classic so we can help each other. My goal is to have the biggest and best bodybuilding and fitness event possible and have the competitors come here, compete in Palm Springs, and make a vacation out of it. The FLEXPO is huge, with all kinds of different booths—from anti-aging to fashion to new technology.
FLEX: Have you modeled Ferrigno Legacy after the Arnold Classic?
LOU FERRIGNO: The Arnold Classic has been around for 40-some years, and it’s tremendous. It’s the best bodybuilding expo in the world. They’re very supportive of me. We have the Arnold Classic, and we have the Mr. Olympia. But I wanted to have something in California because I wanted it to be like a vacation. I don’t want people to just come down for two days and go home. I want them to come here for longer and have a great time with the whole family.
FLEX: Where do you see the state of bodybuilding right now, particularly with the recent addition of the IFBB’s classic physique division, which harks back to your competition heyday of the ’70s?
LOU FERRIGNO: I think the new division is great because it’s all about symmetry. The regular bodybuilding division is always going to be hardcore, but the general public also wants to see physiques with that more classic look. Classic physique brings a blend of symmetry and size compared with bodybuilding.
LOU FERRIGNO: Bodybuilders today have to look the way they look because the objective is: How thick can you look, and how much size can you put on your frame? I much prefer the symmetry, because back in the days of Pumping Iron it was more artistic. Today bodybuilders are forced to be big because that’s the direction it has gone in. It’s not their fault. When you add that size, you often sacrifice symmetry. But when you look at guys like Phil Heath and others competing at the Olympia, those guys are phenomenal, so that’s exciting by itself. And guys like Dexter Jackson and Flex Wheeler competing at older ages and still being in great shape—you have to commend those guys. That shows longevity.
FLEX: Speaking of longevity, what’s your training regimen these days?
LOU FERRIGNO: I train the same way as I have the past 40, 50 years. I train all body parts twice a week, but I train lighter, with high repetitions and machine. I don’t need to build any more size. And I do a lot of cardio. I ride my bicycle on the beach. I like to keep my body weight around 245. I like to be lean and tight.
FLEX: How many days per week do you get to the gym?
LOU FERRIGNO: I try to go seven days a week. I do cardio for 30 minutes and then weight training for 30 minutes. I train when I travel, too. And I eat as healthy as I can. I avoid any kind of sugars or starches.
FLEX: Are you still active with law enforcement?
LOU FERRIGNO: Yes. One thing I’m doing is writing fitness articles for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. I’ve been a deputy sheriff for 13 years. I write these articles because I’m motivating a lot of officers in the police department to get in shape. They’re sitting in police cars all day, and many of them aren’t exercising afterward. It’s important for them to stay active and take care of themselves to have less stress on their lower backs. I also teach them how to eat healthy when they’re on patrol. I’m covering all the areas for them.