Lou Ferrigno is perhaps
best known as the actor who played the "Incredible Hulk"
during the early and mid-80's. Yet, others have known him has
the a giant competitive bodybuilder during the Schwartzenegger
era. At 42 years of age, after 17 years from competitive retirement,
Ferrigno has made his move back up into the light, placing in
the top ten in the Mr. Olympia lineup. Lou is quick to point
out that there's more to come... In the mean while, Mr. Ferrigno
is continuing his acting career in "Cage" and promises
his new autobiography about his life's struggles to hit the shelves
Manhattan, Kansas, USA many had the opportunity to witness
this true success story at a posing exhibition at the 1994 NPC
Big 8 Regional Bodybuilding Championships at Kansas State University.
After a standing ovation of over 1200 screaming fans and four
eye boggling encores later, I was able to interview Lou during
a limousine ride back to the Kansas City International Airport.
James: Apart from being a famous bodybuilder
and an actor, what is it like to be large, just huge. What are
peoples' reactions and what is your response to this?
Lou: Well apart from being large, you know,
being a large person myself, I mean I get attention no matter
where I walk, regardless being an actor or celebrity, because
big as I am people always look at me. This is something I have
always wanted and it makes me feel good about myself. And, ah,
of course, you kind of got a little different behind the clothes,
but it's the fact that I spent so many years sculpturing my body;
it's something I'm very proud, that people are very proud of
or I'm amazed of today. When I first began weight training I
tried to put on muscle. People where negative towards it, but
when bodybuilding became very popular over the years, then the
attitude changed. It's a good thing of the fact that I felt good
about myself doing it, and I love getting attention from people.
Because when they see me walk, they going to say, "god,
that's like a real man, this is what a man is built like. I wish
I could be like him, and look like him."
James: Hum ha. Do you ever get mixed feelings,
or negative feelings, ah, from this? Is it all positive or is
some negative at all?
Lou: Man tends to get negative when people saying
that, ah - It's funny how some times how the public some people
think I was born like this. That I maybe I sleep and I do big
muscle, but it's a lot of work to look like this and to be in
this kind of condition. And most people can be jealous, negative
people, because they will try to find ways to put you down, saying
you are muscle bound, which I exploded the myth on the super
size, saying that your all body and brawn, and on and on said
it. And also the main thing of all is the fact that they want
to feel that I've done a compliment they can't when it's acute,
because it's a lot of hard work and dedication.
James: So how do you react to the negative aspects,
how do you react to the negative reactions?
Lou: I just ah, I just maybe answer back in
a very funny way. And that if you're really going to lose it,
your not going to fight with a loser, saying that I was negative,
I say fine that was your opinion, I just shrug It off. Because
it's a compliment to pay. If you don't get any kind of attention,
then you don't have anything that any time people pay attention
that's positive or negative. it's still a reaction. And
to me it's a compliment no matter what.
James: Yeah, very good, very good. Ok, ah, so
whose, ah, comment on your, ah, on behaviors or psychological
techniques to use to, ah, affect another competitors state of
Lou: I don't believe in, ah, this psyching out,
which is things, ah, that really come down to is how you feel
about your self, what kind of shape you are. Because you're like
an Olympic athlete, if you competing in competition and your
one-hundred percent at you best, it's the best you can
do. And the best effect I have on the other competitors, is the
fact that I have a good time. And some times your in a competitive
sport like bodybuilding, people are also competitive, they will
say negative things. The knowing that you gave one-hundred percent
and your feeling good about yourself. I don't give a shit
about what about any on else says, except I'm having a real positive
effect on the competitors, because if you feel you going to win
the contest and you have a chance to win, you going to win them
out of why? Me psyching out? No game playing method will effect
James: Huh em, So, expounding on this question,
how do you react, what's your thinking processes, when some one
tries to point out a, ah, fault in competition situation. What
is your thinking in managing this thought; this negative thought
that they've tried to place in your head? How do you try to manage
Lou: Before the competition?
James: Yeah, or any time they're trying to get
an extra advantage. How do you manage this negative thought?
Lou: When you say negative thought, you mean
that a competitor with another competitor?
James: That's right, and there attempting to
maybe use this psychological technique on you, and how...
Lou: Their methods are going to say a negative
thought. I know right a way there's a person that's very insecure;
that he's trying to out do me. And, ah, like I was saying
before, if you give one-hundred percent of your best, and you
may have fault, but there is nothing you can do, because you
gave one-hundred percent. All of us have fault; our physique.
Like, for example, track and field. But you got to understand
that there's two different concept in track in field. The first
guy to the finish line wins, the way it is. Bodybuilding is a
matter of opinion. That's way different sports have different
effects. But, ah, each athlete does have fault. But, if you spend
enough time to work on that fault knowing that you can minimize
those faults, then you find that ...everybody say things. Then
you got to be in a position to say fine that's how you feel.
Thank you very much and then just do your own thing. But if you
start becoming this way and believe everybody; being mislead.
You aren't going to perform as well as you think your going to.
James: So, then maybe you just try to do the
best you can at that particular time, and, ah, just try to believe
in yourself, basically.
Lou: Well, ah, the attitude that you want to
give one-hundred percent in training and do the best you can,
so at the day of the competition, you knowing that when you walk
the way you came fifth, if you came first, if you won, that you
say to yourself, "If I had it to do all over again, I could
have not done better." It comes down to being consistent,
if you have done your homework. If you don't prepare enough
time, then you can blame yourself, you can't blame other
people. Them people say you have fault, then you'll be more subject
to that kind of ridicule, criticism, because, knowing that you
didn't do your homework.
James: Yeah, so, It sound like this might take,
ah, a little bit of experience to be able to, ah, manage correctly.
Lou: Oh sure, we're going to make mistakes.
Like for example, I made my come back in bodybuilding two years
ago, I make a lot of mistakes. I didn't work enough on the posing
routine for the first Olympia. The mandatory poses, so when I
walked out I ended coming in twelfth place because, I kind of
like let my ego effect me. Then I got ... I said, "The following
year, I want to take everybody to take to what's best for me."
So, I when I competed last year, I placed much higher, but I
said to myself, "I couldn't have done better." Then
one morning when I woke up, I knew I won because, I won for me,
no matter what happens. Because of a matter of opinion with the
judges. That knowing that you gave one-hundred percent, it's
all you can do, you can't do any more.
James: Yeah, it sounds like so it turned in
more into competition towards yourself, more than others...
Lou: Exactly, the best thing to do is to compete
with yourself. Everyone has their own genetic make up and you
try to be like someone else, and you can't. So, if you compete
with yourself. That's the best way to train, the best way to
have fun, and the best way to succeed. Every day you do something
to better yourself. It's all you can do. Some people become president,
some people care, some people do different things. So, I admire
other people, but the best you can do is to maximize what you
James: Good, very good. Ok, ah comment on your
behaviors that have an impact on media, fans, or public.
Lou: The attitude is very important. Because,
your behavior radiates how you feel. If your a very negative
person, negative, people will feel that. If you perceive other
things negative people will perceive how you feel. To be a champion
you must act like one, act like a champion. You must feel good
about yourself. You are going to have bad days and have good
days. I mean, nobody was born perfect. But, knowing the fact
that your in the media, if your out in the public, you want to
give them the best attention you can. Because, don't forget,
for you to get in that position, their your fans, they're looking
up to you. So to give back to them, the best advise I can say,
give them a time, a hand shake and say, "Hello, how are
you doin'." I don't care how miserable your life is. And
that behavior carries in the long run.
James: So, maybe some times, ah, you feel you
maybe in, ah, not the idea state of mind when your up in the
public's eye and what do you do to try to change this state of
Lou: ...Well you have to separate it, like for
example, you can be middle of a divorced, you can be bad business
investment. I'll give you a perfect example. I mentioned two
nights ago, that I drove to two hours to do a personal appearance.
And I got into a major head on collision. I finally panicked,
there was a whole bunch of people waiting. The was like 800,
900 people outside, which was probably the most embarrassing
thing in my life. Right after the accident a bunch of kids came
running and jumped on the truck and started asking for autographs.
I signed the autographs, I pulled to the side, "OK, I have
a bad car accident" But, why should I take it out on these
people, because it's not their fault. The car accident will be
taken care of, got the insurance and everything. I when on and
did the show, then I left. I felt better, because knowing that
I was able to move on. If I had this situation where I just "Oh
man, ah shit! I got a car accident. I can't do the fuckin' show.
I can't function." And just leave. Then I would of felt
like I was just inferior, because life has a lot of obstacles.
Things happen and we all must go on, we must live.
James: Good. Are there any, ah, things you have
to, maybe, em, say to your self inside or anything you did to
regain your composure? There must of been thoughts and you tried
Lou: Your saying to yourself, "OK, I'm
in front of the building. I'm in front of these fans. They are
here to see me. They don't understand what a car accident is
like, or feel like to go. You know they're kids and I must separate
these bad feelings, negative from the good." And just focus
on that and do it. It comes with practice.
James: Yeah, experience. That's good. OK, ah.
What psychological techniques do you incorporate during training,
before competition, and during competition. So, we can start
out with just "training" now. What psychological techniques
do you engage in to improve your training?
Lou: I have short term goals and short term
goals. Meaning, for example, in the sport of bodybuilding, the
long term goal is to plan to come in shape by the way I look.
And when do a calculate all my training, I really trust myself.
If your best of friends with yourself and trust yourself, you
can't go wrong, because there won't be any confusion so, basically
all you have is yourself. Like I said before, "So be focused
on yourself." Perfect yourself on the day of the show when
you step out on stage to compete, in any event, your ready.
James: So, ah, would there, ah, maybe any difference
of psychological techniques used for training and maybe for competition.
Is it kind of different for preparing yourself psychologically
for maybe competition?
Lou: Well knowing your always going to be nervous.
Every time I get close, I'm nervous, but it's a healthy nervous
attitude in which everyone's nervous. As long as you know what
you are feeling. And it's wonderful to admit these feelings.
The important thing is that the psychological technique that
I use the fact that I won't let one negative thought come to
my mind. I never think about losing. I never pay attention to
what's going on around me as far as like the event. I just focus
on Me. If you start looking at other competitors and say,
"Wow, that guy did an eighteen foot jump. I don't know if
I can do it." Your lost. They do their thing, you say, "fine."
You do you whole thing. After the event is over, then you can
look back and get paid or talk to people about the critique.
But the whole time preparing for an event, it's only you and
yourself. If it's a team sport, fine, but still you have yourself
to work with.
James: Do you ever do any, ah, relaxation exercises
at all or do you not find those maybe not effective?
Lou: Yeah, I do a lot of meditating, meaning
I would lie down, I would focus on wait it's like to win, what
it would be like on stage, the feeling the people, the cheering,
the crowd, the good feelings of the event. But, the main thing
of all, saying to myself, "Hey, I'm one of the few people
doing this. I have an opportunity to do this and this unbelievable
because not ever one can do this and I'm very fortunate to be
James: Try to put things into perspective maybe
a little bit more.
Lou: Yeah, you kind of like, you put a picture
in your mind and then that's the direction you will take.
James: Very good, ok, great. Ah, is there difference
between, ah, these strategies, ah, these psychological strategies,
ah, maybe during competition itself verses, you know, before
competition? Is there a change? Is there something you tried
to do during competition?
Lou: Meaning that when you train, when you do
all your home work, that is the competition.
Lou: You give one-hundred ten percent. When
you go to the actual event your on vacation because there's nothing
more you can do, you can't train any more, so you might as just
enjoy yourself knowing that you can do the best you can. The
real competition is the time you go to the gym, the time you
put into training for an event. That's the competition.
The day of the show is vacation, my friend. It's fun. It's performance.
But, the day of the show you can't train, you can't improve your
performance, even a week before. It's what you do year round.
James: Yeah. So, what sort of thoughts, ah,
and things are going through your mind as you're, ah, going out
on stage and performing.
Lou: Knowing that everything will calculate
and knowing that when I go out on stage and perform that to make
sure that everything that I have done to prepare for it, doing
my home work, that I give one-hundred percent. And, ah, always
learning new things because, no matter what the outcome is that
I always will feel like a champion.
James: Ok, good... What negative thought have
you had to overcome and what did you do to overcome them?
Lou: Um, people would say that in the sport
of bodybuilding that I don't have the genetics. At least some
of these guys. Especially after making a comeback after seventeen
years. Fine, I understand that. Um, If I took over a negative
thought and believed it, I either won't compete or embarrass
myself. But, instead, I maximized what I had, I gave one-hundred
percent and I went on stage and I stole the show.
James: Was there, ah, maybe, ah, maybe earlier
in your career as you where beginning ,ah, maybe buried negative
thoughts in your mind?
Lou: Ah sure, because I have a very, ah, abusive
father, you know, I was born with 85% hearing loss. I couldn't
speak, so the thoughts where, I was told as a kid, "You
can't do it, you can't do it, your never going to make anything.
But, I was very driven and I keep, I learned quickly, knowing
that believe and trust in yourself, you can't go wrong. If you
have other people influence you, you will become what they want
you to become.
James: I guess one other one, just to kind of
integrate everything. Can you comment on, first of all maybe,
a percentage of importance of psychological verses physical training.
What percentage would you say would be the importance of physical
training and what's the importance of psychological state of
mind? In your opinion...
Lou: Psychological is 85%. Training is 15. The
mind is everything. The mind is the most powerful tool you have
and it's everything. And you have belief in your mind, you can