Lou Ferrigno VS Arnold Schwarzenegger: Bodybuilding’s greatest rivalry?
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    May 2010

    Lou Ferrigno VS Arnold Schwarzenegger: Bodybuilding’s greatest rivalry?

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    Bodybuilding is a highly competitive sport that is growing in popularity every single day. Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most exciting things about bodybuilding is the anticipation leading up to each show. You know which athletes are going to be competing several months in advance, but what you don’t know is how they’re going to look on the day. Not too long ago, bodybuilders whilst prepping for shows, would provide weekly updates for their fans and their sponsors and potential sponsors. They’d post pictures 6 six weeks out, 5 weeks out, 4 weeks out and so on, and although that was great for some fans, for some people it ruined the mystique and the anticipation somewhat. If you saw a photo from a pro which had been posted the night before, you would have a rough idea of how they would look on stage during competition time. The internet is a fantastic invention but it does make keeping things hidden decidedly tricky. Lately however, pros decide to keep their bodies hidden under t-shirts or baggy clothing, which helps build hype and suspense for shows. Another fantastic thing for building excitement and anticipation is rivalries between competitors. Lately the big rivalry is between Phil Heath and Kai Greene, and before that it was between Jay Cutler and Ronnie Coleman. When talking about fierce rivalries however, one of the greatest and most popular rivalries in all of bodybuilding was back in the 70’s, between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno.

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    Arnold SchwarzeneggerArnold “the Austrian Oak” Schwarzenegger needs no introduction as he is probably known by over 90% of the world’s entire population. Back in the 70’s however, he was far less well-known than he is now, and was only really known amongst keen bodybuilding fans and promoters. At 6ft 2 and around 240lbs competition weight, Arnold had a reputation for being one of the bigger men in bodybuilding, as many other competitors stood at around 5ft 10 or slightly smaller in some cases. He took up bodybuilding at a young age and quickly excelled at it, so much so in fact that he moved over to the USA from Austria in order to pursue his passion and his dream of being the best. He entered numerous shows and dominated the competition for years upon years, eventually winning the prestigious Mr Olympia title on numerous occasions. Nobody was really able to give the bigger man a real run for his money, until one day, a young up and comer by the name of Lou Ferrigno emerged.

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    Lou FerrignoLouis Jude Ferrigno was born in Brooklyn New York on the 9th of November, 1951. He is of Italian Descent on his father’s side, who worked as Police Lieutenant and wanted the absolute best out of his son. When he was a youngster, it is believed that he suffered a series of especially nasty ear infections that were left undiagnosed until he was around three years old. These ear infections left Lou partially deaf, costing him around 80% of his hearing. His father got him interested in sports at a young age, and by the age of 13 he started lifting weights as one of his role models growing up was Steve Reeves, a pro bodybuilder and Hercules movie star. He decided to take bodybuilding more seriously whilst growing up, and began training competitively after graduating high school in 1969. Four years later he had won the IFBB Mr America title and the IFBB Mr Universe title, and was getting a lot of hype and attention. Lou stood at 6ft 5 inches tall and competed at around 275 lbs, making him over 40 pounds heavier than Arnold, and a good 3 inches taller. When he began training, he actually trained with Arnold, whom he considered one of his role models. They were on good terms and the rivalry between them at first was merely friendly, although Arnold has now admitted that when he first saw Lou’s potential, he did secretly step up his training regime. In 1974, things really heated up because Lou made his Mr Olympia debut and placed third overall, narrowly missing out on second place to Surge Nubret, and overall winner Arnold Schwarzenegger. From that moment on, people couldn’t wait for the 1975 Mr Olympia and the next showdown between Arnold and Lou. To really capture this competitive rivalry, George Butler filmed the smash hit drama-documentary “Pumping Iron”.

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    Pumping IronPumping Iron revolutionized the way we view bodybuilding today and it brought bodybuilding into the mainstream, proving that the exciting part of the sport isn’t just huge freak show muscles, but rather the personalities of the athletes, their preparation, and their rivalries. The main focus of the movie was the rivalry between Arnold and Lou. Arnold was the cocky and popular jock who was successful with everything he did, whilst Lou was the young underdog attempting to overrule “King Arnold” on the bodybuilding throne. Arnold came off as his usual cocky and slightly arrogant self in the movie, although he did attempt to get into the head of his larger opponent on numerous occasions, once over breakfast just before the contest, in which he speaks with Lou and Lou’s father of his joy of having already won the contest, even though it had not yet taken place. He also psyched out Lou in the backstage pump up room, telling Lou to be quiet in the middle of his training. There is an infamous outtake however, that shows just how worried Arnold is about Lou as he was talking to Joe Weider, asking numerous questions about how Lou was looking. Come contest time, the results were exactly the same as the previous year, with Arnold winning and Lou placing 3rd.

    Life after bodybuilding – The two had similar career paths following bodybuilding, although you could say that one was more successful than the other. Arnold conquered Hollywood and eventually politics, whilst Lou landed numerous roles himself, most notably playing The Incredible Hulk in the hit TV series, and for playing Hercules on film. He also appeared in numerous other TV shows for brief appearances, including a recurring role as the neighbor of Doug and Carrie Heffernan in the smash-hit comedy King of Queens, in which Lou played himself. He worked as a successful personal trainer, training none other than the legendary Michael Jackson. Now in his sixties, Lou still keeps himself in great shape.

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