Franco Columbu


August 31st marked a sad day in the world of Bodybuilding, Strongman and Powerlifting, when two-time Mr Olympia Franco Columbu died at the age of 78. Franco was the best friend and main training partner of Arnold Schwarzenegger for 54 years. I learned of the death of Franco when I logged onto my Instagram account and the first story that came up was Arnolds dedication to his best friend. Arnold met Franco in 1965 when they were both living and training in Munich and hit it off straight away. In 1968 Arnold was brought to California by the Weider brothers who both founded the IFBB. In his dedication to Franco, Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke of how he could thrive without money, he could thrive without being near his parents, however he could not thrive without Franco Columbu. After being constantly asked for a year by Arnold, Joe Weider brought Franco Columbu to California in 1969.

Franco Columbu was born in Sardinia Italy in 1941. His sporting career began when he became the Amateur boxing champion of Italy. Below you will find Franco Columbu’s championship titles:

Bodybuilding titles:

  • 1966 Mr Europe, 4th
  • 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 IFBB Mr. Olympia (Lightweight)
  • 1975 IFBB Mr. Olympia (Lightweight)
  • 1976 IFBB Mr. Olympia (Lightweight & Overall, first lightweight to win the overall title)
  • 1981 IFBB Mr. Olympia

Powerlifting titles:

  • Champion of Italy
  • Champion of Germany
  • Champion of Europe

Powerlifting best lifts:

  • Bench press 525 lbs / 238 kg
  • Squat 655 lbs / 297 kg
  • Deadlift 750 lbs / 340.2 kg

World’s Strongest Man competition:

1977: World Strongest Man, finishing 5th place, after dislocating his knee during the fridge carry.



Notable awards

  • 2009: Arnold Classic Lifetime Achievement Award

It is worth noting that Franco Columbu stood at five foot five inches tall, had a competition body weight of 185 pounds/ 84kg, he would regularly outlift Arnold Schwarzenegger and is considered by many to be the strongest Mr Olympia champion.


As well as being a competitive athlete Franco Columbu also worked as a Chiropractor and had supporting roles in some of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s films. In Pumping Iron, you can see Franco lift his Dad’s car and blow up a hot water bottle until it burst. During the 1970’s and 1980’s he trained Sylvester Stallone for both the Rocky and Rambo movies.

Franco Columbu was a huge inspiration to many bodybuilders; he was able to prove that you could be a shorter person with a lighter bodyweight and still win bodybuilding competitions. He truly was the first “Giant Killer” Rest in Peace Franco Columbu.

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