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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

How Sturdy Was Franco Columbu? Wanting Again on the Two-Time Mr. Olympia’s Unbelievable Energy

Standing at 5’5″ and weighing wherever from 185 to 200 kilos, the late Franco Columbu can lay declare to being one of many — if not the — pound-for-pound strongest Mr. Olympia winners ever.

The “Sardinian Strongman” was famend throughout his profession for unimaginable feats of power that went nicely past what bodybuilders usually show. He was proficient in powerlifting, tried his hand on the inaugural World’s Strongest Man (WSM) competitors, and beloved to point out off with odd feats starting from lifting automobiles to blowing up sizzling water bottles to tout his lung power.

Alongside together with his greatest good friend and coaching associate Arnold Schwarzenegger, Columbu dominated the late Nineteen Seventies and early Nineteen Eighties bodybuilding scene and helped propel the game into the mainstream. However we need to look past the plaudits and as a substitute concentrate on the brass tacks: Simply how robust was Franco Columbu? Let’s have a look.

Bodybuilder Franco Columbu
Credit score: @francocolumbu / Instagram

How Did Franco Columbu Practice?

One factor to notice about Columbu was his diverse life in sports activities. He started as an novice boxer in his native Sardinia, Italy, earlier than switching to Olympic weightlifting, then to powerlifting, and eventually, bodybuilding. With that got here a wide range of coaching techniques throughout his time, a lot of which he skilled alongside Schwarzenegger.

As a coaching duo, Columbu and Schwarzenegger pushed one another on a continuous foundation and weren’t afraid to department out to discover a aggressive edge. Followers of the 1977 documentary Pumping Iron will probably bear in mind a gap shot displaying the 2 collaborating in a ballet class to enhance their posing. It’s a small second, nevertheless it encapsulates Columbu’s well-rounded views on his efficiency: If there have been a method to get higher at his craft, he would take benefit.

[Related: How Strong Was Eugen Sandow? Examining the Fitness Pioneer’s Feats of Strength]

Within the health club, Columbu’s work ethic was arduous to high. Repeatedly, he claimed that the perfect method to practice was twice a day, six days per week. After Columbu’s loss of life in 2019, well-known health author Marty Gallagher described Columbu’s coaching days as marathons, with 90-minute classes within the morning and three-hour stints at night time.

As detailed in Columbu’s guide, Profitable Bodybuilding, again, belly, and leg work was completed Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, whereas chest, arms, abdominals, and shoulders have been completed Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

A Have a look at Franco Columbu’s Exercises

To grasp how sprawling one among Franco’s exercises may very well be, check out his pattern chest and again session from his guide Franco Columbu’s Full E book of Bodybuilding:




How Sturdy was Franco Columbu?

Columbu educated with depth, and, because of his sporting background, was well-versed in a wide range of coaching techniques.

In his guide Profitable Weightlifting and Powerlifting. Columbu claimed these have been his greatest lifts in Olympic weightlifting:

*Observe: The navy press was a staple of weightlifting meets on the time.

It’s price noting that health author Greg Merritt disputes these claims, noting rightly that no photographic proof exists and that, if truthful, this is able to have positioned Columbu as an Olympic gold medalist within the Nineteen Sixties.

One tantalizing little bit of proof we do have comes once more from Gallagher’s obituary on Columbu, which says the Sardinian may energy clear 315 kilos “utilizing the shallowest of splits.” If he obtained to 400 kilos, we don’t know.

[Related: These 10 Athletes Are Among the Strongest Bodybuilders Ever]

Columbu additionally competed as a powerlifter at numerous factors throughout his friendship with Schwarzenegger within the Nineteen Sixties. Stepping on stage as a middleweight in 1968, Merritt says Columbu’s greatest verified lifts from the time have been:

  • Squat: 507 kilos
  • Bench Press: 408 kilos
  • Deadlift: 595 kilos

The very first thing to notice right here is that a substantial amount of confusion surrounds Columbu’s max bench press within the years afterward.

Considered one of Columbu’s books reveals an image of him setting a so-called “world file” bench press with 525 kilos. Merritt once more disputes this, writing that the scene was merely posed for a photoshoot. On the 1977 World’s Strongest Man competitors, Columbu claimed on air that his career-best bench was 475 kilos.

Subsequent comes the deadlift, which was undoubtedly Columbu’s most spectacular carry. In an interview with Muscular Growth, Columbu claimed a career-best deadlift of 750 kilos, however, as Merritt factors out, he additionally claimed it was 735 kilos on the 1977 WSM present. There’s a video on YouTube that reveals Columbu allegedly deadlifting 700 kilos for reps in 1972, however there’s no arduous proof of the load or yr aside from the video title.

Additionally it is tough to seek out agency proof of Columbu’s max squat, though he as soon as claimed he topped out at 655 kilos. Extra concretely, Schwarzenegger famous in his memoir that Columbu was the stronger squatter of the 2, writing that Columbu may do 500 kilos for 10 reps whereas he may solely hit six.

Lastly, we transfer on to the 1977 WSM. Although a freakish leg break through the fridge carry minimize Columbu’s contest brief, he nonetheless managed to place his superior power on full show. Throughout the present, he completed joint second in a barrel press with a 200-pound carry. He likewise completed second or third within the bar-bending contest, wrist-rolling competitors, a automotive deadlift, and tire toss.

Horrific damage apart, the true story of the competition is {that a} bodybuilder, who was a lot lighter than the opposite contestants, was holding his personal towards a number of the strongest males on the planet. The one different bodybuilder on the present, Lou Ferrigno, bested Columbu in each top and weight by a considerable quantity.

Evaluating Columbu to Different Legends

As at all times, it’s essential to emphasize that Columbu’s weight was usually reported to be between 185 to 195 kilos, and all of those feats talked about, official or unofficial, should be contextualized with regards to his weight.

Take, for instance, Columbu’s deadlift prowess. Even when one chooses to disregard his claimed 750-pound max and as a substitute goes together with his 735-pound max, it’s nonetheless an unimaginable carry, particularly when in comparison with different heavier bodybuilders.

There are few bodybuilder deadlifts extra well-known than Ronnie Coleman’s unimaginable two reps with 800 kilos completed simply 5 and a half weeks out from a Mr. Olympia. Columbu’s deadlift was not far off regardless of weighing 100 kilos lower than Coleman. One other 2000s powerhouse, Jay Cutler, deadlifted 585 kilos for 3 reps, which stresses how spectacular Columbu was. 

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Sticking with Coleman, he squatted 800 kilos for 2 reps with a squat swimsuit and knee pads on. Clearly, Columbu paled compared to this, however he executed some fairly spectacular marks with out the identical equipment that “The King” had. Current Mr. Olympia champion Mamdouh “Large Ramy” Elssbiay is on file squatting 495 kilos for between 12 to fifteen reps at a a lot larger body weight than Franco, so he locations nicely on the Ramy-to-Ronnie spectrum.

Onto the bench, Coleman hit 495 kilos for 5 reps, once more whereas coaching for the Mr. Olympia. Cutler’s greatest bench file was 550 kilos for 2 reps, whereas Schwarzenegger claimed a 525-pound bench. All of those males weighed extra — considerably, in some circumstances — than Columbu.

For powerlifting followers, Columbu would have competed within the 90kg (198-pound) class at his heaviest. His claimed profession bests (525 kilos on the bench, 750 on the deadlift, and 655 on the squat) complete 1,930 kilos, which, taking a body weight of 185-189 kilos, scores him extremely extremely, northwards of 580 on each the Dynamic Goal Group Scoring System (DOTS) and Wilks system.

For these unaware, these techniques evaluate power throughout powerlifting weight courses and genders. It permits us to check a 162-pound lifter with their 200-pound counterpart. Among the greatest male powerlifters in the mean time hit over 600 in DOTS, which stresses Columbu’s superior power.


In a sport stuffed with bodily phenoms, Franco Columbu stood in a league of his personal. Shorter and smaller than a lot of his rivals, he boasted a stage of power that continues to be spectacular as we speak.

Bodybuilding has but to see one other particular person who possesses the identical power and, extra importantly, the identical versatility. Columbu was a boxing, powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and bodybuilding strongman. It doesn’t get extra spectacular than that.

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Featured Picture: @francocolumbu on Instagram

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