Old-School Training: Lou Ferrigno

Lou Ferrigno boasted one of the best sets of delts in the sport during his career. Here’s the no-nonsense routine that built ’em.

By Eric Velazquez, NSCA-CPT | October 30, 2013

Old School Training: Lou Ferrigno Before he boasted the biggest delts in the boardroom on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” Lou Ferrigno was showing off his striated caps as one of the most accomplished bodybuilders of his era. 

Those wide, uber-striated shoulders helped him win the Mr. America (1973) and Mr. Universe (1973, 1974) titles and helped him to a runner-up finish at the 1974 Olympia. His shoulder routine was fundamental only in its assortment of exercises. It was the intensity he poured into each workout that helped him develop the delts later immortalized in green during his years as The Hulk. He always insisted on increasing the weight used from workout to workout and he’d incorporate various advanced techniques such as forced reps and drop sets to hit as many muscle fibers as possible. Use this routine as the foundation of your shoulder training to build your own Marvel-worthy set of shoulders.

Lou Ferrigno

Standing Dumbbell Overhead Press

The overhead press is arguably the best overall mass builder for shoulders. This staple move hits all three heads while allowing for greater overload via assistance from the triceps. When performing the move standing, you may be able to use slightly more weight than when done standing because of the extra bounce generated through your hips and knees. Lou would go as heavy as possible for four sets of 10, using body english when necessary to eke out additional reps. Lou also performed this move with a barbell or in a Smith machine but liked dumbbells because they helped him to head off imbalances between sides.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

This move targets the middle deltoid head with laser-like precision. When the dumbbells are taken to your sides rather than in front of your body, you reduce assistance from the smaller infraspinatus. But since Lou preferred going heavier, he’d start each rep with the dumbbells just in front of his thighs. Still, Lou exploded the weights up in a wide arc and lowered them under control on each rep.

Seated Bent-Over Lateral Raise

Before the reverse pec-deck machine was en vogue, lifters relied on this move to carve out the posterior (rear) deltoid. To get it right, Lou would sit on the end of a bench and allow the dumbbells to touch lightly under his hamstrings. Despite his love of big iron, Lou would always select poundages that allowed for a good squeeze at the top of the movement to fully engage this hard-to-reach delt head. He also made sure he didn’t extend his elbows as he pulled the weights up.

Lou’s Shoulder Routine

Standing Dumbbell Overhead Press     4 Sets x 10 Reps
Dumbbell Lateral Raise     4 Sets x 12 Reps
Seated Bent-Over Lateral Raise     4 Sets x 12 Reps

*Lou occasionally begins his routine with the standard seated military press or the Smith-machine overhead press. Forced reps and drop sets appeared frequently in his shoulder workouts, particularly precontest.

About the Author

Eric Velazquez, NSCA-CPT

Eric Velazquez, NSCA-CPT

Eric Velazquez, CSCS, is a veteran health and fitness writer and editor-in-chief of Muscle & Performance magazine. Over the years, he has carved a niche int he realm of participatory fitness journalism, often putting himself through the paces of the programs he writes about. Notably, he trained for 12 weeks with professional boxers, spent six weeks immersed in the world of CrossFit and went hand-to-hand with (and against) mixed martial artists from Spike TV's The Ultimate Fighter. Velazquez lives in Southern California with his wife and two daughters.