03 November 2010

Baddest Motherfuckers Ever #20- Franco "I Just Banged Arnold's Girl" Columbu

I highly doubt there's a single one of you who has not yet seen the seminal documentary on bodybuilding, Pumping Iron.  Those of you who haven't are likely Crossfitters, so you are to be forgiven- that movie's not Zone, and takes place in one of the original Globogyms.  You should, however, see that movie if you haven't already, as that movie has been shown in clinical studies to improve your bench press and raise testosterone levels simply from owning it.(1)

In any event, Franco Columbu hails for the land of pirates and pasta, none other than the tiny island of Sardinia.  Columbu was conceived while his mom was on break from canning at at a small Italian sardine factory, and the massive influx of Omega 3 fatty acids during his conception and gestation has been credited with the badass he later became.  Tragically, Columbu never really grew, so this 5'5", 5'4", or 5'3" (depending on the source) motherfucker started boxing at an early age, so as to defend himself from housecats, potted plants, and whatever else this diminutive wop considered threatening and freakishly large.
Columbu eventually became some sort of amateur boxing champion in his native land, but given the size of the island, the talent pool for competition was pretty small.   Additionally, he's roundly considered to be a ridiculously nice guy, so I highly doubt he would have given Tyson a run for his money or anything of the sort. In any event, Columbu does show us through his achievements that one can be easy-going and insane, and not at all an asshole, and still achieve greatness.  To wit, Columbu's myriad accomplishments:

Titles Won in Bodybuilding:(2)
1968: NABBA Mr. Universe (Most Muscular)
1969: IFBB Mr. Europe (Medium)
1969: NABBA Mr. Universe (Most Muscular)
1969: NABBA Mr. Universe (Short)
1969: IFBB Mr. Universe (Short)
1970: IFBB Mr. Europe (Short & Overall)
1970: AAU Mr. World (Pro Short)
1970: IFBB Mr. World (Short)
1970: IFBB Mr. Universe (Short & Overall)
1971: IFBB Mr. World (Short & Overall)
1974: Mr. Olympia (Lightweight)
1975: Mr. Olympia (Lightweight)
1976: Mr. Olympia (Lightweight & Overall)
1981: Mr. Olympia

Titles Won in Powerlifting:
Champion of Italy
Champion of Germany
Champion of Europe
World Champion

World Records in Powerlifting:
Bench Press 525 lbs.
Squat 655 lbs.
Deadlift 750 lbs.

Records in Weightlifting:
Olympic Press 325 lbs.
Snatch 270 lbs.
Clean and Jerk 400 lbs.
Before you go and claim that his powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting totals suck- he'd be ranked 1st in the US right now with that raw total at 198, and I've no idea what his weight class would have been, but to my knowledge he was under 200 lbs as Mr. Olympia and looks smaller in his powerlifting pics.  At 181, he'd have given Ed Coan a run for his money in a completely raw meet.  In the clean, he'd only have been 45 lbs off of the US record in the clean and jerk at 187lbs, so he was definitely no slouch at Olympic weightlifting, either.  Finally, this troll doll-sized motherfucker set a record for having the greatest lung power ever by bursting a hot water bottle in 55 seconds, and was winning the 1977 World's Strongest Man competition until he decided to sprint in the refrigerator race and dislocated his knee when the 600 lb refrigerator fell on top of him.  He still placed 5th out of 8, though he had to withdraw from the competition in the middle of it, and despite the fact he was by far and away the lightest man in the competition.
Genetic freak, you say?  Maybe, but I'd bet money on the fact that it was his breakneck-paced, marathon, hyper-consistent training routine that was the source of all of his physical glory.  Behold the insanity that unfolded on a fortnightly basis in the gym for Franco (3):

NOTE: Columbu trained abs in the morning on days 3, 5, 6, 9, 11 and 12, and in the afternoon on day 1.

POWER BODYBUILDING PROGRAM- These are Columbu's workouts leading up to his 1981 Mr. Olympia victory.

EXERCISE                      SETS       REPS

Barbell bench presses         3 *      15, 10, 4
   superset with
   Cable crossovers           3 *          20
Flat-bench dumbbell flyes     3 *      20, 15, 6
   superset with
   Cable crossovers           3 *          20
Barbell incline presses    3 [dagger]      15
Barbell pullovers          3 [dagger]      15
Parallel-bar dips          3 [dagger]  To failure
Cable crossovers           3 [dagger]      25

* For the first two supersets, Columbu pyramided up in weight (and down in reps) for bench presses and flyes, but he kept the weight the same for cable crossovers.

[dagger] Columbu performed these as a giant set, which is related to a superset, but with four exercises  instead of two. Columbu used the same weight for all three sets of each movement.
EXERCISE                           SETS  REPS

Standing dumbbell lateral raises    4     10
Bent lateral raises                        6     10
Behind-the-neck presses             4     10
Alternating dumbbell front raises   3      8
Cable lateral raises                      3     10

EXERCISE                 SETS  REPS

Wide-grip pullups               6    10-15
T-bar rows                         4     10
Seated cable rows              4     10
One-arm dumbbell rows     3     10
  superset with
  Hammer-grip pullups *     3     10

* Use a parallel-grip cable attachment hanging from a pullup bar.

EXERCISE                          SETS  REPS

Cable pushdowns                       4     8
  superset with
  Standing dumbbell curls            4     8
Lying barbell triceps extensions   4     8
  superset with
  Barbell preacher curls               4     8
Seated barbell extensions           4     8
  superset with
  Dumbbell incline curls              4     8

EXERCISE            SETS          REPS

Barbell squats       7    20, 15, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2
Leg presses          4        50, 25, 15, 8
Leg extensions      6-7            20

Deadlifts [dagger]   6       5, 5, 5, 3, 1, 1
* Performed every other workout precontest

To sum his workout up, Franco did 9 workouts a week that consisted of 20-30 sets of 1-20 reps, going extremely heavy on the powerlifts and using the rest for (heavy) window dressing.  This workout, which nearly anyone on Earth would assert would kill a normal human, was his bread and butter, as he usually trained with Arnold, and his marathon workouts are fucking legendary.  They did this while sleeping 5 hours a night, partying their asses off, banging a bunch of broads, and generally ruling an entire decade between the early 1970s and 1980s.
Arnold got caught checking out Kellie's goodies right off the bat.

Apparently, Arnold and Franco competed for the same chicks, and although Arnold generally came out on the winning side, the two of them would apparently swap chicks back and forth like a tshirt until they were bored of her.  One broad in particular with whom they did this was Kellie Everts, a sometime figure competitor in the 1980s, bodybuilding groupie slut, and a soapbox preacher.  I couldn't make this shit up.(5)

Though he's probably best remembered for being best friends with the most famous bodybuilder in history, Franco has a hell of a lot of accomplishments under his belt.  Not surprisingly, Franco credits his success as a bodybuilder and a strongman with breaking his fucking ass inside out at it.  Clearly, it worked.  Like all of the other BMEs, Franco loved lifting, expressed his love by busting his ass, and had nothing but awesome to show for it.
A little bit of busting your ass goes a long fucking way.

Seeing a pattern yet?

1)  Completely fabricated.
2.)  http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/Franco_Columbu_-_Achievements/id/5061949
3.)  Julian Schmidt "Strength rules: six of the world's strongest pro bodybuilders?past and present?reveal their most powerful influences". Flex. FindArticles.com. 03 Nov, 2010. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0KFY/is_3_24/ai_n16125568/
4) http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389x2208505
5. http://www.kellieeverts.com/arnoldkellieaffair.php


  1. Finally, T-bar rows get mentioned! (Sorry if they have been before. I don't remember ever seeing them.)
    Fucking love them.
    The bar-in-a-corner kind.
    No wacky handles, levers, pads or pulleys, just a fucking lopsided bar.

  2. Anonymous 1, how do you keep the bar down without a partner. I can't get more than 4 plates on the bar before it tries to nut-check me. (even in a corner)

  3. Heavy dumbbells will work.
    Or wedge it under something (probably the safest way.)
    Or, use a grappler if you have access to one. They're made for that sort of thing.
    Like this:

  4. Best Deadlifts pics ever.

    That second pic is in like 90% of all articles on the Deadlift.

  5. 1) Completely fabricated bahahah nice

  6. oooo you wouldnt want to do any other kinds of rows would you fuckwit

  7. oooo you wouldnt want to start a comment war would you fuckwit

    Learn punctuation and grammar. Fuckwit is a gay thing to say, by the way.

  8. Franco Columbu finally on the BME list. About fucking time Jamie. Well done.

  9. Good read and the first thing I did was scroll down the your first sited source and got a laugh. Funny how guys from this era managed to train hours on end using less juice than half the kids I know on 5 day splits... we ALL know that kid on 2 grams of test a week, hgh and insulin who has 15" arms and a 275 bench. Yet they got big, strong and ripped. The guys from this era did not use that many drugs compared to the hobbist today who uses tren and hgh (both have honestly revolutionized modern drug stacks), but their training was massively different. Trying to dicuss the subject gets tiresome at times, I'll just continue to rebuild myself natty on high volume and high frequincy and shake my head at these tiny guys posting on forums with horrific work ethics in the gym, trying to give each muscle group a week's rest after half-assing it on 10-15 sets.

    Anyway I was suppost to be on a cut and have upped my own volume and... my muscle memory is kicking in. 2500 calories and doing an hour of liss a day... but gaining weight and friends are asking me if I am hitting the juice because I'm growing yet again.

    Anyway Jamie thanks for posting this blog, I've shown it to my roomate who enjoys reading it from time to time as well and has started training for power for his police work, doing 3-4 full body routines a week. He has gone from a 220 lbs wad of cookie dough to 190 lbs while tripling his starting lifts (all he did was pushups and chinups before this) in under 6 months. Going to increase his volume again soon.

  10. Nice pick for BMFA, I have long been a fan of Franco. His role in Conan was probably the most underrated piece of acting gold ever created.

    By the way, the gyms that were shown in "Pumping Iron" wouldn't be considered "globo gyms" by CrossFitters. Brick buildings and basements with people throwing around silly weights is hardcore. I own a CF gym and my first space was an old slaughter house with brick walls and no heat. When we first moved in, "Pumping Iron" was the first thing that I thought about. I love the blog, have been reading from the shadows for almost a year now. I enjoy the fact that you can be both erudite and someone that says something like "cunt punch" at the same time. It really belies the idea that vulgarity is a function of a lack of vocabulary.

  11. Re: Partying their asses off, sleeping 5 hours a night and lifting with crazy high frequency -

    Definitely a recipe for a BME, but is there any way someone could do that without steroids?

  12. John, in Texas where I live, I believe we refer to that as a "cooter punch:


    Anon, doubtful. For a natty to do a routine like that I would recomend at least 8 hours of sleep a night and gradually build up to the volume. For a testbaby even mentioning the word "overtraining" deserves a "cooter punch".

  13. Dude, that is potentially the funniest thing that I have ever seen. Nice work.

    I agree that higher volume would be better with more rest/ better food, but I think that the body is great at adapting to stimuli and will adjust regardless. Can't get stronger/ faster/ better at cooter punching without pushing your limits right.

  14. Cmon Jason just because you are a pussy and set yourself limits doesn't mean that people can't train like that naturally.

  15. Mars, I said it would take more than 5 hours sleep to properly deal with that routine for a natty, not that it wasn't doable. I do full body 6x a week and have been off the sauce since 2004. You are dangerously close to being on the receiving end of a cooter punch.

  16. Sorry I meant pussy like in the nicest way possible.. :D

    Great read btw. :)

  17. That was both Awesome AND Hilarious. You need another box for people to check.

  18. Cooter punch? Seriously? I sort of want to laugh, and I sort of want to nuke Texas.

  19. awesome genetics+hard work+iron will+short limbs+roids=franco