Franco Columbu Workout and DIET 

Bodybuilder  (deceased)
Born: 1941

Francesco Columbu was born in Sardinia, Italy. A skinny kid, he was frequently beaten up by other kids. While working as a shepherd, Columbu trained as a boxer and won 30 fights before switching over to bodybuilding and weightlifting. He moved to Germany for work and met Arnold Schwarzenegger at a competition in 1965. The two became friends and moved to California in the late 1960s to train with Joe Weider. Columbu won the IFBB Mr. Europe and Mr. Universe titles in 1970, as well as the Mr. World in 1971. He won the Mr. Olympia lightweight class in 1974 & ’75 and the overall in 1976. In 1977, Columbu took part in the inaugural World’s Strongest Man competition. His final Mr. Olympia win came in 1981, after which he retired. Film credits include the 1977 documentary Pumping Iron. Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator and The Running Man. Columbo wrote, produced, and starred in Beretta’s Island. He also acted as coach to Sylvester Stallone for Rambo: First Blood Part II. Columbu was a licensed chiropractor. He was married and had 1 daughter. Columbu passed away in 2019. He was 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighed about 185 lbs. in-season and 195 lbs. off-season.


Known For:

Franco Columbu‘s Diet


In the early days of bodybuilding, there wasn’t much in the way of specialized diets or supplementation. Columbu took the classic approach to building muscle by consuming lots of protein: 200 g of protein per day, which he reduced to 120 g once he retired. His main sources of protein were eggs, meat, and dairy products, especially cottage cheese. He would usually have 4 meals per day of very simple foods: steak, bacon, cheese were all a-okay back before people started to fear cholesterol. Columbu also had strong opinions on food, and believed diet and sleep significantly impacted the muscle mass. To stay hydrated, he drank plenty of water, particularly mineral water. He also did not deny himself the occasional glass of wine.


Estimated Macros

  • Medium Fat 30% 30%
  • Low Carb 10% 10%
  • High Protein 60% 60%

Diet Details


Protein Power

Columbu ate a tremendous amount of protein each day, including lots of eggs, steak, hamburger, cottage cheese, bacon, and cheese.


Low-Carb Life

Even before eating low-carb was a thing, Columbu was doing it. He would have toast and oj at breakfast, but after that, it was all protein and veg. A typical lunch for him was a cheeseburger without the bun.


Nothing Beats Steak

Lots of bodybuilders eat ground meat to make digestion easier, but Columbu loved his steak and ate it all the time. He says hamburger wasn’t available when he was growing up in Italy.

What to Eat










Orange juice












Cottage cheese




Mineral water

What to Avoid


Empty carbs


Added sugar


Excess salt


Fast food


Processed foods


Junk food




Chemical ingredients


Franco on the basic Building blocks of Health

If the bench is best, then the incline bench is second best…the same applies to vitamins and minerals.


Franco on Vitamins

Which are the most important ones for you? Vitamin D is important, but if you live in Florida and get a lot of sun, maybe it’s not important for you.


Franco on Omega-3s

It’s good for everybody because it helps your joints and your heart.

Franco Columbu’s  Workout Routine

Weekly Routine

From Skinny to Strapping

Columbu said he was the skinny kid who was always getting beat up, but around age 11, things started to change and no one could come near him.

Boxing: Put Up Or Ship Out

Columbu said that while he was good at boxing, it took its toll on his body. He said that if you’re not into pain, pick a different sport.

The Classic Shape

Although Columbu was sculpted head to toe, he spent extra time training his torso and chest to create a winning physique.

Impressive Stats

Besides being a boxer and bodybuilder, Columbu was also a powerlifter. His bests include: 525-lb. benchpress, 655-lb. squat, and 750-lb. deadlift.

Mega Workout

Columbu’s approach to bulking up was to work his body hard and relentlessly, spending 2.5-3 hours at the gym each day. He often did 2 punishing workouts per day and only took 1 day off each week.

Special Split

Columbu followed a split routine, training 1 body part per session. He would cycle through, doing chest, shoulder and abs workouts every other day, alternating with the rest of the body.

Lift Heavy

Deadlifts were a regular part of Columbu’s routine, and he would do them after his killer leg workouts. He’d work his way up from 5 reps at 300 lbs to a single rep at 700 lbs.

Free Weights Rule

Columbu recommended doing at least half the workout with free weights rather than machines because the free weights train the joints to handle stress from different directions.

Exercise Style


A Franco Columbu Routine

Day 1: Chest & Shoulders AM, Arms PM
Day 2: Back AM, Legs PM
Day 3: Chest & Shoulders
Day 4: Arms
Day 5: Legs AM, Back PM
Day 6: Chest & Shoulders
Day 7: Rest
Day 8: Arms AM, Legs PM
Day 9: Back
Day 10: Chest & Shoulders AM, Arms PM
Day 11: Back AM, Legs PM
Day 12: Chest & Shoulders
Day 13: Arms
Day 14: Rest

Abdominal work: AM on days 3, 5, 6, 9, 11, 12 and PM on day 1.


  • Do 5 sets of each:
  • Incline barbell benchpress: 8-10
  • Flat dumbbell benchpress: 8
  • Weighted dips: 10
  • Incline dumbbell fly: 8-10
  • Flat barbell benchpress: 6-8


  • Do 5 sets of each:
  • Straight arm cable pulldown: 8-12
  • Bent-over barbell row: 8-10
  • Seated dumbbell shrug: 8-10
  • Barbell upright row: 8


  • Do 5 sets of each:
  • Hanging dumbbell lateral raise: 10
  • Behind the neck overhead barbell press: 8
  • Seated overhead press: 8-10
  • Front dumbbell raise: 8-10
  • Arnold press: 8-12


  • Do 5 sets of each:
  • Seated leg extensions: 8-10
  • Barbell squat: 6-12
  • Lying hamstring curl: 8-12
  • Machine leg press: 6-12
  • Barbell walking lunge: 8-10
  • Standing calf raise machine: 10-15


  • Cable triceps pushdown w/ rope: 10-12 x 4 sets
  • Diamond push-ups: 10 x 4 sets
  • Single-arm dumbbell triceps extensions: 10-12 x 5 sets
  • Seated dumbbell curl: 10-12 x 4 sets
  • Standing barbell curl: 10-12 x 4 sets
  • Barbell preacher curl: 10-12 x 5 sets


Columbu on how he Trained

Train each body part twice a week, as hard and relentless as possible.


Columbu on Listening to the Body

The body has an incredible language all its own. When we’re young, we “listen” through instinct. It’s only as we get older that we start to lose contact.


Columbu on the Importance of Tuning into the Body’s Signals

When you ignore the message, you are apt to get injured, and whatever training you do won’t give you the results you are working on.


Columbu on boxing

Boxing is a great sport, but it’s really, really tough.


Columbu on boxing

It’s easy to get big…but to have proportion,…that’s hard.

Franco Columbu‘s Supplements



Columbu took a multivitamin during his Golden Years as a bodybuilder, but that’s about it.

See Best Products


Vitamin D

Vitamin D

Columbu also recommended vitamin D to his patients to strengthen bones and muscles, boost immunity, and fight inflammation.
See Best Products



For bulking up is creatine which builds mass, boosts energy and endurance and speeds up recovery.

See Best Products

post workout

Post Workout

Finally, a post workout quickly replenishes glycogen while reducing post-workout soreness.
See Best Products

Omega 3 Fish Oil


Columbu worked as a chiropractor and always recommended anti-inflammatory omega-3s to all his patients for its beneficial effects on joints and the heart.
See Best Products

Protien Powder


Columbu ate tons of protein in its natural form to build muscle, stay lean, and curb hunger.
See Best Products

Pre Workout

Pre Workout

Columbu worked out like a beast, and probably could have used a pre-workout to help him last through intense training sessions.
See Best Products



To maintain mineral levels when sweating it up.
See Best Products

Franco Columbu‘s Lifestyle

Sleep: A Pillar of Health

Columbu considered sleep to be as important as nutrition or lifting in building a killer physique.

Needs Must

To make ends meet when they first moved to California, Columbu and Schwarzenegger worked as bricklayers.

Weird Record

Columbu holds a Guinness World Record for bursting a hot water bottle with only his breath. He managed this feat in just 55 seconds.

Odd Ad

Columbu featured in a 1977 ad for Vitalis hairspray with the tagline: ‘Want to learn how to pump like me?’


Columbu and Schwarzenegger were lifelong training partners and friends. Columbu acted as best man at The Governator’s wedding to Maria Shriver and was godfather to their daughter Christina.

Not Too Shabby

Columbu only took 5th in the first World’s Strongest Man competition, but the four men ahead of him outweighed him by about 100 lbs. each.

Weird Record Cover

Columbu’s and Schwarzenegger’s bodies (minus the heads) grace the jacket cover for Grand Funk Railroad 1974 album ‘All the Girls in the World Beware!!!’


Columbu on Bodybuilding

It’s a sport but it’s also an art.


Columbu on Playing a Boxer in the Film One More Round

I ad-libbed most of the dialogue from old things that I thought about when I trained.


Columbu on Himself

I’m the strongest bodybuilder who ever lived, I think.


Columbu on Schwarzenegger

He had discipline. If it weren’t for him, I don’t know if I’d have won Mr. Olympia.


Schwarzenegger on Columbu

He was my favorite training partner 4 decades ago, and he is my favorite training partner today.


Sylvester Stallone on Columbu’s passing

We will never have a man like this again.

Recommended Products/services





Weight bench

Weight bench

power rack

Power rack

Pull up bar

Pull-up bar

rubber lift tile

Rubber lifting tiles

Everlast boxing gloves

Boxing gloves