How Bodybuilding Legend Lou Ferrigno Became the Sole Character to Play a Superhero without CGI Effect

Lou Ferrigno played the role of
Lou Ferrigno played the role of 'The Hulk' without any costume or CGI. (Image via IG @theofficiallouferrigno)

Lou Ferrigno is an icon of the fitness and bodybuilding industry. Through his massive build and classic looks, he has managed to capture the hearts of many. His status as a bodybuilder brought him opportunities that led him to become one of the actors in the television series The Incredible Hulk. At its peak, The Incredible Hulk reached an audience of 30 million viewers weekly and became one of the most viewed shows on television at that point in time.

Ferrigno won the title of Mr. Universe twice during his bodybuilding career. In his first (and only) Mr. Olympia in 1974, he was placed second to Arnold Schwarzenegger. The next year, he was unable to repeat his success in the competition.

Lou Ferrigno: The Only Hulk Without A Costume Or CGI

Ferrigno became a household name in 1977 with the success of Pumping Iron, one of the first documentaries about bodybuilding. His character's presence in the film added to its popularity, leading him to pursue acting as a career. Ferrigno landed the lead role in Marvel's Incredible Hulk television series and went on to play other characters in movies such as The Hermit and Fright Night.

When Lou Ferrigno trained to become the Hulk, he followed the same principles that champion bodybuilders have used for years. He simply applied them more rigorously and frequently. One of the unique traits of his training was high volume, with as many as 80 sets in a single session. However, he didn't do many supersets, and took at least two minutes between sets that lasted as long as three hours.


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. He would work with each major muscle group twice a week:

  • Monday: Chest
  • Tuesday: Shoulders
  • Wednesday: Arms
  • Thursday: Legs
  • Friday: Chest and Back
  • Saturday: Shoulders and Arms
  • Sunday: Rest

To play the comic book superhero without CGI effects, Lou Ferrigno ate about six times a day. For breakfast, he would have toast and fruit and an omelet with eggs and whole milk. For the second meal, he consumed nuts, cheese or meat sandwiches with whole wheat bread and whole milk. For the next meal, he would normally opt for a tuna salad, fruit yogurt, and two cups of whole milk.


To boost his energy before a workout, he would drink a protein shake, 470 ml of whole milk, 80 ml of egg, and milk protein. He also consumed different types of fruit, steak, and baked potatoes. At the end of the day, he munched on some raw sunflower seeds and cheese.


Lou Ferrigno owes everything to bodybuilding. The training he did to build his physique taught him how to work towards a goal with great intensity and total dedication. Bodybuilding has also taught him to be persistent, self-reliant, and objective. Most importantly, bodybuilding dramatically improved his self-image, allowing him to first achieve average confidence after years as a shrinking violet, and later to assert himself as an actor and public personality.

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Edited by Susrita Das
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