Franco Columbu is one of the most celebrated bodybuilders of the golden era of bodybuilding. Apart from having an impressive physique that made him win the most coveted Mr. Olympia title twice, he also possessed the strength to deadlift over 700 lbs and perform numerous feats of strength. All this earned him the nickname the Sardinian Strongman.
If you are reading this, we are sure that you must be curious to know about Franco Columbu’s workout routine that enabled him to become a bodybuilding legend. And if that’s the case, we can assure you that you have landed at the right place. Let’s get started.
Franco Columbu’s Workout Principles
Franco Columbu was indeed a man of many talents. He proved his athletic prowess in sports like boxing, strong man competitions, and professional bodybuilding. His feats of strength included lifting a refrigerator behind his back, bending a steel rod, blowing and bursting a hot water bag, and lifting a car off the ground (as shown in Pumping Iron).
Franco Columbu’s workout plan prioritized heavy lifting which gave his muscles a denser appearance. But at the same time, he also relied on performing numerous sets and reps for each muscle group to carve them well.
His exercise routine included both compound and isolation lifts performed with great intensity which enabled him to become the successor of Arnold Schwarzenegger in winning the Mr.Olympia title.
Franco Columbu’s Workout Schedule
Franco Columbu used to train for 6-days a week. On most days he used to have two training sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. He had structured his workout split in a manner that allowed him to hit each of his muscle groups twice a week. He divided it into a 14-day cycle where the 7th and the 14th days were reserved for rest and recuperation.
Given below is Franco’s 14-day cycle workout split:
- Day 1- Chest and Shoulders (AM), Arms and Abs (PM)
- Day 2- Back (AM), Legs (PM)
- Day 3- Chest, Shoulders, and Abs(AM)
- Day 4- Arms (AM)
- Day 5- Back and Abs(AM), Legs and Core (PM)
- Day 6- Chest, Shoulders, and Abs (AM)
- Day 7- Rest
- Day 8- Arms (AM), Legs (PM)
- Day 9- Back and Abs(AM)
- Day 10- Chest and Shoulders (AM), Arms (PM)
- Day 11- Back and Abs (AM), Legs and Core (PM)
- Day 12- Chest, Shoulders, and Abs (AM)
- Day 13- Arms (AM)
- Day 14- Rest
Franco Columbu’s Workout Routine
High-volume training was the name of the game for the majority of old-school bodybuilders. And Franco was no different in this regard. His workout routine focused on hitting each muscle group with numerous exercises. He also used to perform those exercises with plenty of sets and reps.
This training approach subjected his muscles to adequate stress that fetched him with both strength and hypertrophy gains.
Franco Columbu’s workout routine also incorporated some techniques of powerlifting. He used to perform some extremely heavy sets of 1-3 reps on exercises like bench press, squat, and deadlift.
This allowed him to stimulate his fast-twitch muscle fibers which facilitated strength building.
Performing those compound movements with heavy weights also gave his muscles a denser and fuller appearance. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Franco brought the concept of Powerbuilding (powerlifting + bodybuilding) to the limelight.
Franco used to go all out in each of his training sessions. He even claimed,
“Train each body part twice a week, as hard and relentless as possible each time.”
Undoubtedly, subjecting his body to such great amounts of anabolic stress made him a bodybuilding legend who went on to beat his competitors who were almost double his physical size.
The following table will let you know more about Franco Columbu’s training routine. It enlists the exercises that he performed for each of his muscle groups. Let’s go through it:-
Franco Columbu’s Workout Plan
Sets x Reps
Bench Press supersetted with Cable Crossovers
3 x (15, 10, 4) – 3 x 20
Dumbbell Flyes supersetted with Cable Crossovers
3 x (20, 15, 6) – 3 x 20
Incline Bench Press
3 x 15
3 x 25
Parallel Bar Dips
3 x AMRAP
3 x 25
4 x 10
Bent-Over Reverse Lateral Raises
6 x 10
4 x 10
Alternating Dumbbell Front Raise
3 x 8
Cable Lateral Raises
3 x 10
6 x (10-15)
4 x 10
Seated Cable Rows
4 x 10
One Arm Dumbbell Rows supersetted with Hammer Grip Pull-Ups
3 x 10 – 3 x 10
Tricep Pushdowns supersetted with Standing Dumbbell Curls
4 x 8 – 4 x 8
Barbell Skull Crushers supersetted with Barbell Preacher Curls
4 x 8 – 4 x 8
Seated French Press supersetted with Seated Incline Dumbbell Curls
4 x 8 – 4 x 8
7 x (20, 15, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2)
4 x (50, 25, 15, 8)
(6-7) x 20
(2-3) x (12-15)
6 x (5, 5, 5, 3, 1, 1)
Warm-up and stretching
Franco Columbu’s workout routine followed the adage that says “no pain, no gain”. But before getting started with his intense training sessions, he ensured to warm up his target muscles adequately to avoid any kind of injuries.
At the end of his workouts, he also used to stretch his muscles to relax them and to keep them flexible.
The magic of ‘supersets’
Just like his training partner Arnold, Franco was also a big fan of incorporating various intensity techniques into his workout program, and performing supersets was his favorite. It involves performing two exercises back to back.
Franco used to perform supersets for one particular muscle group as well as for antagonist muscle groups. Performing supersets forced his muscles to perform far beyond their capacity which facilitated greater muscle gains. Doing so also helped him to burn off more calories and that too in a relatively shorter period.
Rest is important
Franco never underestimated the effectiveness of rest in his training program. To ensure that his muscles recover and recuperate well from his torturous training sessions, he made it a point to have a weekly active rest day in his workout plan.
So that was all about Franco Columbu’s workout routine. Whether you are a bodybuilder, a powerlifter, or a gym freak, you can surely learn a lot of stuff from his workout plan to take the effectiveness of your training sessions to the next level.
Just make sure to modify them as per your fitness goals and training experience. That will allow you to gain the most out of your training sessions.