Rich Piana's Workout Routine, Diet Plan & Supplements

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: May 10, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
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As the son of a bodybuilder mother, Piana started lifting weights at the age of 11 and won many titles by 18. He also became a respected entrepreneur in the fitness industry.

As a personal trainer and fitness coach, I'm always interested in finding out how bodybuilding stars achieve consistent results.

We dug deep into his social media, websites, and other relevant sources to provide exercise inspiration and advice for everyone who admires his incredible physique, fitness results, and honest personality.

His Stats and Accomplishments

Rich Piana standing up straight with great posture

Height: 6ft 1in
Weight: varied between 220 and 300lbs (competition vs. off-season)
Arms: 23.5in
Born: 26 September 1970
Died: 25 August 2017 [1]

Record lifts / maximum weights:

  • Deadlift - 1 rep of 585lbs
  • Bench press - 3 reps of 495lbs
  • Squats - 2 reps of 585lbs
  • Biceps lift with two-handed dumbbell - 3 reps of 275lbs
  • Barbell curl - 3 reps of 275lbs [2]

Career accomplishments and titles [3]:

  • NPC and Mr. Teen California Champion
  • Sacramento Pro – 1st place in Men’s Bodybuilding  –  Super Heavyweight (2009)
  • Border States Classic – 1st place in Men’s Bodybuilding, Fitness & Figure Championships  – Overall (2009)
  • NPC USA Championships – 11th (2003) and 7th place (1999)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Rich Piana (@1dayumay)

Rich Piana's Workout Routine

Rich Piana doing his workout routines

Let’s dive into his chest, back, leg, shoulder, and arm routine that got him the Big Hulk monster physique.

Sample Training Sessions

The exercise examples he performed as part of his regular fitness program included:

Rich Piana Shoulder Workout

  • EZ-bar front raise (5 sets x 10-15 reps)
  • Seated Smith machine overhead press (5 sets x 8-12 reps)
  • Dumbbell lateral raise (5 sets x 10-15 reps)
  • Smith machine upright row (5 sets x 10-15 reps)
  • Standing Smith machine shrug (5 sets x 10-15 reps)
  • Incline rear delt fly (5 sets x 10-15 reps)

Rich Piana 8-Hour Arm Workout

He would alternate between the following workouts every 30 minutes for 8 hours (which speaks a lot about his mindset).

8-hour arm workout one:

  • Skullcrushers (4 sets x 10 reps)
  • Barbell curl (4 sets x 10 reps)

8-hour arm workout two:

  • Single-arm dumbbell extension (4 sets x 15 reps)
  • Dumbbell hammer curl (4 sets x 15 reps)

Rich Piana Chest Workout

  • Incline cable fly (5 sets x 12-20 reps)
  • Hammer strength incline press (4 sets x 8-12 reps)
  • Pec deck flat fly (5 sets x 8-12 reps)
  • Machine flat press (5 sets x 8-12 reps)
  • Standing cable crossover (5 sets x 10-15 reps)

Rich Piana Back Workout

  • Wide-grip pull-ups (5 sets x 10-15 reps)
  • Smith machine row (5 sets x 8-12 reps)
  • Behind the neck lat pulldown (5 sets x 10-15 reps)
  • Close-grip seated cable row (5 sets x 8-12 reps)
  • Wide-grip assisted pull-up (5 sets x 10-15 reps)
  • T-bar row (5 sets x 8-12 reps)
  • Bent-over cable row (5 sets x 10-15 reps)
  • Bent-over lat pulldown (5 sets x 10-15 reps)

Rich Piana Leg Workout

  • Lying hamstring curl (5 sets x 10-15 reps)
  • Single leg hamstring curl (5 sets x 10-15 reps)
  • Barbell stiff leg deadlift (5 sets x 8-12 reps)
  • Seated leg extension (5 sets x 10-15 reps)
  • Leg press (5 sets x 8-12 reps)
  • Hack squat machine (5 sets x 8-12 reps)

The Workout Principle

Rich Piana trained instinctively by feel, listening to his body, so he had no set workout routine.

“I usually listen to my body and train the body parts that I feel are strong for that particular day.”

- Rich Piana, Bodybuilder

His approach to weightlifting involved focusing on one body part every day. He spent hours training in a gym.

He had massive, rounded shoulders and also was obsessed over his arms. His 8-hour arm routine was well-known among bodybuilders and his social media followers.


Rich Piana's Diet Plan

Eggs with protein powder, rice with chicken meat

He regularly pointed out on his YouTube channel that he disliked cooking and that his meals were not set in stone because he didn’t follow a strict diet like many other bodybuilders.

Still, he believed that you need to eat big to get big.

From personal experience as a strength coach for bodybuilders, I can tell you that undereating is one of the main reasons people struggle with bulking. This is also confirmed by research conducted at the Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney [4].

So, this huge guy usually had eight meals per day. Here’s what he ate for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks before and after workouts.

  • Meal 1: 10 egg whites or 2 scoops of whey protein and 4 packets of oatmeal
  • Meal 2: A shake with 2-4 scoops of Mutant Mass and 2 scoops of whey (with added oatmeal, peanut butter, and bananas if he tried to put on weight)
  • Meal 3: 3 chicken breasts with 2 cups of brown rice
  • Meal 4: Post-workout shake 3-4 scoops of Mutant Mass, 2 scoops of whey, plus 1 or 2 bananas
  • Meal 5: Steaks, fish, lean pork, or turkey (10lbs) with 2 cups of brown rice
  • Meal 6: A container of fat-free Greek yogurt with 2 scoops of chocolate whey, 80g of protein (his favorite snack once or twice a day)
  • Meal 7: He went to a restaurant for dinner and ate burgers, Italian, Thai, and Mexican food like burritos or anything he wanted.
  • Meal 8: Ben & Jerry's chocolate fudge brownie ice cream (every night before bed)

Diet Rules

Piana ate healthy and nutrient-dense foods most of the time to pack on the muscle mass for bodybuilding shows and ensure enough energy for strenuous workouts every few hours. His diet was high in protein, low in carbs, with medium fat intake.

He also occasionally had his favorite cheat meal - ice cream, spaghetti, or other pasta.

Piana consumed:

  • Lean meat (turkey, chicken breast)
  • Eggs
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Vegetables
  • Greek yogurt
  • Whey protein
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Water

He avoided:

  • Junk/Fast food
  • Fried food
  • Processed carbs
  • Refined sugar
  • Artificial additives
  • Chemical ingredients

Related: Dallas McCarver Workout and Diet: Guide

What Supplements Did He Take?

Workout supplements and workout materials

Piana owned an apparel and health supplement company 5% Nutrition.

The supplements he used include:

  • Pre-workout - containing components that help him get the most out of his exhausting training sessions
  • Nootropic for better mood, increased focus, and higher energy
  • BCAAs for men with caffeine for high energy, glutamine for enhanced recovery, and NAC for optimal liver function
  • Liver support supplement to reduce stress and help detoxify his liver, kidneys, heart, prostate, lower cholesterol levels, and clear up acne
  • Keto support products to help his body convert carbs into muscles and deal with cravings
  • Sleep aid containing melatonin, tyrosine, GABA, and other substances supporting his recovery process

Rich Piana admitted steroid use (and steroids caused his death) but advised other athletes to go natural as he was aware of the harmful side effects steroids can trigger.

Other workout routines:

Controversies and Criticisms About Rich Piana

Rich Piana was a figure of both admiration and controversy in the bodybuilding world.

His candid discussions about steroid use sparked significant debate, highlighting the often unspoken realities of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport.

While some praised his transparency, others criticized the potential health risks and ethical implications.

Piana's approach raised important questions about the boundaries of bodybuilding and the lengths athletes go to achieve their physiques, underscoring the need for a balanced and informed perspective on such practices.

Piana's Legacy and Influence

Rich Piana left an indelible mark on the bodybuilding community. His larger-than-life persona, combined with a no-nonsense approach to fitness, inspired many.

Piana's advocacy for relentless hard work and his unique training methods, like the '8 Hour Arm Workout,' continue to influence aspiring bodybuilders. His transparent communication about bodybuilding realities, including steroid use, opened up critical dialogues within the fitness world.

Today, Piana's legacy lives on, motivating a new generation of athletes to pursue their bodybuilding dreams with passion and dedication.




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About The Author

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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