Franco Columbu Workout Routine & Diet (Free 14-Day Plan)

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: February 26, 2024
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For many bodybuilders and powerlifters, the former Mr. Olympia Franco Columbu is a huge inspiration because of his humble beginnings and diligent work ethic.

Sadly, he passed away in 2019 at the age of 78.

So to honor his career and contribution to bodybuilding, we thought it would be nice to pay tribute by telling people about his workout routine and what his diet looked like.

After all, being crowned Mr. Olympia in 1976 and 1981 is no mere trifle. He spent many years at his peak, and it was this very routine that paved his way to fitness stardom.

The Franco Columbu Workout

Franco was often asked about his bulking workout routine, and he said he always broke it down into two weeks of maximum intensity.

His dedication and mental toughness, essential traits for any successful bodybuilder, were evident in his rigorous routine, underscoring the role of mental resilience in achieving fitness goals

Here’s what it looked like:

  • Day 1 - Morning: chest and shoulders; Afternoon: arms
  • Day 2 - Morning: back; Afternoon: legs and core
  • Day 3 – Morning: chest and shoulders
  • Day 4 – Morning: arms
  • Day 5 – Morning: back; Afternoon: legs and core
  • Day 6 – Morning: chest and shoulders
  • Day 7 – Rest and recovery
  • Day 8 – Morning: arms; Afternoon: legs
  • Day 9 – Morning: back
  • Day 10 Morning: chest and shoulders; Afternoon: arms
  • Day 11 Morning: back; Afternoon: legs and core
  • Day 12 – Morning: chest and shoulders
  • Day 13 – Morning: arms
  • Day 14 – Rest and recovery

Let's explore some workouts Franco Columbu typically includes, each lasting over two hours.

His method involved progressively increasing weights, culminating in a final rep designed to reach muscle failure.

In my coaching experience, training with a partner, as Franco did with Arnold Schwarzenegger, is crucial for pushing limits and achieving optimal results.

Chest And Shoulders

  • Bench press: 3 sets of 15, 10 and 4 reps
  • Dumbbell flyes: 3 sets of 20, 15 and 6 reps
  • Lateral raise: 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Alternating dumbbell front raise: 3 sets of 8 reps

Arms

  • Triceps pushdown: 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Seated French press: 4 sets of 8 reps

Back

  • Seated cable row: 4 sets of 10 reps
  • One arm dumbbell row: 3 sets of 10 reps

Legs

  • Squats: 7 sets of 20, 15, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 reps
  • Leg extensions 6 sets of 20 reps
  • Deadlift: 6 sets of 5, 5, 5, 3, 1, 1 reps

As I said, this is just a small selection of bench presses and other workouts, but his idea was to push each muscle group to its limits every single time.

Reportedly, he also does cable crossovers, several sets of deadlifts, barbell pullovers, and wide grip pull-ups.

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

-Franco Columbu, Champion Powerlifter

Moreover, considering Columbu's background as a chiropractor, his approach to recovery might have also included an emphasis on injury prevention and recovery strategies, a crucial aspect often overlooked in bodybuilding.

 

Other Powerful Physiques:

Franco Columbu’s Muscle Building Diet

franco columbu's meal prep

I read Franco Columbu’s book Winning Bodybuilding a few years ago, and I pulled some useful information from it about his muscle-building diet.

It’s not what we would call ideal these days, but these dieting techniques, as shown by the Paleo Foundation, give an insight into the significance of a low-carb diet and portion control [1].

Breakfast

  • 3 eggs, often raw
  • 1 large portion of freshly picked fruit
  • A large glass of fresh OJ
  • Homemade raw milk yogurt with granola

Lunch

  • A large bowl of fresh salad with a simple oil and vinegar dressing
  • 1 large portion of fresh vegetables
  • 1 large portion of lean meat (fish, chicken, lamb, or liver)
  • Sometimes, a glass of wine (yes, that’s right, wine!)

Snack

  • Medium-sized plate of fresh cheeses with local fruit

Dinner

  • Basically the same as his lunch

Snack

  • 1 portion of raw milk yogurt

Maximizing Recovery

franco columbu's rest and recovery

In the 1970s and 1980s, protein powders weren't widely embraced, often perceived as undermining masculinity.

Yet, Franco Columbu effectively fueled his recovery through a diet rich in fat, substantial in protein, and low in carbs.

As a personal trainer, I've seen how such a diet, especially with high-quality raw milk and cheese, can enhance the amino acid profile for muscle growth and recovery, aligning with findings from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition [2].

Other Celebrity physiques:


References:

  1. https://paleofoundation.com/low-carb-bodybuilding-experience/
  2. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0184-9
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